The moment finally came this year when the worlds first wave garden opened to the public. Surf Snowdonia is built at a former industrial site in Dolgarrog in Snowdonia’s National Park, Wales. For those who don’t surf, the wave garden is an artificial surfing lagoon that generates a mechanical wave every minute. So technically you can surf one perfect wave after another without the constraints you can often experience in the ocean…you would think its a surfers dream right?
After a big build up and lots of hype, the wave garden finally opened in August and already there have
been a few teething problems, controversy and lot’s of disappointed customers. However after first-hand experience, I feel some of the criticisms have been unfair and that clearly a lot of time and effort has gone into developing the wave garden by people with the passion and determination to see their vision through. You can read my Surf Snowdonia review as well as a few tips below:
How the wave garden works
Cutting through the middle of the wave garden is a pier which contains machinery that resembles a snow plough. This runs up and down the length of the pool every minute, causing two identical waves to break simultaneously either side of the pier, left and right. The waves cater for all surfers from beginners to the more experienced. There are three take off positions each side of the pool for each level of surfer; being advanced, intermediate or beginner. The advanced wave takes off closest to the pier where the wave is at its highest and most powerful. It travels 300 meters before breaking at the end of the pool. The intermediate wave starts on the outer edge (shoulder) and beginners are in the white water after wave breaks.
What you need to do
Now for the nitty gritty details that most people find hard to understand until watching it themselves. Each surfer has 10 waves in a session, which lasts one hour. In each session there are six people in the advanced group, three surf on the north side of the pier and three surf on the south (see the picture above). There are two advanced take off sections each side of the pier, and the wave runs up and down the pier. Each surfer takes it in turns with the other surfers in their session, so once you take off on a wave you surf along the pier and then wait at the other end. The next surfer will ride the wave back, and then the third surfer in your session will surf it back to you. Then you take your next wave. Each time you surf your wave you will be alternating between lefts and rights and if you miss one…tough luck you need to get out and walk to the other end to wait for your next one. When taking off from the advanced position you need to stay as close to the pier as possible and make sure your take off is quick to make the first section.
I went along with my husband who has surfed many waves around the world. Here is what he has to say about it:
“Its a great facility and loads of fun. Being the first public venue of its kind it has got a few teething problems. There seems to be a lot of bump on the waves caused by backwash and current from the previous wave. This makes it tricky to approach the lip and means that each wave is a bit different to the last. It was also a bit frustrating that the surf school seemed to move so far up the pier and obstruct the end section, which would otherwise be the best part of the wave! All in all though great fun and I’d definitely go back.”
“I highly recommend checking out Surf Snowdonia, however it is important you go without any expectations. It feels completely different to surfing waves in the ocean and if you can already surf well, there are different challenges to counteract that you don’t have in the ocean. What I found most difficult was that I kept getting dragged to the white water, so you need to stay close to pier and make sure you don’t take off too late. I will definitely be heading back when it re-opens next year.”
5 top tips:
If you’re planning on going along next year, here are my top tips:
- Get there earlier to watch sessions before
- Make sure you understand how it works before heading in – saves time and last minute panic
- Stay close to the pier whilst paddling for the wave
- Paddle towards the pier during take off to avoid being dragged to the shoulder
- Gain momentum and speed to make the first section
Despite the teething problems in 2015, Surf Snowdonia has still been a success. There has already been a Red Bull competition
that attracted some of the worlds top surfers. It will be interesting to see how such competitions develop, with talk of future olympic possibilities!