Nestled in the mountains of Snowdonia is a surf pool concept Wavegarden which suits everyone from beginners to pro surfers. Our Beauty and Style Director Lisa Oxenham goes for a test ride…
I consider myself to be a water sports enthusiast. When I finished my degree, I became a swimming instructor Upstate New York for a few summers. Then I travelled around Thailand and Bali and taught myself to surf on boards that belonged to the locals.
Since then, I’ve surfed in North Devon and South Wales, though I’ve recently found less time for it as I have mummy responsibilities and can’t just take off with my board like I used to.
Now, I often swim in the freshwater lakes in the Cotswolds, but there’s no feeling in the world like riding a wave. That’s why I was so excited to head to North Wales to try out some artificial waves for surfing.
Surfing isn’t just for high-performance athletes. Playing in the waves is cathartic, meditative and an endorphin booster. I face my fears, overcome challenges, and accomplish my goals (well, that’s the plan) all in one. It’s a great full-body exercise, low impact but great for core, flexibility, and balance. The feeling afterwards is pure exhilaration.
Snowdonia’s Wavegarden is part of a wave (excuse the pun) of similar pools and artificial waves for surfing popping up around the world, though their wave pool was one of the first inland ones to open to the public back in 2015. The lake uses sustainably sourced water and is situated beside Snowdonia National Park in the heart of North Wales. This means surfers are blessed with the breathtaking mountainous backdrop. The technology is the predecessor to The Wave, Bristol’s Cove system, and is slightly smaller so there are no barrels – but it still produces a rippable wave every 90 seconds. In addition, there is brilliant, expert tuition for all levels.
Beginner? 4 steps to mastering artificial waves for surfing:
1. Get your surf bod ready
Start with a surf-specific warm up to get your body ready for action so it’s not a complete shock to the system. Stretching and trying a few different yoga poses (read up on the benefits of yoga, here) will help to both fend off cramping and potential injury.
Deep breathing (if you’ve tried breathwork training, you’ll know what we mean) through the nose while you stretch will help oxygen get to the muscles. With control, exhale through the mouth.
Not forgetting, of course, to stretch all the key muscles and tendons starting with your neck, shoulders, arms and hands, following down the length of your body to your toes. Then a few minutes doing star jumps and your body should be entirely warmed up. Use the best SPF moisturiser on your face, even on cloudy days. I apply waterproof La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light Invisible Fluid Sun Cream SPF50 (£18 for 50ml) at least 15 minutes before I go in.
2. Read our pre surf tips
A pro wetsuit, booties and gloves are the best investment and wearing them means you can brace the freezing water for longer (I felt like the pool was colder than the sea – it was 6 degrees). I have a Roxy 3/2mm Performance Chest Zip Wetsuit (£280) but they also have equipment there that could be used; I borrowed a hood, which made a surprisingly big difference.
You also wear a rash vest in your level colour so you know where you should and shouldn’t be in the pool.
The best way to make the most of your time in the water is by taking a lesson before you get in so you can practise the moves to learn exactly where to put your hands and legs. Even as a keen surfer I found the lesson helpful, and discovered that I had been doing so many things wrong all this time.
3. Learn the key skills
I went for a large beginners soft board which makes it easier to balance, stay stable, and catch a wave more easily. They’re also safer in the water when you flip in. The key skills to learn in surfing are paddling, catching, and riding waves for more than ten seconds – and being able to control the direction of your surfboard. I found the instructor really encouraging and I found it safer to have someone looking out for me. I caught the artificial waves for surfing easily, stood up and surfed for 10 seconds before I jumped off and hit the shore. There’s one single wave type every 90 seconds – they’re a maximum of two meters and 20 second length of ride, so it’s easy to keep going to get the practice in. There are separate take-off zones for beginner, intermediate, and advanced surfers. It is very different to the ocean with varying waves that may change in size and speed in a low and high tide.
4. When you’re out
Wrap up warm. I get straight into my thermal Wylding Thermal Suit (£160) and have a hot tea. As soon as I can, I stretch – particularly my pecs, thighs, arms and core.
Then I’m mainly concerned with hydrating my skin and hair. I use Lumene Arctic Hydra Care [Arktis] Moisture & Relief Rich Day Cream (£26.90 for 50ml) for on my skin, and Kérastase Resistance Therapiste Soin conditioner (£28 for 200ml) in my hair —it’s really good for keeping it soft and nourished. I don’t want to damage my hair, so sometimes I put it on before I go in, and once I’m out I rinse.
You can book a session from £35, with up to 52 surfers at a time.
Adventure Parc Snowdonia also has a huge variety of other adrenaline-inducing activities while you’re there, from climbing, to artificial caving, to a zip-line right over the top of the wave.
The retreat also includes unlimited access to the stunning Wave Garden Spa, which has been carefully designed to make the most of its natural resources and the magnificent landscapes of Snowdonia. Inside the spa, is a welcoming thermal journey with a vitality waterfall pool, steam room and an oversized Himalayan salt sauna like a steam-based cleansing and purifying rituals of a traditional Hammam. Outside, there is a warm hydrotherapy pool, loungers, relaxation pods and welcomed fire pits.
We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Snowdonia, with comfortable rooms. Retreats start from £365 per person for a three night stay.
For further information visit www.adventureparcsnowdonia.com.