The Beach Boys famously sang ‘If everybody had an ocean, Across the USA, Then everybody’d be surfing, like Californ-i-a.’ Of course, most of the USA is landlocked and so many lived in envy of their coastal cousins. But bright, young engineering minds were whirring away across the USA, in an effort to transplant the motions of the oceans to landlocked sites, to draw young people in, particular to realise their surfing fantasies.
With the knowledge that hydraulic technology could produce ripples like the flow of waves in the ocean (this had already been achieved in a public swimming pool at Wembley, London in 1939), ‘Big Surf’ was opened in 1969, the USA’s first wave pool in landlocked Tempe, Arizona. The Beach Boys’ wish – to bring the Californian surf dream to landlocked middle America – was in progress. Other pools would follow globally, the beauty of this technology rests in the variety and frequency – expert tubes or beginner rollers at regular intervals.
Nick Hounsfield founded The Wave in 2012 with sustainability at the heart and the aim to bring year-round consistent surfing and its’ benefits to a safe in-land environment for people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. So, what are the benefits of learning to surf in a wave pool?
As huge supporters of the Adaptive or Para Surfing community, making surfing truly accessible for all was a key focus for The Wave from day one. A lot of thought was put in at design-stage to ensure the whole place was as physically accessible as possible – in fact members of Team England Adaptive were among the first to put The Wave through its paces when it opened its doors in 2019.
One key benefit of a wave pool compared to the coast is that there is no sand - something that is a real difficulty and barrier to those in wheelchairs or with mobility issues. In addition, The Wave has been built for the most part all on one level to make it easier to navigate to get around, with a purpose-built lift to ensure that everyone can access and enjoy the terrace for long summer’s evenings and all year-round spectacular views. There are also ramps rather than stairs leading down into the lake, making it a smooth entry into the water. The Camp is also accessible for all, with adapted tents as well as ramp access.
A safe, controlled environment
A wave pool provides a unique, controlled surfing situation for everyone, from complete starter to advanced surfer. Learning to surf is of course a question of regular practice, but key to gaining confidence is getting to your feet, even briefly, on those very first waves without fear of collision, near drowning, being swept away in open water, or getting bawled at by some irate local. The thing about a so-called ‘artificial’ wave is that it is not artificial at all, it is just regulated.
Beginners are helped by surf coaches who can stand by to give a helping hand without the many unforeseen events that can happen at crowded beaches. Surf lessons become more contained and focused, to benefit the learner.
With the opportunity to surf waves knowing that nobody else will drop in on you, and that there will be consistency in the way that the wave breaks, all grades of surfers from intermediate to professional riders can experiment and push their performance levels. Pretty soon, you discover that the waves talk, and that the machine has a soul, and being here is one of the best outdoor experiences you can have.
Consistent waves, after waves, after waves....
The excitement of catching your first wave is just as great as in the ocean, but the chances of success are greater in a wave pool, because a lot of the inconsistency and surprise of the ocean wave is ironed out in the controlled or engineered wave.
There are different surf options to book, from a beginner surf lesson, to an expert surf session, with wave height ranging from 0.5 to 2 metres. The whole lake can cater to up to 80 users at a time, through pre-booked hour-long slots, with a maximum of 19 surfers in the bay area. Having set numbers per session means there is no overcrowding and there are enough waves for everyone.
All the gear
Beginners have the chance to enjoy a gentle and consistent wave, paired with a trusty buoyant foam beginner’s Softech board. All of the equipment is provided at The Wave, including surfboards, bodyboards, wetsuits and anything else you might need to prepare for your first surf. Just remember to bring your bathing suit and a towel and you’ll be ready to roll!
A supportive community
The 180m long lake is at its heart, but The Wave is not just about surfing. It's about sharing incredible experiences with anyone who wants to enjoy them, in a naturally healthy space. It’s about the positive health and wellbeing benefits of being in or near water. And it's about having a load of fun in the process!
One of the incredible benefits of learning to surf in a wave pool, is getting to know other like-minded individuals who love to surf, and to champion their progress whatever their level. At The Wave some incredible communities have blossomed, from Bodyboarding groups, to new friend groups. Events such as the women-only Sister Sessions have helped to encourage even more like-minded people to come and enjoy the waves together!