Words: Sam Rogers
Pics: Fatstick SUP
After a busy weekend, full of Fatstick Paddle Board demos, at BBC’s Children in Need ‘CarFest North’; treating ourselves to a session at the much anticipated Surf Snowdonia in North Wales was a no brainer. With the offer of a night’s accommodation and the opportunity to ride the man made wave, it presented the perfect chance to check out the full Surf Snowdonia experience.
We were already in Chesterfield for CarFest, so only a further hour’s drive led us to wave garden, making the detour to the beautiful Conwy Valley even more appealing. The majority of the journey consisted of mulling over questions such as, would this mechanical wave be similar to an ocean wave? What would the pods and other facilities be like? Is the wave going to be more suited to a SUP or a surfboard?
However, before long, we arrived and it was pitch black. We were too late to see the waves in action, but we could still just about make out the surf lagoon, glassy as a mill pond, reflecting lights from the pods and the few surrounding buildings. The site isn’t massive, so after parking the van we soon stumbled upon the main building and reception desk. Here we checked into our pod and picked up the key (which was actually a rubber wristband). Situated conveniently close to reception was the bar, so just in time for last orders we glugged a well-deserved beer and soaked up the remaining chilled, late night atmosphere.
A beer (or two) in and the tiredness hit hard. It was time to go check out our accommodation for the night. The pods are located on the other side of the lagoon, so just a short walk and we arrived at Pod 2. Their modern vibe, although minimalist, meant up to date with technology – the rubber wrist band was the key to our pod. The bands are fully waterproof, low-profile and comfy to wear. All we had to do is swipe our wrist over the door lock to gain access to our pod.
After a swipe, we entered. The inside of the pod was warm and comfy. It consisted of two raised single beds and one double bed at floor level, easily accommodating up to 4 adults. Now we were settled in, the anticipation and excitement followed. So instead of going straight to sleep we took a few night snaps of our boards and the pod. Then it was 1:30 am, so it was definitely time for shut eye.
Today’s the day! We woke up feeling refreshed and super excited. Breakfast is included when you hire a pod for the night, so we headed back over to the main hub where we sat and inhaled a hearty full English breaky (or is it a full Welsh breaky?). At this point the wavegarden was waveless, however after a few sips of coffee and a natter about what the day ahead involved, the buzzer sounded and the first wave of the day began to roll in; either side of the pier.
Quite frankly we were in disbelief… The wave was bigger and faster than we imagined. The drop looked pretty gnarly and even some of the instructors took a bit of time to nail it. Once they did, there was a harmonious roar from spectators dotted all around the lagoon. The nerves had now kicked in, as before long we knew it would be our time to ride this futuristic wave! We headed back to our pod to prepare our SUP’s, wetsuits and mentally compose ourselves, ready for our slot.
Board? Check! Paddle? Check! Leash? Check! Wetsuit? Check! Our chosen rides were the Fatstick 8’6 Fish and the Fatstick 10’6 Red Ripper, both boards using US boxes with a thruster fin set up and the 6 inch Fatstick centre fin. All set, excited and ready to go, we paced over to the academy for our introduction and safety briefing. After that, we were just itching to ride that wave. We waited for the guys from the previous slot to exit the lagoon, we put on their black jerseys to indicate we were on the ‘advanced’ section of the wave and we FINALLY entered the water. The possible future of surfing was now just moments away. On our half, the advanced take off was shared between us and one other surfer, the intermediate section was occupied by two surfers and the beginner section being tackled by, well, beginners.
Now in position, we were just waiting for a mechanically generated lump to start closing in. The engineered wavefoil technology began to move, slowly, but rapidly picking up speed. Paddling began, in position, just about to take the drop and… wipeout! This happened a few times. Besides being a steep, fast drop for a SUP, the wave itself is not instantly instinctive, you would think you would surf away from the central pier, but you actually end up riding inwards, between the pier and the pocket of the wave. The pocket is the place to be, get caught behind the lip and it is near impossible to catch it back up. This wave is fast!
But after a few waves, we soon got the hang of it and started to really enjoy this incredible bit of technology, staying in the pocket, carving up the open face and just having so much fun. However, time went too quickly, taking turns riding a left hander then a right hander every three minutes absolutely flew by and our hour session was over. Next time we’ll definitely be booking more than one session!
We exited the lagoon, headed back over to the academy, used one of the many onsite shower and changing facilities, checked out the professional photos of us on offer and reluctantly got the van ready to go home. We left with that unquestionable stoked feeling and big smiles on our face, ready for the long journey back to the Jurassic Coast.
Reflecting upon our short experience here, we would have to highly recommend Surf Snowdonia. It’s obvious that Surf Snowdonia prides itself on the fact that the site is not just aimed purely at wave riders, there is so much more than just the wave lagoon and it is definitely a family attraction; accessible to all ages and abilities. Beginner surf lessons start at just £19 and there are so many packages and bundle deals for all competency levels. Surf Snowdonia’s well equipped surf shop on site, alongside the fantastic wavegarden, has everything you would need to completely kit yourself out, ready to head back to your local beach and put your newly found skills into practice. We can’t wait to go back and visit!
Living the dream, with Reuben May (Fatstick founder) and Sam Rogers (team rider).