Surfing is about to make its debut in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK, with a 40% increase in participation between 2015 and 2017, according to the latest British Marine Association Annual Watersports Participation Survey. In fact it is estimated that there are now just under 650,000 regular surfers in the UK, most of whom are between 16 and 34 years of age. But with the best surfing waves only occurring 30% of the time and most beaches being located some distance from urban hubs, it is still an inaccessible sport for many in the UK. Until now that is.
Using the latest wave-making technology, surfing experts and leisure developers are now looking to bring surfing inland, opening up the sport to a far larger number of people. Advances in the technology mean that inland surfing destinations are now commercially viable and a number are set to open in the UK.
Surf Snowdonia, based in Wales and using Lagoon technology, has been around for a while, but there are others in the pipeline. Recently, ‘The Wave’ is due to open its first inland surfing destination in Bristol this Autumn and they will be doing it again with the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority who announced the development of an inland surfing lake in London.
‘The Wave’ is the brainchild of Founder, Nick Hounsfield, who has worked closely with CEO, Craig Stoddart, to quite literally bring the power of the ocean direct to Bristol. One of the major investors in the Bristol project, Francis Menassa, explains that demand for surfing waves is on the up but supply of surfing waves has historically been the limiting factor. New wave-making technology solves this problem. People will now be able to surf top quality waves all year round.
‘However, The Wave is not just about surfing,” says Francis Menassa, “It is about getting people active and sharing incredible experiences in a naturally, healthy space.”
Francis Menassa is right about the health benefits, but it also has the potential to be a shrewd investment move too. The increase in popularity is as much to do with the sport as to the economics; the leisure sector in general is experiencing unprecedented growth and despite overall consumer confidence falling to an 18-month low, net spending in the UK leisure sector grew by two percentage points year-on-year in the final quarter of 2018, according to a Deloitte report published in February 2019.
“Building an urban or landlocked surfing resort is a large capital investment, but we believe that the design and the technology behind The Wave answered our investment requirements. The team at The Wave worked hard to prepare the ground for us by hiring some of the best in the business.
“From a commercial perspective for example, one key element is that the technology has been designed with no single points of failure, so up to a third of the motors can fail and it can still produce surfable waves. It has also been designed so that there are no maintenance jobs that require emptying the lake,” he says.
Francis Menassa explains that there are different types of wave technology available. For instance, some technologies work in a similar way to the bow of a boat where the water is pushed out of the way. However, he believes that the best design is the Wavegarden Cove system, which has the ability and computer power to replicate the exact water particle movement of ocean ground swells. There are no secondary waves that can negatively affect the quality of subsequent waves and there is very little loss of energy in the transmission of forces from the machinery to the water.
“In my view, Wavegarden Cove technology is more advanced. It is only in the last 3-5 years that computer power has evolved enough to make it possible to recreate wave models using just a laptop.
“The technology produces better quality waves at a greater frequency. It can generate up to a thousand surfable waves per hour, that range from 50cms to around 1.8m in height. With six different surfing zones catering for all levels of surfer, these kite-shaped lakes have the potential to host over 80 people at any one time.”
“All the fundamentals are there,“ says Francis Menassa: “by using the right technology at a great location in a market that is set to grow year-on-year, the capacity for growth is huge.”
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