The Wave Bristol Review
Who says you need the sea to surf? Meet The Wave, Bristol’s newly opened artificial surf lake with waves on tap. I grabbed my wetsuit and waded in to catch a few of them for my The Wave Bristol review.
Wave after wave
The Wave Bristol had its grand opening in autumn 2019 (and The Wave London is hot on its heels, opening in 2020), but the site’s grounds are still a work in process. Reaching The Wave, a 20 minute drive from Bristol, means a walk up a long drive flanked by bulldozers, busy landscaping the complex’s garden and campsite. The day I’m there it’s one big sea of mud and drizzle.
Once inside The Wave, though, it’s a very different story. The main building is all wooden walls and tall ceilings, with an inviting cafe overlooking the surf action through huge glass windows. As well as surfers nursing hot chocolates in the cafe’s warmth there are plenty of locals who have popped in for a coffee and a glimpse of the surfers speeding along the turquoise waves outside. And the staff at The Wave (who are known rather endearingly as ‘Wave Makers’) must be chosen first and foremost on their friendliness – expect a very warm welcome here.
Step outside for a surf session and you’re face to face with the wave itself. Or perhaps that should be waves – two mirrored lagoons are separated by a central walkway, each with a wave machine. In each pool, timed waves roll from the narrow deep end of the triangle towards the wider, shallower end of the pool. The back of the Wave is the domain of advanced surfers, while beginners can practise with instructors in the shallows.
While I’m not quite a beginner surfer, I’m definitely not advanced, so I signed up for a session on the smaller wave. After changing into a wetsuit and grabbing a board, I meet my instructor and the rest of my group by the water’s edge.
Having a surf lesson in a space far smaller and more controlled than the open ocean turns out to be an excellent way to improve. My lovely instructor has obviously also attended the Wave School of Friendliness, and after a safety brief he quickly gets everyone working to their strengths in the water. The Wave’s compact size means you get far more one-on-one time than you would in the sea during a lesson here, and more time practising, too – I can reliably catch wave after wave as they roll in in timed intervals. My instructor is quick to pick up our different styles, and even has me attempting to cross-step – something I’ve always wanted to master.
I’d never caught an artificial wave before my visit to The Wave, and it’s certainly different to a lesson in the ocean – there’s no downtime on an artificial reef, and you have to be far more careful when you step off your surfboard, as the floor is hard concrete – a surprise when you’re used to forgiving sand. But the reliable waves and more intimate space makes it absolutely perfect for surf instruction. I come out of the cold water, bedraggled but far more confident and itching to get in the sea again – and eyeing up the advanced wave. One day!
Will The Wave replace the joy of surfing in the wild open ocean? No. But it clearly isn’t trying to. The Wave is a space where surfers of all levels can come to to hone their skills in a safe and friendly learning environment, to scratch their surf itch in on flat days and to socialise over a coffee afterwards. And it makes the perfect quick escape from the city. Bristolians should head there now, and Londoner’s should get excited for their own slice of the Wave action next year.
Surf The Wave: Find The Wave Bristol at Washingpool Farm in Easter Compton. A surf lesson costs £55 and a surf session £40, both including wetsuit and surfboard hire, and surfers should arrive 90 minutes before their session. The Wave London is planned for 2020.
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