The wooden doors swing open. The water is smooth and glassy. A light mist hovers. The tree-covered mountains on either side loom, forebodingly. Dawn breaks at the end of the valley. Suddenly a noise; a humming grows to a swooshing; a cable starts to move and a lump becomes a wave. A wave, here, in the middle of Snowdonia National Park. A wave opposite rows of old miners houses in a sleepy welsh valley. A wave we are here to surf!
There is nothing more surreal than arriving at Surf Snowdonia and seeing it in all its glory. After following Frodo’s journey to Mordor (or so it seems after hours of windy, Welsh lanes; through tree lined avenues and passed misty mountain tops) you suddenly, and without warning, pop out in Dolgarrog, a small Welsh village that hides a dark secret; pumping surf! The first of its kind in the UK, it harnesses Wave Garden technology to create left and right handers that run along a central pier (west to east) before running back again. Set on the site of an old aluminium quarry and fed via two large pipes from a series of reservoirs, the uber-modernity that greets visitors could not be more out of place. First thoughts are along the lines of “what must the local people have thought when this was proposed?”!
The wave itself could not be more different to an ocean wave. Here, the main force is pulling you back into the flats instead of pushing you forward; there is no ‘drop’ just a constant swim against the current; sections are very hard to make and require an almost super-human level of kicking; the wave is fat with no real critical sections and yet…and yet I couldn’t get enough.
Sat in the water you hold the fence around the middle pontoon, you wait for the wave to be on top of you before paddling into it and then aim for the jetty! My first wave I made the drop and a spin but soon got swept into the flats and lost power. From then I made sure I was kicking the entire ride and it worked. Turns are easy, underwater take-offs more than possible and above all, it is fun! The bizarre nature of where you are and what you are doing, combined with a genuinely fun wave is perfect! There is even a little barrel section on the very inside (about 2 inches deep!).
Unwilling to weigh in too deeply on the nature vs manmade or paying for surfing debates, what I will say is I am already planning my return trip!