Andy Ainscough - Surf Snowdonia
Picture this. A perfect lozenge-shaped lagoon roughly the size of six football pitches set in the lush Conwy Valley, in the lee of the mountains of the Welsh Snowdonia region.
Breathe it in. It’s clean, it’s fresh, it’s wild and it’s beautiful.
Now add something entirely unexpected and a little bit special. A two-metre-high tubing wave that starts at the centre of the lagoon, peels perfectly for more than 150 metres, and then dissipates softly as it hits the shore. Welcome to Surf Snowdonia.
Surf Snowdonia is an outdoor adventure destination which is set to open in North Wales in July 2015. It will be a showcase for the first ever publicly accessible Wavegarden artificial surfing lagoon.
The unique concept has been developed over the last ten years by Instant Sport: a group of hydrological, civil and mechanical engineers who also happen to be passionate surfers. The technology is described as an underwater snowplough covered by a central pier structure, which pushes water into a wave at the touch of a button. It has the ability to generate 2m high, perfectly formed tubing waves that peel for more than 150m.
We asked Surf Snowdonia Director of Operations Andy Ainscough a few questions about the project.
Is there an existing surfing community and/ or industry in the Snowdonia region?
Snowdonia, a National Park in North Wales, is a region which is famed for its mountains. Surf Snowdonia sits in the lee of the Snowdonia mountains, and is just a few miles away from Snowdon, the UK’s highest peak. But those mountains have to end somewhere, and in Snowdonia’s case they tumble down to almost 200 miles of coast.
There are plenty of beaches in the region that are enjoyed occasionally by surfers, and the best conditions are probably between October and mid-November. We often have to wait a while for our waves here in North Wales, but when it’s on you really could be anywhere!
Porth Neigwl – also known as Hell’s Mouth – is around 50 miles from Surf Snowdonia, on the Lleyn Peninsula. It’s probably the best-known surf spot in North Wales, a four-mile stretch of south westerly facing beach which can host a pretty good swell and produce some fun waves. Other well-known surf beaches in the area would include Rhosneigr, Aberdaron, Bennar and Abersoch.
But the barrier to fun is always going to be the lack of reliability when it comes to wave-quality.
In terms of an established scene around us – it’s a growing one. Water sports are big in this part of the UK, with loads going on the water from SUP to kayaking to white water rafting. There’s plenty of water around – inland lakes, navigable rivers and all that coast. Surfing is growing in popularity, and there a handful of surf schools on the Snowdonia coast and on Anglesey (an island and popular holiday destination just off the coast of North Wales).
What Surf Snowdonia will add to the mix is the ability to exponentially grow the UK scene and participation in the sport. It will guarantee quality of the waves and provide a safe alternative environment for beginners to learn, consistent 2-metre barrelling waves for the more experienced, and a ‘whole family day out’ experience.
Our surf academy will offer tuition in a whole range of activities, including surfing, bodyboarding, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), surf kayaking, surf yoga, surf fitness and early morning swim sessions.
Surf Snowdonia will also play host to events, competitions and surf demos, giving the public access to some of the world’s top surfers. Our 50-metre viewing gallery on the edge of the lagoon means you will be able to watch the action right up close without getting wet. Another first for surfing.
What has the response been like so far from the global surf community?
It’s been brilliant and no surprise that the consistent response has been one of massive excitement and anticipation. There is a collective recognition of what Surf Snowdonia will do for the sport of surfing – its huge global significance and the fact that for the first time in history surfing will no longer be restricted by geography or the lack of swell. There’s a recognition that we now have the opportunity to enjoy the sport we all love even when the ocean goes flat.
As part of our development phase we’ve had some of the world’s best pro surfers (the like of Gabriel Medina, Taj Burrow, Dane Reynolds) try out our prototype Wavegarden® facility in Northern Spain, and they’ve all been blown away by the quality of the waves.
What kind of jobs will Surf Snowdonia create?
Surf Snowdonia will create over 60 direct jobs with a further 100 or so jobs in the supply chain. Of those 60 direct jobs we’ll be looking for 15 talented and experienced water sport professionals to join as instructors and team leaders at our surf academy. We expect the calibre of our world-first facility to be matched by the calibre of our world-first team.
What possibilities does the Wavegarden concept offer to surfing?
What facilities like Surf Snowdonia are going to do is unlock the great potential for surfing to develop as a global sport. The ground-breaking Wavegarden technology means our waves will always be consistent, powerful and accessible. It removes all sorts of barriers and restrictions to the sport.
It also offers a safe surfing environment which is perfect for people of all ages, fitness and skill levels, from pro to beginner. It is ideal for introducing the sport of surfing to those who do not have access to the ocean.
Experienced surfers, families, people who just love the outdoors and the idea of trying out something new with their friends: they will all have a fantastic and unique experience at Surf Snowdonia.
Finally, I've got to ask, does this development bring us closer to seeing surfing in the Olympics?
We’ve been talking to ISA president Fernando Aguerre along these lines for some time now, and we’re confident that the potential of this technology to be recognised as a viable tool to take surfing into the Olympics is huge.
It will be the first inland surf park in the world which has the capability to host a competition that could be watched by IOC members and be seen as a credible option for making this sport Olympic. Surf Snowdonia is leading the way at a defining point in history for the sport of surfing.
Discover more about Surf Snowdonia at www.surfsnowdonia.co.uk
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