7 Reasons Wales Never Needed a Wavepool
Words by Ali Klinkenberg | Photos by Will Bailey Wales has been shoved through the door of the surf media lately due to the construction of a two-foot algae-ridden wavepool situated at the foot of the largest mountain in the country. Welsh surfers must be chuckling to themselves that surfers are driving from all ends of […]
Words by Ali Klinkenberg | Photos by Will Bailey
Wales has been shoved through the door of the surf media lately due to the construction of a two-foot algae-ridden wavepool situated at the foot of the largest mountain in the country. Welsh surfers must be chuckling to themselves that surfers are driving from all ends of the British Isles, and now flying from all corners of the planet to ride this novelty. Because, the reality is, Wales gets incredible waves, just not in the mountains. Wales is littered with sets ups, silty river mouths, cobblestone points, rock shelves and beachbreaks, and definitely doesn’t suffer from a lack of quality. The Welsh miss out on big North Atlantic storm swells thanks to their Celtic brethren in Ireland getting in the way, but when the swells do hit the smallest country in the British Isles, savvy hunters, like photographer Will Bailey, point their wagons in the appropriate directions and score incredible waves with no-one in sight! Oh, and another ironic thing about the timing of the Red Bull Unleashed event (which starts tomorrow, and will likely be underwhelming, like the rest of Red Bull’s taurine-fuelled contests), is that September’s totally the best month for waves in Wales!
Reeling right, not a soul.
Wales is small, so the informed surfer can reach pretty much all the quality spots within two hours. “If the conditions line up and you know where to go, you should expect to find waves that would keep a good pro pretty entertained for a while,” says photographer Will Bailey. But, as one should come to expect with uncrowded, perfect waves in 2015, there is a catch. Or three. The tide, the wind, and… the temperature.
The combination of clean swells and sunshine in Wales is a minor miracle. Think people from the British Isles are obsessed with the weather? Well they are, because the weather’s shite! But, you’ve got to live in the dark to appreciate the light. Think it was Plato who said that, or maybe Socrates, some dead Greek guy or the other.
“Tides play a huge part in Welsh surfing, we’ve one of the world’s largest tidal variances (as much as 14-plus metres),” continues Will. “Add to that the prevailing onshore wind direction, winter water temps that can drop as low as five degrees (celsius) in some parts and it’s easy to understand why many get disillusioned with surfing here.” When you’re used to relatively small tides like those in Australia or America, it’s hard to imagine what a difference a radically bigger tide makes. An extra 10 metres or so doesn’t sound like a lot, but it means a 10 minute walk to the water at low tide, and obviously has a huge impact on the functionality of surf spots.
“Autumn (Northern Hemisphere) is the best time to surf in Wales due to the consistent swells and still relatively warm water temps (15 to 10 degrees),” says Will. “However, weather patterns have become so irregular over the last decade or more that there’s no real out and out season anymore.” While the surf seasons may not be quite as consistent as they used to be – September’s always been the pick in the UK (long days, warmish water, consistent swells and the little ASBO’s have gone back to school) – given the choice, you would’t really want to go to Wales in the middle of winter!
If this wave is half as good as it looks, then it’d still be worth a trip to Wales.
There are a fair few surfers in Wales, but they tend to stick to the hubs, meaning that Wales is rife for exploration. “There’s a bunch of surfers in places like Llantwit Major, Aberavon and Langland Bay,” says Will. “Expect 30 to 50 surfers frothing over a Welsh pointbreak on a weekend. Yet there are often days when you’ll find yourself looking for someone to surf with. And if there happens to be a swell at the same time as an International rugby match everyone will be at the game (the Welsh take their rugby very seriously), and you’re likely to be surfing solo.”
Whilst the foreground might draw your attention, don’t neglect background.
As far as Snowdonia’s concerned, the local surfers are biding their time to take full advantage of their new toy: “It’s not unusual for Wales to endure a three-week flat spell, so I’m sure that once the initial hype has calmed, the Welsh Surfing community will make good use of the wavepool. Yeah, it’s only a shoulder to head-high wave but you don’t have to wait for the tide, wind or swell to arrive which is somewhat of a novelty for us Welsh Surfers. Still, it’ll never compare to the real thing!”
When was the last time that you surfed a right as playful as this with only a handful of guys in the water?
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