If all runs to plan, machine driven freshwater waves will soon be grinding away in a North Wales valley. At a meeting of Conwy Council on April 30, planning permission was officially granted to Surf Snowdonia, setting it up to become the world's first commercial Wavegarden surfing park, open for business in the summer of 2015.
Recent months have seen a spate of surfing wave pool proposals come to the public eye, including projects near Bristol in the UK, and Soustons in SW France. However, this is the first scheme to jump the colossal planning permission fence, and, with funding already secured, the hole digging should begin in the next few weeks.
The pool will be 300 meters long and 110 meters wide, providing 18 second rides on the expert wave that runs through the centre of the pool. Andy Ainscough, Director of Conwy Adventure Leisure
"The wave itself will be 60 cm bigger than the original Wavegarden prototype," project director, Andy Ainscough, told Magicseaweed. "The pool will be 300 meters long and 110 meters wide, providing 18 second rides on the expert wave that runs through the centre of the pool, which is almost double that of the pool in Northern Spain."
It's estimated that 60 waves will be generated per hour, with nine surfers waiting at each end on busy days. The wave travels from north to south, surfable on both sides of the central boardwalk, then briefly pauses and runs back the other way. "On busier days the lineup will be regulated by someone in a rashvest standing on the central partition," Ainscough told us. "It shouldn't be much of a problem, but he'll be the one to make sure that everyone gets their turn." Some might scorn at this level of regulation, but regular victims to snaking and drop-ins will likely relish the thought of florescent water police.
According to Ainscough, there will also be a second intermediate wave breaking along the sides of the pool, which will be 30 cm smaller (there will be two partitions of reef running through the length of the pool, either side of the central board-walk). This design is unique to the Snowdonia lagoon and essentially doubles capacity. Finally, there will be a wide space at each end of the lagoon for a pack of beginner surfers to practise pop-ups, 25 at each end.
Conwy Adventure Leisure, the principal financial backers, recently signed a seven figure contract with Wavegarden, allowing them to use both the technology and established name of the Basque based company. Throughout the planning process, Surf Snowdonia has worked closely with the Wave Garden engineers, striving to create a quality and financially viable product.
Our engineers are already working hard on the production of the new 1.9m high version, which features important improvements to the quality, capacity and frequency of the Wavegarden lagoon. Josema Odriozola, CEO of Wavegarden
“We are very excited about signing the contract to build the UK’s first commercial Wavegarden facility in North Wales," says Josema Odriozola, founder and CEO of Wavegarden. "The commitment Conwy Adventure Leisure has placed in us and our technology marks without question a milestone in Wavegarden’s history. Our engineers are already working hard on the production of the new 1.9m high version, which features important improvements to the quality, capacity and frequency of the Wavegarden lagoon."
The site, near the town of Dolgarrog, had been an aluminium works since 1916, but closed in 2007. Facing dereliction, an action group was rapidly set up to develop the site. Conwy Council Deputy Leader, Ronnie Hughes, describes the location as "of immense importance to the Conwy Valley", adding: "It is important that we see it brought back into active economic use in a way that supports the county's economy in a sympathetic way, yet also brings something new and unique to the area."
This is a step into the unknown for all parties involved. Prototypes may have been successful, but the Wavegarden engineers have never worked with a pool of this size. As for the economic sustainability, it remains to be seen whether a remote North Wales location will attract the 70,000 annual visitors anticipated by investors. Banishing all scepticism, most will welcome this news with salivating mouths. We have all mind surfed the Basque Wavegarden to bits and by June 2015, if you're prepared to part with some pounds, those mechanical green walls will be yours for the taking.