Uniquely, the supply of waves looks set to increase. The Wave: Bristol has submitted a full planning application for its proposed 120 wave an hour, £6.5 million surfing lake, with the ambition of getting surfers in the water by the end of the year.
The environmentally conscious application for the pool and gardens was submitted to South Gloucestershire Council at the end of December, and hopes are high that a decision may be forthcoming by March. "We could have put in application in last June." Co-founder, Nick Hounsfield, told us. "But we took the decision to wait, work on the details, and remove any constraints."
"Potentially surfers could start using it by the end of the year." Nick continued "It'll be bigger than the wave you've seen in the Spanish Wavegarden. They have a 1.35 metre face and ours will be 1.6 metres, adding crucial centimetres."
"Potentially surfers could start using it by the end of the year. It'll be bigger than the wave you've seen in the Spanish Wavegarden. They have a 1.35 metre face and ours will be 1.6 metres, adding crucial centimetres."Nick Hounsfield
Make no mistake, this is not a rival to the Spanish model which is a technological demonstration pool and never intended for public use. The Bristol Wave is using licensed Wavegarden technology, but executed a larger scale, one which hopes to iron out some of the prototype's kinks.
"The lake in Spain is 45 metres wide, whereas ours will be 115 metres, reducing turbulence and allowing surfers to be further away from the central pier, which will in turn create more space on the shoulder than is currently available. The Spanish wave is tight in the pocket and we hope that our 1.6 metres of face height, plus the extra lateral space, will make for a slightly more accessible surfing experience." Said Nick.
The sets never stop at the Wavegarden, and unlike some beaches you will be guaranteed waves for your dinero, a draw which is sure to appeal to surfers frustrated by a lack of wave count, those keen to polish their rail work (all of us), and of course learners. This latter group being crucial to the business model, which requires bums on seats, or more exactly, rails on faces. The planned development allows for two surfers to be on a wave at any time, one either side of the pier, under which a moving object displaces water as it moves up and down the centre of the pool 60 times an hour. Meaning there will be 120 waves per hour, or two rideable waves a minute with a gaggle of a learners waiting to ride the collapsing white water.
"We could have up to 20 people riding the white water at each end, with 8 to 16 people waiting for their turn on the central section." Nick told us. "This could be costed on a per wave basis, or per hour. How we structure that remains to be seen and will be tailored towards offering the best value surfing experience."
Two things British surfers will be only too well aware of are the blustery winds and freezing winter temperatures. Despite the planing application offering various ways of heating the lake to stop it physically freezing in winter, Nick doesn't appear to be too concerned. "This will be cold water surfing experience, there will no boardshorts here in winter. The water drawn for the lake will be slightly brackish in nature with some salinity making freezing less likely. I feel the sheer volume of water will be impossible to heat."
The lake itself lies in sheltered typography, in the lee of a hill which blocks the dominant south westerly wind and will be surrounded by trees. "We are really confident on the ability of the wave to operate even in high winds. We surfed the more exposed Spanish wave in a gale and whilst one direction of travel was onshore, the other side was offshore. It's a really bowly wave which holds-up well in the wind."
"This will be cold water surfing experience, there will no boardshorts here in winter. The water drawn for the lake will be slightly brackish in nature with some salinity making freezing less likely. I feel the sheer volume of water will be impossible to heat." Nick Hounsfield
This is a venue which offers more than a surfing experience and it is hard not to be enthused by the long term plans. "Phase one is to get running." Says Nick pragmatically. "But the site is about more than just surfing, it's also about education, hospitality, woodland adventure, nature trails and getting kids connected with water. A lot of youngsters in the UK are not water savvy compared to their Australian or Hawaiian counterparts and we want to bring that into their lives."
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response from the public ever since we first started talking about the project. I think people now really understand that this is not a one dimensional project, but it offers a range of positive opportunities that will benefit both local and wider communities.
“The plans have been developed following close consultation with the local community. Views of local people, which were gathered at two public events and via a vast number of feedback forms, emails and meetings, have helped to shape the proposals. For example there was a clear desire from local people for a swimming pool in the local - as a result we have amended the plans to include a separate natural swimming lake."
All the documents submitted as part of the application will be made available on the council’s planning portal. The application reference is: PT13/4756/F.
Edit: For those worried about their taxes heading here rather than tax breaks for Amazon or bailing out bankers, this is privately funded initiative. There will be a small percentage of grant funding and also a crowd funded aspect. More on this soon.