Just the beginning...
We’ve been pushing waves to members of the public for a week now…learning lessons, adjusting and tweaking, but absolutely not afraid to make wholesale changes to make sure we are creating the best experience.
I wanted to share with you some of our first observations after just a week, partly for your information, partly to manage expectations and also so people understand the background behind decisions we are making.
First and foremost some principles
Safety is our number one focus at all times.
We are building a destination and business that is sustainable for the long term. We want to create a firm bedrock from which we can grow and deliver an incredible experience.
This is a world first and with that comes some challenges. We are learning everything for the first time and while some of the parts that make up The Wave have been done before in different guises, this is a totally unique combination of experiences.
This is also a world first for our technology partners, Wavegarden. This is their first full-scale version which is commercially open. They too are learning how to optimise this incredible feat of engineering.
Wavegarden spent many weeks commissioning our waves and there is an incredible variety of waves available for us to use, both now and into the future.
We have settled on a ‘shortlist’ of 18 wave types, which we can produce at the push of a button, from the most gentle beginner waves, right up to some really hefty, barrelling waves. I’ve seen them all and they are truly amazing. The next steps to get these waves ready for public use is to first make sure each one has been properly tested and risk assessed. That is not as simple as it might sound because the bigger waves create currents in other areas that we want to understand fully before putting users in the water. All our waves our safe, we just want to 100% understand the fluid dynamics. This is new to us all and hence why we have been clear about this being our ‘warm up phase’.
We have opened our first weeks with a wave setting that we hoped would deliver all the above and see us through the initial warm-up phase. This hasn’t quite worked out as planned.
Here is why:
The advanced wave
Currently we have the advanced setting programmed to deliver a friendly wave much like a fun sandbar that starts off shoulder high on take off and then transforms into a crouching barrelling/faster inside section.
If I had to describe the sort of surfer that these waves are suited to I'd say:
You need to have been surfing consistently over the last 12 months, ideally at least 2-3 times a month and have been surfing for at least 3-5 years minimum. You should be a strong swimmer, strong paddler and when you go surfing you catch way more waves than you miss. You should be able to control a take off well and be able to slide into a gentle turn both left and right. You don’t necessarily need to be able to turn just yet, just control your speed.
We have chosen a wave which is easy to take off on, with a gentle first section which winds up speed into a faster and small barrelling second section. This wave is so much fun and a great starting point for surfers who have never surfed a reef before. During the session the wave grows in height and becomes a little bigger and faster. We have had hundreds of people feedback that it's great fun and great for improving fitness. Some felt that they would probably ride it a few times and then would like something ‘next level up’.
We have however also had surfers book into this session who are clearly not ready for this wave yet. They are struggling consistently with the take off and consequently wiping out too much and not getting the most out of the session. They are still ‘intermediates’ rather than ‘advanced surfers’.
Too many times I’ve had surfers paddling out with me saying “I’ve not surfed for years”… that is always a tell-tale sign of a less than ideal session. Clearly these people need a refresher session before tackling this wave. They're not a beginner - they probably got quite good but are now rusty - but this wave is not for them yet.
Because of this, we cannot be confident that pushing the even bigger waves for the advanced session is the right thing to do, just now. We will get there, but we're slightly hampered by the need for a surfer to correctly judge their ability and select an area that’s right for them. We're working through how best to handle this at the moment.
If you have been already, had fun, but are looking for the next level up… keep your eyes peeled as we will be looking to step it up in the near future. Sign up to the newsletter too so you don't miss announcements. We'll also be bringing in specific sessions for surfers who've got comfortable in our lake and want to start pushing themselves to a higher level. I would however advise people to try the current waves, so they can be sure they have it dialled before they look to tackle anything more advanced..
You will have seen footage of a number or pro surfers trying out the bigger and heavier waves. We haven’t done that to tease you. They have been helping us test and assess the more advanced wave settings, as part of the process that will allow us to introduce some of these waves. We wanted to share the images to show the potential of this amazing technology. It’s also worth noting that much of the footage we have put out is actually of the pros on our current wave setting - and they had a brilliant time!
Tips to help enjoy this wave:
- Make sure you are fit, there are a lot of waves in a session and a lot of paddling back out, even with our flowing channel.
- Nerves. Relax, breathe, we are all learning and you will never be judged in our lake. Keep smiling.
- You need a couple of extra paddling strokes as the take off is gentle, so make sure you are on the wave before popping up. You have loads of time for take off. Slow everything down…
- Listen to the lifeguards. They will give you clear instructions.
- Volume is always your friend… please do use our amazing Skindog surfboards, they have been specifically designed for this wave and even though they have a soft deck normally associated with a “beginner” board, these are epic performance boards for every ability.
How I like to ride this wave:
I like to start a wave with a smile, it helps me relax! I start about one metre from the sidewall and angled about 20 degrees towards the clubhouse. I always take a couple more strokes than normal, but really relaxed. The take off is mellow on this setting which allows me to haul my weight to my feet (I’m not the quickest these days but I’m working on that!). It does also allow the obligatory leash tangle to get sorted out.
If for some reason I miss the wave, I just take a few strokes away from the wall and angle a little more, the wave picks you up but still you have an easy take off.
The first section is soft and allows a slow swooping carve if you stay close to the power pocket of the wave. You then need to get some speed up with a quick pump or get your weight forwards to get around the faster section.
This is the fun bit of the wave as even on the smaller settings, you can tuck in, crouch down and get a sweet little barrel. If you maintain your speed you can get another 2-3 turns in before the wave energy dissipates.
It is then 100+ metre paddle back to the start and about 30 second wait before you go again!
The intermediate wave
We have a number of amazing waves for people who can stand up consistently on the white water on bigger boards, but want to get better.
We started with a fun wave, which we thought would work perfectly for this area. However, feedback from our first visitors is that it isn't the experience they were hoping for. The last thing we want is for people to leave The Wave feeling disappointed and we do not want people to pay for an experience that doesn’t deliver. We have taken the big decision to remove this wave from our line up and instead run specific sessions purely for the intermediates and beginners using a different wave setting.
This wave will be a gentle green wave that breaks left and right on both sides of the lake. It is sooooo much fun and allows surfers to get used to trimming down the line on a green wave and practice gentle turns. You will need to paddle back to the beginning of the wave again and your fitness will improve rapidly.
We cannot simply introduce this session straight away, as we need to carry out our risk assess process and want to 100% understand how each wave setting performs across the lake .
We have a huge volume of bookings for advanced surfers and the advanced wave disappears on this setting (the wave is pushed over the first reef and works off the second reef). Therefore we will also have to restructure our booking platform and get surfers into the appropriate areas of the lake. This is a big piece of work. We need to rejig some bookings to get this work for everyone. We were anticipating some teething issues and this is probably the biggest we have experienced but ultimately it is totally fixable, but requires a lot of customer service work and will take some time.
The beginner Wave
The beginner waves are doing exactly what we hoped, our instructors are able to host the perfect sessions to get people who have never surfed before up and riding and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. The wave is a gentler white water wave with good push to get kids and adults surfing. It’s been great seeing so many new surfers enjoy our waves.
As we have said many times, we are in our warm-up phase. Right now we want as much feedback as possible - that’s how we learn, tweak what we are doing in places and make sure we offer a first class experience for surfers of all abilities. We have met so many happy people who have tried our waves for the first time and absolutely loved it. We welcome anyone who wants to come and see what we have built and share in the joy this incredible space creates.
This is just the beginning…