Leaving the coastline and climbing uphill to go surfing may seem counter intuitive, but we were heading inland to catch some waves at Surf Snowdonia – the world’s first publicly-accessible surf lagoon.
Set right off the road in Dolgarrog, Wales, Surf Snowdonia replaced a former Aluminum works that had previously lain in a state of disuse at the centre of this small village. Having been involved in the project since the outset, helping to determine the best use and layout for the site, Planit was visiting en-masse to check out the scheme and catch some waves.
Clustering like a group of uncertain penguins, the inevitable nervousness of novice surfers was coupled with the unusual experience of wearing wetsuits for work. We gathered in the Academy for a short training session before heading out to collect our boards. We’d all seen the photos, but it was mesmerising to see the Wavegarden© in action. With a whirr, the hydrodynamic foil ploughed down the central pier, pushing the water on either side until it folded and broke into two perfect waves. It was something else again to feel it in action.
Lying on our boards in groups of six we are primed for our instructor’s call to paddle. We hear the wavefoil moving first, and glancing over our shoulders can see the embryonic wave starting to develop at the far end of the lagoon. Ours eyes quickly retrain on the instructor, looking over the water to the lagoon perimeter, with a backdrop of village shops and stunning bank of woodland trees beyond. The shout goes out and we start pulling through the water, just before the power of the waves hits the back of our boards. Three swift paddles and we spring into action…
The energy is amazing, sweeping you forward as you cling to your board, elegantly sail through in lying position, or scramble up to try standing. Chaotic bail-outs and collisions for some, an exhilarating ride to the water’s edge for others – wave, after wave, after wave.
With the exception of two members of our staff (all the gear, and admittedly a really good idea) everyone was a novice or beginner. What is great about this facility is that it is makes surfing so accessible to everyone, regardless of their ability. The whole experience was totally energising, and it is also a great spectator sport as the action is right there in front of you.
Flushed and exhilarated, we excitedly swopped stories of triumph and disaster whilst clipping ourselves into life jackets and pulling on helmets. Now for the Splash and Crash – a wipe-out style water assault course that, despite our best endeavors, saw each of us dispatched hilariously into the water below. Having taken a serious dunking we were ready to be launched into the air whilst blobbing. Lots of shouts, splashes, crazy photos and laughs.
Invigorated by our exertions and a steaming shower, our thoughts turned to food. Sprawling on an array of oversized fatboy beanbags we took over a generous teepee, flipping the lids off bottles of beer as oversized Welsh-rump burgers cooked on the BBQ. A buzz of conversation pervaded; trading stories, sharing photos and passing on tips to those surfing later in the day – the over-riding consensus that we’ll come again, bringing our families and friends.
We can’t wait to get back and catch more Surf Snowdonia waves.