Wave pool surfing never was my thing. Since I started surfing in 1995, the contact with the sea, for better or for worse, has always fascinated me. The waves unpredictability, the connection with the ocean, the salt in my body are just some of the things that attract me.
So when I traveled to Bristol and put on the agenda a trip to The Wave, one of the first wave pools in the world recently opened, I had no intention of surfing there.
The Wave experience was my Christmas gift to Nuno, and my original plan was to visit Bristol, Bath, and go to Stonehenge.
However, put waves in front of me, it doesn’t matter where, and I can’t resist them!
It was the end of December, probably the coldest month in that region, and we had scheduled our experience at The Wave for 2 pm.
To surf this wave pool, it’s not enough to get there and enter the water. There are one hour slots you must pre-register. I had done it in November, through the website, paying 55€.
Two in the afternoon was the option I chose, predicting that at that time, it would be a little less cold. I’m glad I did.
We woke up in the morning, had breakfast, and decided to go there.
From the images I had seen online — and as we later verified — The Wave includes a cafe/restaurant where we can be and relax, eat or drink something. So we decided to go early to adapt to the place, to spend some time watching how those pool waves behave and, without stress, to start preparing for the experience.
An irresistible wave pool
The Wave is located on a farm far from urban centers, and when we parked, we noticed that we weren’t alone in this adventure. Despite the rainy weather and the cracking cold, the parking lot was almost complete.
After going through the reception, we started down the long road that leads to the main building of The Wave, the gateway to the pool.
I don’t know if it was the contrast of the blue color of that pool in the middle of the farm’s brown fields and the dark sky caused by bad weather, but it looked like I had arrived at an oasis!
The wave pool works with the Wavegarden system, a machine that divides the space in two. On one side, the waves break to the left; on the other, they run to the right. We have to choose one of the two sides, which is a pity. Of course, this is still a business and, if you want to surf the two waves, left and right, you have to make two reservations.
As I said, it wasn’t my intention to surf The Wave. Still, when I came across that scenario and people in the water who had my surfing level, I couldn’t resist going. Fortunately, there was still space for the 2 pm slot, and so I was able to go with Nuno.
A challenge called The Wave
An hour before the start of the session, it is time for us to get equipped. The reservation includes wetsuit, boots, gloves, hoodie, and surfboard, of course. To tell you the truth, I had never surfed with so much equipment, but I felt so good!
Accustomed to surfing in hot water destinations or at home, in Ericeira, which for me is already cold enough, these were the most extreme cold conditions I have ever entered into the water. Well, except for one time in Peniche, Portugal. It was snowing, and the half-hour I spent in the water was enough to provoke signs of hypothermia, like my mouth not articulating what I was thinking. But that’s another story. 🙂
Moments before entering the water, in a group of about 10 to 12 people, The Wave collaborators clarify the rules:
1. The wave starts right from the back, next to a red mark on the wall. If you don’t position yourself against the wall and that mark you won’t catch the wave;
2. If you are unable to get the wave or fall trying to do so, you must go straight ahead lying on the board to get out of the way of the next surfer;
3. If you are the next in line and the person before you fell, you have to wait for the ok to go. Someone from the staff positioned on the wall will tell you when;
4. You catch the wave in order of arrival, and you must respect others who are in the water with you.
5. Everything seemed relatively easy until it was time to get into the water and start rowing to the starting point.
The icy water made my head snap, the nervous made my heart race, the confidence in the eyes of others reduced mine, and the noise of the machine producing the waves was intimidating. Not to mention that I had to position myself side by side with a concrete wall to do the take-off.
Surfing is a curious sport, and the first few times in a new place are always a surprise. From the outside, I thought it would be super easy, but in the water, it was completely different.
Whenever I missed the wave, I had to go around the pool! But there was such a good vibe in the water, with total strangers cheering for me. And even the cold started to pass with all the paddling.
As I said earlier, The Wave just recently opened and of the three levels they offer — beginners, intermediate and advanced — only the beginners and advanced ones were working. Well, I probably would do better with the intermediate level, but I took a chance on the advanced.
But, I still managed to catch a wave after several attempts, and that one was worth everything!
I don’t regret surfing in this wave pool at all. It was an incredible experience, and I definitely recommend it. And like all challenges overcome, I came out of the water with a big (frozen) smile on my face. Not to mention that Nuno really made his Christmas present pay off!
What did you think of The Wave? Would you like to surf in a wave pool? Leave your comment below, and if you have any questions, just ask.
If you have a surfer friend, share this post with him or her. It may well be their next surf trip.