Photo courtesy of Jennifer Scully

Surf's up in the desert

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Scully Against a rocky, mountainous backdrop this past Thursday, new surfers rose up with the moon at Wadi Adventure in Al ...

Apr 27, 2013

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Scully
Against a rocky, mountainous backdrop this past Thursday, new surfers rose up with the moon at Wadi Adventure in Al Ain.
For the third trip of the semester, freshmen Dan Mountcastle and Cole Tanigawa-Lau lead a group of surfers to this state-of-the-art facility, which offers a large surf pool in the middle of the desert. A bus departed from the NYUAD campus and transported a small group of students through the sand dunes of Al Ain to the Middle East’s first man-made whitewater rafting, kayaking and surfing facility.
Mountcastle, a Florida-native, and Tanigawa-Lau, originally from Hawaii, organize these events to share their love for the sport and to get more students into the water. While they will be hosting screenings of iconic surfing movies like “Endless Summer” and “The Drifter,” the excursions at Wadi Adventure are their main activity.
“We hope that after each session, students are able to surf on their own,” Mountcastle said. “We hope they are enthusiastic about this great sport that serves many benefits physically and mentally, like the benefits of a great time, intense physical activity and a way to relax and meditate after a long week.”
While experienced students immediately tackle the 3.3-meter high waves pumped out every 90 seconds after the two-hour ride to Al Ain, all who can swim are welcome to give surfing a shot. One of Wadi Adventure’s friendly instructors works with beginners in a two-hour class that promises the end result of standing on the board and catching a wave.
“The point is that it’s open and makes surfing accessible,” Mountcastle said. “Often people feel that surfing is very dangerous, and there is a high learning curve, but it’s really not at all, especially in the pool.”
“Once they stand up and look around and experience it for the first time, they are automatically hooked,” he said. “That’s the only danger with surfing — that you will be hooked forever.”
Sophomore Bailey Theado, a visiting student from NYUNY, was new to surfing before attending the event. At first, she was apprehensive about being able to stand.
“My friends surf occasionally in New Jersey and had always been trying to convince me to go, but I was a little nervous about the whole looking like a seal to sharks thing,” Theado said. “I'd tried snowboarding and skateboarding before, but with both of those you're already up.”
But the sessions are fun and easy-to-follow, and beginners are well equipped with the necessary tools to eventually get up on their boards. Instructors start by getting students acquainted with their boards and comfortable with the water before teaching them to catch a wave while remaining flat. Next, the beginners are taken to land to become familiar with the routine of getting up on the board. At this point, the sun has set and NYUAD students are learning by the glow of the moon. They are brought back into the water to practice the steps to stand in the wave pool.
“The instructor was great and took us through step-by-step but, of course, when you are riding the wave and are climbing up the board, it's so strange,” Theado said. “I didn't make it up on the board until probably my sixth time. But when I made it up I was in such disbelief that it was happening. I felt so incredible after I stood up and now I just want to go and go again.”
With students like Theado giving positive feedback from their surfing experience and pledging to return in two week’s time, Tanigawa-Lau said he and Mountcastle are trying to generate as much interest as possible in these Wadi Adventure trips.
“From what we've seen so far, people really enjoy the time they spend in the water,” Tanigawa-Lau said. “It's a great time and an excellent workout.”
In addition to the physical accomplishment of the event, there is a friendly aspect of the trip that adds to the experience.
“There’s a great social component as well, because even though the bus ride is really long, you share it with great friends,” Mountcastle said.
Their plans for next semester include trips to wave breaks in Dubai and to the Indian Ocean coast of Oman. But, recognition as an official SIG is contingent upon the number of students who sign up. Tanigawa-Lau said the group needs to maintain a high turnout to be considered for SIG status next semester.
“We're trying to get as many people to come as regularly as possible, partially because we need it to continue setting up these opportunities, but primarily because these surfing events really turn out to be worth the trip to Al Ain,” Tanigawa-Lau said. “What we really need is for people commit to coming out with us as regularly as possible.”
NYUAD Surf will have their last event to Al Ain on Thursday, May 2. Students can sign up through the Student Portal, and the bus departs from Sama Tower at 3:45 p.m. and from the Downtown Campus at 4 p.m.
Amanda Randone is co-editor-in-chief. Email her at
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