We broke the news yesterday that Surf Snowdonia is closing down early for the winter, two months early, leaving many punters disappointed and a lot of staff, seasonal or otherwise, in a dark predicament.
Bookings were strong, you couldn’t get a slot until November anyway, so it’s really bad timing when it comes to momentum for a new project. One thing’s for sure everyone knows the WG is in Wales and it is open for business.
Being the first commercial WaveGarden in the world has been a double edged sword. On one side it’s got all the coverage and froth but the sharper, cutting side has been the experimental nature of the whole deal. It’s been shut three times since opening for instance for tweaks/repairs.
Thing is the Basque WaveGarden crew that have pioneered the whole project have never built a bigger installation. This is their first go at a ‘proper’ sized pool. Fun as the wave is at the secret test facility in the Basque mountains it’s a waist high tickler better suited for groms. Wales was the step up to the big leagues. Two metre barrelling waves were promised. We got a chest high version of the original … That’s also a bit longer. It was a theoretical jump up in scale that hasn’t quite panned out as planned.
Doing anything like this for the first time is a big leap into the unknown. So build time, test phase time, tweak time were all based on best guesses. Which turned out to be way off. In retrospect they’d have been better off opening next year once the thing was comprehensively tested and working right. As it was it opened before the WG engineers had even signed it over to the owners.
It’s not as big as promised. The ‘wave every minute’ is a non-starter. It’s been more like 3 to 8 minutes. Or, when we were there 45. If it runs faster it just turns into a bouncy mess, and if you want to surf a bouncy mess you might as well go surf in a gale force onshore.
Making big calls before something has been built and refined is asking for the world to point and go ‘Aaaaaaaaah!’ which many have. It needed to blow our minds. It hasn’t. At all. The naysayers have rubbed their hands in glee.
Not that I’m slagging it off. The point is, as I mentioned earlier, by being first the Welsh Garden has taken one for the team. It’s been a huge investment. A brave move into the unknown that can only be applauded. It just sticks in the craw a bit that everything the WaveGarden engineers learn in Dolgarrog they’ll refine and enhance for the mega Texas installation and others to come.
Hopefully with a long winter of testing and tweaking they can perfect the bottom contour, the foil shape, angle and speed and deliver a wave with enough punch for more than wraparound turns. We want the Garden to be something we can all be rightly proud of. We’ve been sold a bit short so far.
As for what happens once the bitter North Wales winter kicks in, that routinely freezes the lakes of Snowdonia, I’m not sure. Come January it might be a ruddy good joint for some speed skating.
Good luck to the engineers, staff and all involved, you’ve done good work, built a wonderful site, and have a globally famous asset on your hands. Fiddle with it over the winter and come out firing in the Spring…
Vid: Stoker as filmed by Gordy Fontaine around the Unleashed event…