Time to get on board with inland surfing star The Wave

The Wave teases their inland surfing venue in Bristol

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Following a £27million deal with private equity investor Sullivan Street Partners, the business that brings a slice of the ocean inland is aiming for six or more developments in the UK and Ireland over the next seven years.

The first is now at the planning discussion stage for Enfield, north London and although bigger will be modelled on The Wave’s original site launched in Bristol three years ago. 

This space, centred on a lake the size of five football pitches, was the first to adopt innovative Wavegarden Cove technology. Some 1,000 waves an hour are generated, with the controlled rollers coming in all shapes and sizes.

Heights range from 50cm to two metres, equal to those pounding the coasts of Hawaii or Indonesia – except they aren’t reliant on the weather.

Chief executive and security entrepreneur Craig Stoddart explains: “They’re perfect whether for a child stepping on to a board for the first time or a pro surfer training for the Olympics.

“There’s no cut off – we welcome babies and parents and have visitors  in their late 80s taking rides.”

“The whole site has been built to be accessible, our coaches teach adaptive surfing so customers, whatever their needs, can learn in a safe environment.”

“They can progress more quickly than in the sea and we run a social impact programme for communities who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access the benefits of surfing with us. Every aspect has been designed to ensure surfing is fun for all.”

Against a backdrop of a surf park sector predicted to boom worldwide which could also benefit resorts as newly skilled customers also pay them a visit, the company is forecasting 20 percent growth in 2023 and a £10million plus turnover.

The brainchild of founder and surfer Nick Hounsfield, he and Stoddart teamed up in 2013 for the project that has become a beacon of aspiration and social impact.

Each site costs from £30milliion to £50million to develop – struggling golf courses are perfect for conversion – and the business has had to take a deep dive to overcome complex engineering, booking and funding challenges.

With a compelling vision but, like so many innovators with no proven concept at first in a nascent sector, the business approached some 250 potential backers initially. A prototype persuaded JAR Capital to take the plunge and it remains a minority investor.

“Our focus is on creating a tranquil natural space for wellbeing, close to public transport. Sound is very important, you don’t hear any clanking machinery on our site, just the notes of the waves,” says Stoddart.

More outdoor leisure and staycation opportunities have opened up with new elements on site such as a café bar, glamping with 25 safari tents providing accommodation and activities for children and events.

With a team of 120, and 300 in peak season, the business, supported by the European Regional Development Fund, is preparing to install a solar array and battery storage, generating an energy surplus and making The Wave net zero carbon.

And having been in the vanguard of inland surfing destinations, the knowledge The Wave has acquired designing operating policies and systems has enabled it to offer consultancy services and share its expertise more widely.

“Our purpose is central to everything – water and waves – they change lives for the better,” declares Hounsfield

  • The Wave, www.thewave.com

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