This interview was conducted prior to the opening of the Wave Bristol. You can find all the latest information about the Wave here, and read our honest review here.
Yesterday we brought you the news that the wheels are in motion for a London wave pool.
The team behind the plans include an extensive collaboration between Lee Valley Park, WaveGarden and the crew at The Wave- who are currently working on England’s first wave pool, which is under construction in Bristol and due for completion in Autumn 2019.
The Wave Bristol has been a long time in the making, with the plans initially unveiled six years ago. Since then it’s been an endless dance of paperwork, fundraising, planning applications, technology testing and legislative hoop jumping. But now, with diggers on site, the grand opening is in sight.
After the news of London dropped, we caught up with Nick Hounsfield- founder of The Wave, to find out about the Bristol facility’s progress and ask a few burning questions we’re sure much of Britain’s landlocked surf community are dying to know the answers to.
First up, can you tell us exactly where ‘The Wave’ is going to be and how long will it take to get to from the centre of Bristol?
The Wave Bristol is located next to the village of Easter Compton, about 5 mins drive from Junction 17 of the M5. It’s really easy to reach from the centre of Bristol (approx. 20 mins by car), as well as being convenient for people travelling from Wales, the Midlands, further South West, or East from London and the Thames Valley. It has very good transport links and we will encourage people to come via public transport where possible.
How’s it all going? What stage are you at?
Everything is progressing really well. Over the last few months we have been preparing the site. This initially involved carrying out extensive archaeological work, then the earthworks team rolled in to build the ground levels, create access and put in services. We are now moving into the construction phase.
Alongside the physical work taking place on site, we have been busy developing the many different operational elements of the project, from food and drink and camping accommodation, to surfboard hire, wetsuits and interior design. It’s all coming together and we can’t wait to share further progress over the coming months.
When is it going to be finished and open to the public?
We are all set for opening to the public in Autumn 2019.
Last we heard it was going to be a scaled-up version of the WG test facility in the Basque Country. Have you got concrete numbers on how many different waves there will be? How long they will be and how big?
Our lake is 5 times the size of the Wavegarden demo facility and will be able to cater to all levels of surfing ability, from a child stepping on a board for the first time, to professional surfers. We will be able to change the size and shape of the wave – heights will peak at 2m with the possibility of a 12-15 sec ride. We will work with Wavegarden to decide the best combination of waves we need to be able to cater for everyone. There are so many options to choose from and we are not restricted on this in any way. The key for us is to give a great experience to everyone, from first timers to seasoned pros.
Any ideas how much it will cost per wave or for a session yet? And if there will be a membership scheme?
We don’t have exact costs as yet, but we will be using dynamic pricing, which means that the cost of a session will change depending on when you want to visit. For example, a mid-week hour in the winter will be cheaper than a weekend session in the summer.
There will definitely be a membership scheme and we’re planning on offering different levels of membership to suit a range of needs. We will be releasing early memberships and ticket booking nearer to opening – sign up to our newsletter to make sure you hear about these as they are released!
Have you had the chance to visit Kelly’s or Waco? If so, what struck you about them that the average viewer may not have gleaned from seeing footage?
We know Kelly and his team well and what they have built is truly remarkable. The wave is a decent size, long and perfect. In the competition environment it is incredible. We went to the Founders Cup and it was quite an experience. We took a lot of notes and it really helped us focus on how we want to run our sites. Personally, I think using this technology in a stadium environment could be the best application. If anyone can make this technology successful, the WSL and Kelly’s team will do it.
We haven’t been to Waco and seen the American Wave Machine system, however, we know almost everything about the technology, as a previous technology partner was proposing to use a similar pneumatic system. There is huge potential with this technology and I’m excited to see how it develops in the future.
Each technology has it’s trade-offs, for us, Wavegarden ticks the most boxes and as a company, they are great to work with and we feel part of each others wavemaking family.
All of the wave pools so far have run into little bits of difficulty, usually in their first couple of weeks. Everything from flooded restaurants, to brain-eating algae. Have you been watching closely and learning from each of these mishaps to try and ensure a smooth ride for the wave?
We are definitely watching and taking notes. We want to create the best experience for people visiting The Wave and this means taking time to plan all operational elements, challenge our thinking as we go and ensure we are making informed decisions. We have to get the essentials, such as water quality, spot on from the word go. The beauty of having taken a long time to get to this point is that we have been able to learn a hell of a lot from other operators – some of those issues we had predicted, others have been surprising. The key is to work with the best people and have experts advising every step of the way. I am very confident we have the A-team working with us.
All of the different pools are designed for different things- Kelly’s is perfect waves, Waco is consistency and good air sections- what were your priorities when choosing and tweaking the tech?
We have always been focused on providing waves that suit a wide range of abilities, so being able to generate different sized waves was essential. Wave frequency is also key – we don’t want people waiting around for a long time between waves. With its different zones, and up to 1000 waves an hour, Wavegarden Cove ticks all the boxes for us. I’ve surfed for 40 years and some of the Wavegarden wave settings are still pretty challenging, particularly the “slab” mode. So there will be something for all abilities.
We’ve heard that Kelly’s will soon be totally powered by solar. What schemes have you got in place to make The Wave as eco-friendly as possible?
Our whole project is based on the triple bottom line approach to business, which means we always consider the effect our decisions have on our profit, the people around us and the planet we share. We are continually looking to minimise our environmental impact.
We will be using renewable energy to power the site and are looking very carefully at our supply chain and our waste management. We are learning fast, and again we have the best people advising us and challenging us to ensure we do the best we can on this front.
One thing all the pools have had in common is their big fanfare launch, have you started planning yours already?
We have some pretty rad ideas and plans taking shape, I’m not sure ‘fanfare’ is totally our style, but rest assured we have some great ideas in motion which we think people will love and which will help everyone understand the way we roll…
How excited are you to surf that first wave?
It will be the culmination of 7 years work and I think it is going to be a pretty emotional moment! I won’t be surfing the very first wave, partly because there are others that deserve that moment more and I’d be gutted if I blew it! I’m sure that first session is going to be one of the most memorable moments of my life, I can’t wait… and it’s not long now!
Thanks Nick, we can’t wait to visit!
All photos: WaveGarden