People seem to have a lot to say about mechanical waves. Whether it’s about the technology, the philosophy, the performance or whether they will surf Kelly’s one day, everyone is chipping in. So I was quite curious about what the most average surfer (aka me) would do with some man-made water movement. My background is scuba diving, and to me, there is no good diving in aquariums, good divers are made in the sea, so I was fairly sceptical when it came to applying the same sort of thinking to surfing.
Surf Snowdonia encountered some serious criticism with a few PR blunders, from having not enough welsh surfers represented to then not enough women surfers represented, and finally having to shut down all together when their brand new technology broke in the middle of summer, sending packing their freshly moved in seasonal staff and cancelling all booked sessions. Now reopened earlier this year, it seems to have had a way better start.
I never thought of going myself but I was very nicely treated to an hour session by my other half, therefore… why not? We both went in with freshly waxed boards, summer suits and an open mind.
First of all I must say the facilities are really quite nice. No matter what’s your opinion on the subject, the reception area is well thought, clean, and have great toilets (too often under estimated to please the public I believe!) If anything a little on the hipster side, but overall very welcoming. The staff at the entrance desk was chirpy, polite and send us on our way quite quickly. The plan was that one of us would go in while the other would take photos. This is where it all got a bit confusing. We entered their prep area, and… nothing. One staff was hanging up rashies and the other one strolled in with sunglasses on before going straight to lie down on the trampoline (the place also offers a “gym” to train) with no acknowledgement. We just stood there for a bit thinking someone would ask/direct/brief us, but after a couple of other people looked just as lost as us, we asked rashie lady who then told us which lake area we were going to be in and to wait there. Not that we expected a red carpet, may be just a little guidance.
The pre-briefing given by the lake attendant was short. You can surf the waves “both ways” by catching left or right from each end of the lake, you have to rotate with the other people in your session, make sure you are the closest to the fence when taking off on the advanced wave. Off you go. I watched and photographed while James surfed.
Being the most average surfer as previously mentioned, I was not comfortable with the idea of surfing towards the pier, and being a bit of chicken on top of that I went for the next wave down from the advanced, the intermediate. This one breaks from the white water from the advanced before reforming into a clean little wave, which you then ride towards the outside of the lake. Once again no one asked or stopped me, and rashie lady was gone, so I just looked at my name on their board and headed to the lake. The lake attendant there was very helpful when I asked for what to do, and off I went.
Right as I got into the water, I had a quick chat with an older gentleman on the advanced wave in the same session. He was not expecting much of it, did not believe this was surfing and was only there because his son bought him an hour as a present. Well, hum, enjoy your time then.
The wave was really easy to catch but then small and basic. I was happy to get waves and was lucky enough to be alone in my level so I had plenty, however none really have stuck in my mind. Which probably says something. I tried both a short board and a foamie and it was fairly similar, just a little cruise before hitting the edge of the lake. What surprised me is how strange the wave is, I wiped out, and as I fell into the wave, I got sucked under and actually really tumbled which I did not expect at all, or the strength of it. I ended up hurting my ears from it (although, small disclaimer, I have damaged divers ears from previous barotrauma and hundreds of dives so it can’t have helped.)
Fairly soon it was time for the last wave. I am not going to lie, after 35 min I was quite bored. Not that I overall did not have fun, but every wave was the same and an hour was too short to fully grasp it and try new things with it, and too long to just repeatedly do the same thing over and over again.
Once all dried up, we explored the whole place, which includes a surf shop, a café and a fun adventure area with “Wipe out” type activities where we watched a stag do flap around ( and it looked very fun.)
I learned that the older gentleman had gotten out 20 min into his session, quite frustrated saying that he had surfed for over 40 years and this was not surfing. I understand, it is not “surfing” as one pictures. No blue seas and no natural elements per say. But you can catch waves. I think if I did it again I would go for the advanced wave which did not seem as terrifying as I thought. One of the staff told us that you definitely catch “a style” here, explaining that he is on a basic Bic board in the sea but can ride a short board in the lake. I personally still can’t decide if I liked it or not. I enjoyed the facilities a lot, it’s a very nice place and it’s a fun family day out where everyone can try something, whether it’s being curious about the advanced wave, play in the adventure area or enjoy a coffee while watching the kids try surfing for the first time. But I still going keep my surfing the same way I do my diving. In the sea.
I also got a bit miffed that I was the only one in my session not to get photos from Surf Snowdonia. Just like at Disney you can go and watch yourself on their screen post session as their photographer do the rounds, but clearly they missed me. Your loss Surf Snowdonia, just like I used to get my photos from my Disney roller coaster days ( oh the tender memories) I would have probably bought one there too. It’s alright. I have the best private photographer I could wish for.