Armed with a wet suit and board wax, property developer and extreme sports fanatic Michelle Rothwell took to the waves at the launch of the North Wales attraction this weekend.
My first impression of Surf Snowdonia was that the whole set-up looked really impressive. It was really easy to get there, and it’s located within a tiny village that will definitely benefit from the draw of tourists.
On top of the actual surfing facility there’s on-site pod accommodation, a restaurant and café, and a children’s fun factory inside. Outside a lot of work was still ongoing when I visited, particularly on a kid’s ‘crash and splash’ lagoon which is due to open at the end of August.
Surf Snowdonia has obviously made every effort to get the best people in, with instructors from across the world who have competed in the World Series and coached national teams. The calibre of the staff will be a big draw, as well as the fact that the facility is within a 45 minute drive of several surfing beaches around Anglesey.
From a developer’s point of view, I thought it was exciting that a vacant site had been used to create something a bit out-of-the-ordinary. I spoke to Martin Ainscough, the owner and developer of Surf Snowdonia, who said that he had been struggling to work out what to do with the site, and had been considering selling it when a friend suggested recreating a version of a surf school he had visited in Spain. His son was into surfing, so it seemed like the ideal project. £12m is a lot to invest, so I’d be interested to find out the level of return needed to break even.
Actually surfing in the lagoon was a very different experience to surfing in the sea. If you are a pro, you’ll pick it up straight away, and for a beginner trying it out for the first time it will be an amazing way to gain confidence. For a good amateur surfer though, it’s a different technique and I found it hard to translate what I already knew onto actually getting up on the board at Surf Snowdonia.
The Wavegarden technology which created the waves looked incredible, with the biggest waves reaching almost two metres, which is a big wave. The whole operation was very slick, with the best boards and wet suits provided, and the pro-surfer instructors constantly on hand by the side of the pool giving pointers, or on land advising on the best kit to use.
If you’re surfing in the sea, part of the effort is in paddling far enough out so you can catch a wave. In Surf Snowdonia you are handed everything on a plate and get a perfect wave every time. Personally, part of the reason I like surfing is the battle of getting out to sea, so for that reason I don’t think I’ll be going to Surf Snowdonia again. But knowing you can reliably get a wave will be a big appeal for many, and there will be high demand from those who want to avoid the risk of high winds or jellyfish stopping them from getting out onto the water.
- Michelle Rothwell is development surveyor at Manchester-based Capital & Centric
- For more information on Surf Snowdonia visit www.surfsnowdonia.co.uk