Driving away from the sea in search of waves doesn't feel like the most natural thing to do. Last year however Bristol opened a world leading wave pool "The Wave" and it was about time I checked it out.
Trading in my local waves in North Cornwall for a man made one near the M5 for the day was on the cards.
I thought I'd share my surf and pass on a few tips of how to get the most out of it if you decide to give it a go!
Getting there and getting in
On arrival (at least an hour before you surf) there's time to have a quick look around the cafe and shop, located in 'the clubhouse'. Around 40 minutes before surfing it's time to register at the surfer's check in before going poolside to watch the wave, get your board prepped and get changed ready for the session - if you're late it's likely you'll miss your session and won't get a refund!
All sessions are pre-booked. Mine was at 8am, so around 7:45 I arrived at the end of the pool for a short safety talk from one of the ‘wavemakers’ along with all the other people in my session. After this everyone congregated on whichever side of the pool they were booked onto, left or right, and we paddled out for the first wave.
The Wave itself
Once at the top of the pool everyone queues up for the first wave.
It's generated by a closely guarded secret piece of machinery that runs down the middle of the pool. The wave differs in power and size depending on which session you've booked onto.
I had opted for the advanced setting, which provided a waist to chest-high punchy wave that suited my longboard.
The formalities of queuing make catching waves here a completely different experience to surfing in the sea, but because you know every wave is almost the same (and that everyone is getting a chance to catch them) it provides a relaxed and cheery attitude in the water.
The session lasts 1 hour, with around 12 sets of 20 waves during that time. My early session was quiet and gave most people the chance to catch 2 waves per set.
The wave itself is consistent (as you'd expect) and combines steep and more gentle sections, giving you a point break style ride down the pool. I found it great fun on a longboard, although I did have to take off a little further back than the shortboarders and time any noserides and turns to perfection between the quickly changing steep and softer sections.
It's a unique experience and I'd say it's worth trying at least once. Try and go in with an open mindset. It's not surfing in the sea but it is a great little wave and unlike our inconsistent surfing conditions around the UK, you're guaranteed a ride!
Thoughts and tips
- It's not cheap. An intermediate or advanced session will set you back around £50 and the expert wave which includes a small barrel section is slightly more, but board and wetsuit hire is included in the price of your session (although I used my own)
- The water temperature roughly mirrors that of the sea in the UK although gets a little warmer in the summer and colder in the winter (it's not heated!)
- Keep a close eye on the time! Turning up late will mean you don't get to surf. Also, you're only in the water for an hour, a waterproof watch will let you know how far through your session you are.