Update on the Wavegarden in Wales

13 Dec 2013

Forget Hawaii – the future of surfing could be eight miles inland and close to Wales’s tallest mountain. A £7.7m “Wavegarden” in Snowdonia is set to open on the site of an old aluminium works.

Artificial surfing lakes have been built around the world, but they either push out a shortlived wave or rely on the surfer not moving forward while water is pumped under the board. The Conwy valley’s Wavegarden, developed by engineers in Spain, has an underwater blade that moves with the surfer for 300m, creating an 18-second surf, which is longer than most natural waves.

The lagoon will be segregated, with waves of 2ft (0.6m) for beginners, rising to 4ft and 6ft. Its developer, Conwy Adventure Leisure (CAL), estimates that 75,000 surfers will visit annually when the centre and a lakeside restaurant are due to open in April 2015.

The artificial surf offers hope of a lift for an area struck by the recession. The village of Dolgarrog, south of Conwy, was hit hard when the aluminium works, once owned by Alcoa, closed in 2007, with the loss of 170 jobs.

CAL says it will create 100 construction jobs and 60 permanent posts, and it could help to extend the local tourist season. A study commissioned by the developer suggests the project could create £2m of additional annual demand.

“This could do for north Wales what the Eden Project did for Cornwall,” said Steve Davies, CAL’s managing director. “We are taking an industrial eyesore and putting it to productive use.”

CAL, which won planning approval from Conwy council in August, has finalised its plans and raised the remaining £1.5m in equity required. Allied with the Ainscough Group, a Manchester-based property developer, the company has already spent £3m on the project.

However, Mr Davies said the scheme needed more Welsh government funds to decontaminate the site and help build the facility. A decision is expected in February, with Mr Davies confident of approval.

Besides climbers and walkers, the area has begun to attract mountain bikers, and a former slate quarry has opened Europe’s longest zipwire. This year, Colwyn Bay built a watersports centre on a newly built beach.

Mark Edwards, of the Bryn Bella Guest House in Betws-y-Coed, said: “It’s a brilliant bit of creative thinking – the equivalent of plonking a snow dome in the middle of the desert in Dubai.”

Mr Edwards, a keen climber, said Snowdonia was becoming an established centre for adventure sports enthusiasts, and that surfing would add to the appeal.