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MAINSTREAM MEDIA REPORT - BAY OF PLENTY TIMES
TOP STORY: Is Bay's surf reef a $1.5m wipeout?
By Joel Ford
Leading surfers doubt whether Mount Maunganui's $1.5 million artificial surf reef will ever create a world-class wave.
The reef - the first of its kind in New Zealand - is about 250m offshore at Tay St. When the Surfing New Zealand Pro national competition was held at Tay St on February 10-11, not a single competitor tried to surf the reef.
They instead chose to surf the sandbanks to the right of the reef where better waves were breaking.
Members of the surfing community have told the Bay of Plenty Times they are growing increasingly sceptical about the reef's effectiveness.
Mount-based Cory Scott, who is photographer and photo editor for Kiwi Surf magazine, said he did not see one decent wave break at the reef in eight hours during the recent national competition.
"You see better waves breaking at Omanu or Papamoa," he said.
Andy Jordan, a former top-level national competitor and surfboard shaper to local hotshot surfer Matt Hewitt - has tried the reef a number of times but said he "wasn't holding his breath" for it to work.
He had seen a few waves come off it but they were all "pretty crap". "I don't think it's any good at the moment."
Mr Jordan also questioned why the reef was placed at Tay St. "I don't know why they stuck it out there, it's sort of in the middle of nowhere."
James Hoare, who runs the New Zealand Surf School from dunes overlooking the reef, has been at the site almost every day since November.
A surfer for 30 years, Mr Hoare said he has managed to have two "really good" days surfing there in recent months. "When they get it finished it will be better but it won't bring swell."
Mount Reef Trust executive officer David Neilson told the Bay Times he could understand why the reef has come in for criticism. "If I were on the other side of the fence I'd probably be saying the same thing," he said.
However, Mr Neilson defended the overall design and said it was too early to write the project off as a failure. He also said the reef had been placed correctly and was not too close to shore.
"There is a third of the reef missing and it is still creating waves," he said.
Mr Neilson also rejected suggestions that more work could have been done to complete the reef, saying "logistical difficulties" had hampered progress.
He admitted the project had been a tough slog and that unexpected difficulties and delays had left him and trust members frustrated.
"I ain't going to give up on this one until it's done because I know it's going to work," he added.
Funding for the reef came from a host of local sources, including Bay Trust which provided more than $200,000.
Trust manager Bruce Cronin said he had no regrets about making the funds available for the project saying it was considered a risk worth taking.
However, he said: "We feel a little frustrated at the fact it's still not yet 100 per cent and a little apprehensive wondering whether it's going to get there."
Shaw Mead of reef designer Amalgamates Solutions and Research Ltd has backed the design, saying that once completed the reef will produce a hollow, sharp short left and right wave as was intended.
But despite the assurances, doubts in the surfing community remain.
Dave McCoy, president of Bay Boardriders, has questioned whether the reef will ever work as originally intended.
He said that while it may eventually create a wave he did not think it would be anything to spark excitement among surfers. "I think most people thought it was a long shot," Mr McCoy added.
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