The Wave Bristol Opens Autumn 2019: Founder Nick Hounsfield Explains 9 Year Journey

The Wave (Bristol) will open as the UK’s 2nd artificial surfing lake in October 2019. We spoke with founder Nick Hounsfield about the nine year journey he has taken to this point to see the lessons learnt from his competitors and to find out more about the facility that will see the UK become a true powerhouse in the surf park arms race, with America the only other country to have 2 operational surfing lakes. Read on to find out about the team Nick’s assembled to run The Wave and to hear more about the Wavegarden Cove technology employed at their Bristol site. 

The Wave Founder, Nick Hounsfield. Photo: Tom Griffiths,

The Wave Founder, Nick Hounsfield. Photo: Tom Griffiths,

Please give us a timeline from conception through to present day of The Wave Bristol.

  •     2010 Nick Hounsfield started developing the vision for The Wave
  •     2011 Nick Hounsfield first spoke to Wavegarden about the lagoon technology
  •     2013 – planning permission achieved based on original lagoon technology
  •     2014/15 – decided to move away from Wavegarden lagoon technology
  •     2016 – Nick saw and surfed the new Wavegarden Cove technology
  •     2017/2018 – Major investment secured
  •     2018 – Building started on The Wave
  •     Autumn 2019 – Open

Who is on the management team and what are their backgrounds?
From the very the early days I knew I needed a team of experts around me to help deliver my vision for The Wave, so I went out and pulled together the best people I could.

A dear friend of mine Craig Stoddart came on board to help turn my vision into a deliverable business model and raise the finance needed to build The Wave. He is a qualified accountant who started working life working for a FTSE 250 holiday business and a global investment bank. He honed his entrepreneurial skills by buying his first company at the age of 26, and went onto set up a multi-channel retail business selling children’s furniture, which he exited in 2009 having grown the company to £15m turnover with 85 employees.

Another person who came on board very early in the process was Chris Hines – our Head of Sustainability. Chris is an amazing guy and very much a mentor to me. He is helping make The Wave an organisation dedicated to delivering positive change. He was co-founder and director of Surfers Against Sewage for 10 years. He has been described by the BBC as “One of the government’s most sophisticated environmental critics.”

The team is now building rapidly and we are 26 with another 60 starting before we open. Each of these ‘Wavemakers’ is brilliant in their own right and I couldn’t ask for a better bunch of people around me.

Graphic render of The Wave Bristol. Scheduled for opening October 2019.

Graphic render of The Wave Bristol. Scheduled for opening October 2019.

When is The Wave scheduled to open? What’s the plans for a launch party?
We are on schedule to open to the public this October. We will be in our warm-up phase,which will be a chance to get a look at what we have created and to ride some of our first waves. The lake will be pushing amazing waves and the Clubhouse will be ready, although we will still be working on some of the landscaping around our 70 acre site. We think people are going to love it!

In terms of the launch party we have lots of ideas in motion which we think people will love and which will help everyone understand the way we roll…!  Opening will be the culmination of 9 years’ work and I think it is going to be a pretty emotional moment.

Please tell us about the wave technology employed. How does it compare or contrast to existing Wavegarden wave techs? Wave potential per hour, wave height max etc.
We are using Wavegarden Cove technology and we will be the first public access destination using the tech in the northern hemisphere.

The Wavegarden Cove technology generates up to 1,000 quality waves per hour (around a wave every 10 seconds), with heights  starting at 50cm and peaking at almost 2m (6.5ft),  allowing people of all ages and abilities to experience the joy of surfing. With the potential to host over 80 users at the same time, the Cove has  6 different surfing zones that offer  waves of different size and power specifically designed to provide ideal conditions for everyone,  from professionals, to newcomers picking up a surfboard for the very first time.

Our lake in Bristol will be 5 times bigger than the Wavegarden Cove test facility in Spain – 180m long, 200m wide at the shore.

Rip Curl rider at Wavegarden 2 - credit Ripcurl

Rip Curl’s Nikki Van Dyk at Wavegarden – credit Rip Curl

What other business offerings will be available at The Wave?
The 200m long surfing 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 improving health and wellbeing, helping people feel like the best version of themselves and having a shedload of fun in the process! As well as the surfing lake, there will be wonderful food and drink in our café and bar, a surf shop, beautiful gardens, meadowland and woodland, peaceful hideaways and family-friendly camping.

What lessons have you learnt from other wave lagoons already open around the world?
My main lesson has been that it pays to be patient and do really good research on the wave making technology. Building these inland surf destinations is not easy at all, it is incredibly complicated and needs determination, expertise and an incredible team.

For them to be successful, you need to really think about the different abilities that can utilise the wave lake. Having a world class wave is important and amazing, but the largest audience for these sort of facilities are beginners and improvers. If these important people are not catered for, it will make the business hard to sustain.

The biggest lesson is that nobody yet has achieved the ultimate (in my eyes) which is an inland surfing destination which is financially, socially and environmentally responsible. We’re excited to be aiming for that!

Kids at Wavegarden

Kids at Wavegarden

How will it be priced?
The Wave will be open year-round and a one-hour surf will cost £40-45 for an adult and £30-35 for a child, depending on the time of year and day of the week. A two-hour surf session with coaching costs £55-60 for an adult and £45-50 for a child. All prices include everything you need including wetsuit, wetsuit boots and surfboards. There are dedicated areas of the lake for beginner, intermediate and advanced surfers.

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