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Travel to Dubai


Surf House, Dubai

1 December 2014

Surfing and stand-up paddle boarding are taking off in Dubai, and Surf House is at the epicentre of this laidback beach culture in the emirate

In the mid-1970s, Dogtown’s Z-boys introduced surf-style skating to California’s streets. Almost 15 years later, and a world away, that tide was turned; skateboarders returned to the sea, and surfing found the blue waters of Dubai. “We became surf crazy,” says Scott Chambers, remembering his transition from skating the city’s streets to gliding on waves. 

The Brazilian expat had brought surfboards to Dubai after visiting family in Brazil. “In the 1980s and 1990s, surfing was a very underground thing in Dubai. At first it was just my brother and me; people couldn’t figure out what these new kids were doing. It eventually grew to a core crew of us,” he says. Almost 30 years later, this young surfing ‘grommet’ has turned his love of Dubai’s beaches into a thriving business, Surf House. 

Part retail and café concept store, and part members’ club, it rests at the heart of the city’s sea culture, welcoming people from all walks of life: tourists and residents, beginners and seasoned professionals. Sitting in the Surf House café, Scott is surrounded by retro skateboards and surfboards as he talks of his passion for the sea and for the bustling Surf House. 

“The Surf House is perpetually filled with an eclectic mix of surfers, paddlers, yogis and coffee connoisseurs. Surfing is fascinating in the way it attracts people from all walks of life, from lawyers and engineers to musicians and artists. People from potentially polar opposite backgrounds are able to mix and relate through a common love and respect for the ocean environment,” he says.

The vision for Surf House began to emerge in 2005. After Scott gained a Bachelor Of Surf Science at university in the UK, he returned to Dubai and started offering surf lessons to tourists from the back of his old Jeep. It has now grown to a nine-strong team and a two-storey location near Umm Suqeim’s Sunset Beach. 

“The Surf House is like nowhere else. An epicentre for good vibes and a mix of several different concepts under one roof. It’s a surf and stand-up paddle shop, selling both new and second-hand equipment. It’s a surf and SUP training school, we provide certified instruction, as well a rent a range of equipment, all suited to Dubai’s conditions. 

“But, it doesn’t stop there, the Surf House is also a coffee shop, dedicated to using the best ingredients and serving a range of healthy fresh juices and coffee blends, while our yoga studio offers several different styles of yoga to suit all needs and tastes, and we also run surf conditioning classes.” While Umm Suqeim is not a typical retail location, Scott explains there was no other choice for his business. 

“Umm Suqeim has always been a special place to us, as we grew on the beaches here learning to surf. My elder brother was actually the one to name the famous Sunset Beach. With fun waves and a stunning backdrop of the Burj Al Arab, Sunset Beach has now become the most famous surfing and stand-up paddle beach in the UAE. That’s why we’re here. 

“We’re also not your typical retail shop. You don’t have to buy a surfboard or T-shirt to come and hang out. The core of our business is rooted to the physical practice of the sports themselves, so this location was the best place to facilitate people actually doing these sports on a regular basis. We have always felt that proximity to the water is key.” 

But, seriously, waves in Dubai? “Surfing is the most fun thing you can do,” Scott says. “Anywhere that has waves needs a surf shop. Come down to Sunset Beach on a day there is some swell and you’ll see exactly why we have a surf shop here. Dubai is home for us and the waves of the Arabian Gulf. 

“However, the Surf House doesn’t just cater to surfers. We believe that the sea has an extraordinarily positive impact on people’s lives. So we cater to anyone wanting to experience this effect. Our mission has always been to put people in the water more often. Even if you have never surfed or paddled before, the Surf House is there to provide the information, environment and equipment to introduce you to these sports in a safe and fun way. And if neither of those are for you, well, then, we are just as happy for you lounge at the Surf House, have a coffee and enjoy the perpetually good vibes.”

For coffee lovers, the Surf House serves coffee roasted by Dubai’s renowned RAW Coffee Company, with the specialty ‘Surf House Blend’ the most popular among Scott’s customers. A range of own-range blended fresh juices are also on offer, while after a long day at the beach, he recommends the Redeemer, the café’s signature iced coffee. 

Already a multifaceted concept store, the Surf House is set to expand, adding a music studio, The Surf House Sessions, above the café and retail store. “We are very excited to be launching The Surf House Sessions. Inspired by a wealth of musical talent in Dubai, musicians will be invited to record their acoustic live tracks right here in the Surf House. Keeping it acoustic and by the beach, we felt this was an element that would support the music community and make the Surf House an even more unique space. 

It’s being designed in line with our Surf House style, very organic and raw with all natural woods and materials. We have a look and feel; we felt we needed a sound. “We will be opening it up to musicians, who would like to record their acoustic performances and possibility onto our Surf House Sessions mix tapes. We’ll also be collaborating with our resident videographers from Yeti & Big, to launch a video channel of the performances.

"It would be awesome to have musicians such as Jack Johnson or Donavon Frankenreiter play here.” As the popularity of surfing and stand-up paddle boarding, as sports and lifestyles, grows among visitors and residents, there’s hope that watersports tourism will continue to expand in the Gulf, and that the Surf House will remain the home of beach culture on Sunset Beach. “I have always loved what Dubai stands for and the direction it’s heading in. Our core values of creativity, healthy living, and respect for the environment are in line with the vision of this city,” Scott says. 


Words and images by Sandra Tinari