Surf Snowdonia - 10 things about a trip there

Sun, Jul 17, 2016 6-minute read

You’re unlikely to be reading this is if you haven’t heard of Surf Snowdonia. But if you haven’t - it’s the world’s first commercial inland wave adventure parc. Or in other words, it’s a surfable wave in a lagoon nowhere near the sea. The park opened in 2015 to much fanfare but closed again after less than a season due to mechanical issues. But over the winter it’s had some investment (£1m if you believe what you read) and it’s open again.

To surf there, you have four options… IE where in the lagoon you can surf. Beginner, improver, intermediate or advanced. The website has a description of what you can expect from each and the sort of skills you should have. It’s advisable to book ahead. Not really knowing what to expect, I booked an hour on the intermediate wave which included board rental.

The wave itself is relatively simple in concept - it’s an oval shaped lagoon with a structure in the middle. Every 90 seconds an arm dredges from one end to the other creating a wave in its wake… Well, in front of it. Not in its wake. That’d be behind.

Anyway. Each of the four sections should give something to all abilities. There is plenty of white water for beginners to play in with the advanced take off points should give experienced surfers something challenging. I’ve been surfing 20 odd years - on and off - I’ve surfed some great waves around the world but I am by no means an expert. My quiver consists mostly of longer boards 6'7″ upwards but most importantly, whilst my surf fitness is quite high, I’ve not actually surfed in a while (young family has rather got in the way!) so felt that an hour on the intermediate wave would be a good starting point.

So here are my 10 key thoughts and observations about Surf Snowdonia

  1. Surfing in freshwater is and always will be bizarre. Surfing in the sea you become accustomed to avoiding water in your mouth and having a harsh salty feel. I’m not advocating you drink the lagoon water at SS, but it was a pleasant change. It also seemed to mess with contact lenses more than saltwater - constantly like when you go swimming and get water in your goggles - except when the goggles are hard up against your eyeballs and its manky lagoon water as opposed to manky pool water.

  2. Having a full set of changing facilities with warm showers for before and after surfing is and always be bizarre. It’s a far cry from hopping around in a stone laden cold and wet car park in North Cornwall. But it is a pleasant change! The water itself is warm (you’re fine in a summer suit) although if asked in the showers, then yeah, the water was really cold. The locking mechanism on the lockers in the changing rooms is quite awesome. Like something out of Star Trek. Annoyed I didn’t film it for Awesome Switches! In fact, the park/complex as a whole is very impressive - everything works really well, and the ancillary bits (bar/restaurant/sleeping pods/splash pool/parking) all look excellent. There’s even a soft play for the kids!

  3. You don’t need anything like the same level of fitness you need for surfing in the sea. If you’re in relatively good surf shape then you’ll fly through an hour without breaking a sweat. So book 2 hours if you can.

  4. If you have surfed before and can, take your own board. The foamy junk they give you are rubbish and frustrating and really only suited for absolute beginners.

  5. The park seems to suffer the same problem as any other vogue-y surf area. Lots of (mostly wannabe, some actual) surfer types poncing about trying to look hip in varying states of undress. Lots of topknots. The instructors there are immediately distinguishable with this sort of assumed Godlike status in their red hoodies and skate boards. I heard the word ‘stoked' on more than one occasion.

  6. The wave suffers the same problem as any other busy ish surf area - wankers on long boards nicking all the waves. The “rules” are pretty clear - stay in your zone - but this didn’t stop the 9′ poly missiles marauding about. The lifeguards did little to intervene. Not that they would at the beach - so maybe that’s just par for the course?

  7. If you’re vaguely comfortable with paddle and pop up, go straight to the advanced wave. The wave as a whole is a little gutless and the takeoff on the advanced waves is pretty gentle. And the wave itself is quite short. Even if you become an asshat long board wave pincher (see 7 above) then the longest you’ll get is 20 odd seconds.

  8. The staff did little to show any interest throughout the time there. Not that they were unhelpful, simply that there wasn’t much to make you feel really welcome, especially those giving out the boards, regurgitating the same spiel they’ve no doubt regurgitated many times that day. (Apart from the young lad serving in the restaurant who was beyond helpful and well .

  9. Having guaranteed waves on a 90 second rotation was and always will be bizarre. In fact it was a little too clockwork. It obviously takes a lot of the guesswork out of things but some of the beauty of surfing was lost. This is obviously the beauty of the wave - sit in one place and every 90 seconds you’re guaranteed a wave. No guessing - the wave will come, you just have to paddle for it. Great for learning and a surefire session - but you lose the ‘just sit there and forget about life' moments.

  10. The bottom of the lagoon is slipperier than the frozen floors of hell. Granted it’s preferable to walking over rocks / reef / crabs etc. but getting your foot trapped under one of the drains and then dragged sideways by the wash was a hell raising experience.

Surf Snowdonia summary review

Surf Snowdonia is great attraction and a great addition to the local area in Snowdonia. It’ll be both a surfers' attraction as well as a general tourist attraction. If it can find some reliability then it’ll be popular. But at £30-£40 an hour for an average wave, the real question is if it’ll keep the ‘real' surfers coming back for more.