25th October 2019

Meet our first riders

A month ago we invited the public to nominate people to ride our first wave. This morning the successful nominees will surf that wave, becoming the first surfers on the first inland surfing destination of its kind in the world.

Nina Whitby
Wavemaker - Content

This is a historic day for both us at The Wave and for British surfing.

A month ago we invited the public to nominate people to ride our first wave. This morning the 35 successful successful nominees will surf that wave, becoming the first surfers on the first inland surfing destination of its kind in the world.

The Wave's blog squad, together with camera crews and reporters from the international media, are here to see them, and we'll updating through the day.

6.00am We thought we might be the first to arrive, but there are already lots of The Wave staffers buzzing about. It's a bit damp and drizzly, but you can feel the buzz in the atmosphere. Anyway, everyone has our special waterproof robes on, and looks very snug and dapper.

6.35am The BBC outside broadcast truck has just arrived, and the crew are setting up. It's very exciting.

7.00am We're preparing the interviewees for the BBC feature, which will go out on BBC Breakfast this morning.

As well as our founder Nick Hounsfield they'll be talking to one of our First Riders, Marshall Janson. Marshall was nominated by Lukas Skinner, son of one our surf ambassadors Ben Skinner. Eleven-year-old Marshall from Perranporth has had a tough life, losing his arms and legs to meningitis at the age of three. "He always wanted to go and surf with my dad's help," said Lukas, "and I think this will be the start of him loving surfing so much he will be in it every day."

7.20am Just seen Chris Hines, our Head of Sustainability and surf legend arriving. The atmosphere is building as more and more people arrive, and even though it's wet everyone seems to be having a great time.

8.00am The First Riders are beginning to arrive now.

Among them is Richard Carter, a stalwart hero of the North Devon surf scene. "As a past champion, inspiration to many of Britain's great surfers of multiple generations, and as owner of Redwood surf in Croyde, he has helped and supported dozens of youngsters, either by direct sponsorship, free or "deal" boards and wetsuits, jobs in the shop, or even just a chat in the water," said his nominator Stephen Cave. "His reach and influence cannot be overstated. His surfing prowess, froth levels and inimitable style was an awesome thing to see. As a husband, and father to his great gang, he is an absolute hero.

It's stories like that have inspired us over the last few years.

8.15am The BBC Breakfast broadcast has just gone out, featuring the interview with Marshall. It was a proud moment for us as the report seemed genuinely impressed with The Wave and its technology, and we sent out some waves without riders so people could see how it worked.

The real star was Marshall though. Future media star in the making, we're saying.

9.00am The pro surfers are arriving now. Just seen Jenny Jones, who'll be one of the pros riding the waves in an hour or so.

9.30 The First Riders have done their photo shoot, and are getting into the water. Amazing atmosphere!

Another First Rider who'll be surfing is Clare Moodie, nominated by Jamie Gatley. "She works countless hours fighting the plastic pollution problem and set up plastic-free North Devon," said Jamie. "She just has an incredible passion for the sea. She and her team are the driving force behind plastic awareness in North Devon."

10.30 Reporters from the surf media are out riding waves now. They're pretty impressive, we have to say.

10.40 Just been talking to some kids from Bristol's St Mary Temple and Radcliffe School, who were also First Riders with their teacher Alice Hale. Only one of them had been surfing before today, but they said they had a great time, and most of the managed to stand up. Most of them were now looking out of the cafeteria windows and watching the surf media reporters doing their stuff. Alice felt that having had a go, beginners would take a lot of inspiration from watching experienced surfers.

11.15 Our pro sufers are now out on the waves. It's incredible to watch them pulling moves that in Britain you'd only have seen on the sea before today. Check their Instagram accounts to see them in action:

Ben Skinner @skindoggydog

Lukas Skinner @lukas_skinner

Gearoid McDaid @gearoidmcdaid

Ellie Turner @elliexturner

Gabe Llewellyn @gabe_llewellyn

Adam Griffiths @adambearmangriffiths

Lee Bartlet @lee_bartlett_shapes

Harry Timson @harry_timson

Reubyn Ash @reubynash

Lucy Campbell @lucycsurf

Emily Currie @emilyyy_surf

Peony Knight @peonyyknight

Jordan Zervas @jordanzervas

11.50 Just heard The Wave should be featured on the 1pm and 9pm BBC news bulletins. It's really great to see journalists as excited about the potential of inland surfing as we are.

12.15 Just bumped into Jenny Jones, olympic bronze-medallist snowboarder, Snow Sunday presenter and avid surfer, as she was leaving. She's been here surfing all morning, and loved it, she said.

12.30 Another of our brilliant First Riders is Danielle Robertson. Dani has worked tirelessly to promote equality in the line up, and to encourage women to take up surfing. She has been managing the Surf Senioritas community and pages single handedly and is a true champion of the sport, spirit and inclusivity of surfing. According to her nominator, Charlotte Lewis, "she rarely does anything for herself, and is always supporting others."

The way that people like Dani make surfing a force for inclusivity and confidence-building is a huge inspiration to us, and we're stoked to have had her here today.

12.40 Bumped into Chris Hines in our now-bustling cafe, and talked a bit about the sustainability of The Wave. One important thing to remember today as we watch the powerful technology send wave after wave down the lake: all our power comes from renewable sources. We never pretend our waves are "natural" in the way the ocean is, but we're proud that the energy behind them originates in nature just as waves at sea do.

1.10 Talking again to Alice Hale, a First Rider and teacher who brought seven year eight pupils to surf our first wave this morning. Alice is a surfer herself, and as a teacher in a very urban school thinks that The Wave will make surfing an possibility for kids who might otherwise never dream they could try it.

"It's good for kids who might not be that keen on conventional sports to have another option. Surfing's quite different, in that it's communal but you can do it at your own pace," she reckons. "It's also good for kids fitness because it gives them a workout without them realising it!. I'll definitely be bringing more kids back here if I can. We're already booked in for July!"

1.30 All of our First Riders have powerful stories to tell, and none more so than surfer Tim Twibell, who was here today with his friend Russ.

"Two years ago to the day," explains his wife Amy, who nominated him, "Tim woke up to our 11-month-old son near death in his cot. Rory was fighting for every breath and unable to wake.

"Unknown to Tim, about 24 hours earlier a blood vessel in Rorys' brain had popped and flooded his brain with blood. Rory lived because his skull hadn't yet fused together, so there was some additional space for the blood to fill, and because we live in Bristol, near the Major Trauma Centre and Bristol Childrens Hospital.

"There followed two weeks watching Rory survive in an induced coma. Tim and I heard that our baby boy may never wake up, may never breath by himself, may not be able to swallow, and may be severely brain damaged.

"Six months in Bristol Children's Hospital followed as Rory was rebuilt. Not once did Tim work or do anything other than be there for Rory and Zeth, our eldest. He stopped life to help his youngest son. I'm delighted to say that, surrounded by the best neuro recovery team in the country, Rory dodged a bullet. He has cerebral palsy (he's lost the use of the right side of his body) and a few learning difficulties, but he loves life, singing and interacting with people. I'm even wondering if we can source an adapted surf board to get him on the waves next summer!

"Tim decided to drop a days work so he could help with Rory's ongoing therapies and have some time to dedicate to Rorys' physio. Fridays are a bonus family day in our house, and Rory's successful recovery is testament to how much that benefits the whole family, and it's been a big part of giving us our youngest son back.

"My husband is a kind, patient, playful, consistent and dedicated. And because of all this he doesn't spend anywhere near the time on the sea that he should."

Amy nominated Russ because she felt he deserved something back from his family, and knew he would LOVE to surf The Wave with his uni friend Russ.

We're proud to have had him here.

And if Rory does fancy that surf, there's a board waiting for him.

2.00 One of the best things about surfing is that it's not really over when it's over – once you're out of the water and dried off, you can have a bit of food and talk about the session you've just had. Sometimes the talking's almost as good as the surfing itself, and today is one of those times. Our cafe's buzzing like a very buzzy beehive, and there's such a great feeling here. It makes you think of all the great days to come here.

2.15 We've been catching up with more people over lunch. Chris Hignell, another of our First Riders, is another surfer with an incredible story. A few years ago he was struck in the face by a firework, lost an eye, and suffered burns so bad that doctors doubted he'd survive.

However, thanks to more than 50 procedures including pioneering surgical techniques and facial reconstruction, his astonishingly positive attitude has helped him overcome the injury and continue living life to the full.

He did have a problem when it came to continuing his surfing, though, as he could not allow salt water to touch his damaged eye. The Wave, fortunately, uses fresh water, and so it means that he can get back on a board again. He really loved the experience he said – before dashing off for a driving appointment (turns out he's also a multiple-prize-winning racing driver. Chris was another inspirational visitor, and we look forward to seeing him again.

2.30 Two more inspirational First Riders today were Rob McNay and Stephen Cave. Both have been surfing for many years, and are here after battling with tough illnesses, and we very much hope that a surf here today might have bolstered their spirits a bit. Not that they looked as if they needed a lot of bolstering given their performance on the advanced waves this morning.

2.45 Another First Rider we were proud to have here today was Imogen McIntosh, a Bristol hero who set up Aid Box Community, a charity supporting hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers in Bristol. It was a grass roots movement sending life-saving essentials from Bristol to refugee camps across Europe; today it's a free shop and community hub based in Bristol changing the lives of hundreds of the most vulnerable people. Both she and the people she helps will always be very welcome at The Wave.

2.50 Well, things are winding down here now after what's been a heck of a morning. It's a bit emotional and proud-making for us to see the first waves after literally years of hard work, but more than that, seeing our First Riders and pro surfers out on the lake has really brought home the unique way surfing seems to bring people together. It's left us totally stoked, not just about opening to the public for the first time tomorrow, but also about the weeks and months ahead. See you tomorrow!

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