The World in this case being, of course, the Dubai World. A series of man made islands just off shore from Dubai and in the news at the moment for all the wrong reasons (Telegraph article).
I needed a plan and inspired by a facebook post I’d seen about a team of SUPers doing the trip recently as a charity paddle it seemed like as good a plan as any. Seeing as there are not many places on this planet you can live and go for an evening paddle around the ‘world’ it had to be done. I checked Google Earth and worked it out to 32km and that seemed fine so printed off a couple of copies of the image and laminated them, threw some stuff in a bag, loaded up the kayak and went to Neros for a coffee and some lunch. Its one of the advantages to solo paddling, there is no one else to organise, no one to organise you and only your own timescale (if you have one) to adhere to.
It was quite a long cafe lunch, I’d been out on the road bike in the morning and I wasn’t feeling in the mood to rush. Eventually I was on the road and found myself at Sunset Beach, Um Suqeim, Dubai. By the time I’d unloaded the boat and done the quick kit faff it was about 1630hrs when I paddled out through the surf.
The weather was very unDubai like, overcast with rain in the air and a stiff North Easterly breeze blowing. I set a northerly course that made the ‘World’ about 5km away. Once into the shelter of the islands the going was pretty easy and with the GPS showing a speed consistently over 7km/h the tide was obviously with me.
There was still plenty of daylight as I got to the sea wall that surrounds the development. You can’t paddle through the islands of this proposed millionaires playground, no oiks allowed and the security boats on the various entrances made this very clear.
Heading NW, anti clockwise direction, I continued to make good easy progress in the fading light. It seemed strange to see Dubai’s distinctive skyline through occasional rain and with a very overcast sky. The weather made for very comfortable paddling though and a change is as good as a rest.
As I rounded the far edge of the sea wall the light gave out. The wind was now right in my face and the sea was getting quite choppy. I was concious I wouldn’t be obviously visible to the few speed boats out so I had already put a light stick on the back of my cap and had my head torch on my head ready just in case. In the end I hardly saw any boats for the whole journey, just a few water taxi’s beating a path between the Creek and the end of the Palm.
By the time I reached the most northerly point of the trip I was moving much slower than my earlier average of 7.2km/h. The tide was obviously against me and a reasonably chunky sea was coming at me from the side slowing me down to between 4 and 5km/h.
Now in the Arctic regions of the Dubai world, on its seaward side, the seawall was hiding the bright lights of the city skyline. To my left was the yellow/red overcast sky of the cities light pollution, to my right was just gloom. It was out of this murky darkness the waves were coming. In normal daylight they would have appeared quite small but coming at me unseen meant I was kayaking completely reactively on a very choppy sea. There were plenty of small whitecaps just visible in the murk and every now and then I’d get hit broadside by an unseen bigger than normal wave.
It felt great!!!! Just me and the sea. Not the sunny-day-everything-will-be-alright-no-matter-what-you-do-sea thats normally found off Dubai, this one was one to be wary of, one to respect, one to keep me concentrated. I needed to know where I was and where I was going. I was on my own so there was no one to look out for me, the buck stopped here, there could be no mistakes, get knocked over by a big rogue wave or caught too close to the seawall by a breaking wave and it would be a problem. But it wasn’t going to be a problem, I was well within my abilities and I was concentrating so I could just enjoy the conditions, the wildness of it, the steady roar the sea makes when its like that. It made me feel robust and strong.
It felt like quite a long way down through the ‘Arctic’ regions. As I rounded northern Canada the the bright lights of Dubai skyline started to reveal its self again. First of all Atlantis on the end of the Palm, then the cluster of towers making up the Marina, next came the distinctive Burj Al Arab and finally the Burj Khalifa rising out of the city centre. It was still an hour or so back to the beach so I had plenty of time to take it all in. Something I didnt realise happened is the top section of the Burj Khalifa puts on a spectacular light show including very powerful spot lights sweeping the sea and pointing laser like into the heavens. I allowed myself the smug self satisfied grin of the sea kayaker who knows they have the best view possible.
It was about 2230hrs as I surfed onto the beach. The trip had taken almost exactly 6hrs. Tired, satisfied shoulders carried the boat to the truck, the impromptu ‘trip around the world’ had definitely been a good plan.
Distance / Time: 34km. 6 to 8 hrs
Access / Egress: From any of the Jumeria Beaches
Tides: A bit of tidal planning will help but not a huge issue here as you’ll be able to paddle against them.
Navigation: Easy. Google Earth shows the sea wall that surrounds the developement and once you get to it you can just follow it round. At night it is lit with marker lights.
Difficulty: Medium. Its quite a committing trip. While your close to ‘land’ there is no where to get out either to rest or in an emergency.
Sounds great. A pitty you where not allowed to set foot on America;-)
seems perfect. Bet you dont paddle much these days?
Hi Ian – how is it going. Any ideas on where to get a used sea kayak in abu dhabi / dubai?
adrian (from Round the World Paddle 2012)
Normally I’d say check Dubizzle but if you contact me directly on my email firstname.lastname@example.org we have a few of the same kayak I used for the round the world trip available as we are refreshing our fleet. Be a saving of 40% off srp for boats that are in very good condition