Part 1: All the way to Wales…for a surf?
It takes between 5 and 6 hours to drive from where I live in Hampshire to the Surf Snowdonia centre in North Wales; but it was my mate Delmar’s Birthday and I hadn’t seen the mighty Spiersy in some years, so we stocked up on coffee and Haribo and just got it done.
Surf Snowdonia is a purpose built wave pool or ‘wave garden’ as the owners prefer to call it, hidden away in the tiny Welsh town of Dolgarrog (luckily Sauron was nowhere to be seen). Historically the town was home to an aluminium works up until the 1940’s, the factory having been demolished in 2009 to allow extensive ground works to take place prior to the construction and opening of Surf Snowdonia in 2015.
The interior walls of the place are decorated with great little infographics
Zero chemicals, good to know
A history of surfing as seen in the restaurant area
We all know that Wales generally means cool temperatures and lots of rain so perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to go in early April, but wetsuits keep you warm, right?
Yeah! Toastie Warm
Part 2: Arrival and Orientation
Delmar and I thought we’d be able to see the humongous wave pool as we got closer to Surf Snowdonia on the map, but due to the orientation of the surrounding hills and mountains around Dolgarrog you can’t see anything until you drive into the town itself and suddenly there it is; a chilly surf haven in the heart of rural Wales.
After checking in at reception it’s a quick hop around to the glamping pods on the far side of the wave pool. There’s ample parking and most people seemed to park right in front of, or behind their pods. Each pod has 2 x single beds with foam mattress and a little room at the back with a double-bed-sized foam mattress on the floor and a little window for ventilation, with adjustable heating and double glazing to keep out the cold. Be warned however that you do need to take your own bedding and pillows!
Shortly after arriving at the onsite glamping pods
View down to the far end of the wave garden on the glamping pod side
View in the opposite direction towards the small town of Dolgarrog
View from outside the main building surf school
After a quick venture round the site we were fairly impressed with how modern everything is, no keys are needed anywhere as the lockers and glamping pod are all accessible via your personal electronic wristband (waterproof obviously). What we were more stoked on however was the small mini-ramp located at the head of the wave pool!
Delmar vs mini-ramp
No-comply on a cloudy day
I may have graffitied the ramp…
As darkness approached we headed over to the main building to catch up with Spiersy who had just finished instructing; fair play to him for wearing a wetsuit for the best part of 10 hours every day! Wait until you see the crazy waterproof-sleeping-bag-things the instructors walk around in too.
Me, Spiersy and Delmar (complete with crazy waterproof-sleeping-bag-thingy)
Spiersy and I both worked quite a few winter seasons over in Queenstown, New Zealand from 2006 to 2009 where I was a ski/snowboard repair technician and he was a top level snowboard trainer managing the Remarkables snowboard school and developing their instructors. It’s awesome to see him having made the successful transition to surf instructing whilst also being a fellow blogger, meaning he’s free to roam the world at will!
A home on four wheels provides freedom to explore,
and a great place for a bevvie
Part 3: Time for a surf
In order to surf you have to book your waves in advance for an hour at a time, and I mean months in advance, it’s rare to be able to just turn up and jump in. We’d originally booked the 5pm slots but due to a last minute cancellation I was able to jump in on the 1pm slot with Spiers and his girlfriend Stephie.
Wetsuits are a 100% NECESSITY for this place, I don’t care how hardy you think you are, when the water temperature is 8 degrees C you bloody-well suit up. With this in mind you need to give yourself a good 20-30 mins before your slot starts in order to get the suit and get changed, especially if you’re not used to fighting your way into a wetsuit. Booties and gloves are also available. (Wetsuit hire is a further £5 on top of the cost of the waves but is well worth it if you don’t have your own).
Even though I had opted for an Intermediate II wave in my booking Spiersy explained that riding the Snowdonia swell is a little counter-intuitive if you’re not used to it, so best to start off at beginner level for the first few goes since I was a relatively inexperienced surfer. Made perfect sense to me.
Pre surf stretches
Stephie puts me to shame with her bendy yoga skills
Quick warm-up on the mini ramp
Did I mention the water temperature was 8 degrees C? Chilly!
Step 1 – push up with the arms
Step 2 – pop up to your feet
Step 3 – stand up and pretend you know what you’re doing
Rashy swap to move onto the Intermediate 1 wave…and it’s started raining
Spiersy goes into full ‘instructor mode’
Pretty stoked to catch the Intermediate I wave on my first attempt
(Awaiting surf shots of Delmar from the folks at Surf Snowdonia)
Celebratory beers after a great little surf
Part 4: What else is there to do around here?
Besides the surfing and the mini-ramp there’s not a whole lot to do at Surf Snowdonia besides eat and drink at the restaurant or look in the shop (which is brimming full of great kit by the way). Thankfully Spiersy was keen to play tour guide and took us on a trip up the road to the nearby town of Conwy which has a massively impressive castle, seriously, on par with Windsor to be fair.
Thanks Google Maps
Conwy also boasts ‘The Smallest House in Great Britain’
So there you have it, a thoroughly epic little road trip involving surfing, skating and catching up with old friends; you can’t ask for more than that. (Well…double digits on the temperature gauge might have been nice, but hey ho)