It always rains in Wales, or at least that’s what you are told. This is not factually correct, but if you are heading up to the Conwy Valley on the outskirts of the Snowdonia National Park you will be sure to want to spend a lot of your time outdoors to take in the stunning scenery. If it does rain, that doesn’t really matter, as there is a perfect attraction that’s suitable for all weather situations. Surf Snowdonia opened its gates in the summer of 2015, and provides the opportunity to ride a perfect wave in the Welsh mountains.
In the sleepy village of Dolgarrog, home to circa 500 people and formerly known for a) a large dam disaster in the 1920’s, and b) an aluminum plant which operated for about 100 years before closing its doors in 2007, a worlds first inland surf lagoon has been created. The Wavegarden concept – a 300 foot long lagoon with a wave generating system that creates a perfectly formed and consistent two metre wave every 90 seconds, is the perfect way to entice surfers. From professionals to beginners, it’s a great opportunity to get out onto the water and test their skills. With the site adding more attractions and re-branding to Adventure Parc Snowdonia in 2019, this adds to an increasingly long list of adrenalin based attractions in the North Wales area.
I have been visiting Surf Snowdonia / Adventure Parc Snowdonia on my trips to North Wales since it opened in 2015. As someone who isn’t a strong swimmer, the idea of getting into the water has always left me with an hint of anxiety. I have mostly enjoyed the spectator aspect of my visits – watching the experts on the waves while sipping a cold Surf Snowdonia lager. However, I always told myself that I needed to get out onto the water. So one day, that’s what I did, along with my partner. We booked a beginners surf lesson to coincide with a visit, and there it was – commitment (and a little bit of anxiety).
The surf lagoon is separated into different sections – Advanced, Intermediate and Beginner. Advanced surfers take off from the centre of the lagoon where the waves are at their peak, Intermediates start further along and then the Beginners start out towards the ends of the lagoon where the waves are smaller whitewater waves, giving everyone the opportunity to test their skills safely.
The surf lessons are 1.5 hours long – half an hour in the Surf Academy with an instructor teaching you about the surf board and surfing techniques, followed by an hour on the water. The aim of the first lesson is to get you up on your feet but without any pressure to do so. Ours was a group of six, the perfect size for the instructor to be able to observe everyone’s techniques and offer advice where necessary. I needed a lot! Our instructor, Lotte (from the Netherlands – surfers travel from across the globe to work and surf here) was excellent. She was knowledgeable, patient and very constructive, despite the fact that I was never really getting the hang of it so well.
I really enjoyed the experience, although there was a high level of apprehension when you heard that first wave heading towards you and the instructor shouting ‘PADDLE!‘ Needless to say that first wave threw me off my board, but after a few attempts I managed to catch a few waves. I even managed to get onto my knees and ride all the way to the edge of the lagoon more than once. Success. Kind of. Once you have had your first beginner lesson, you are then able to partake in free-surf sessions within the Beginner area of the lagoon, so I will definitely be trying it out again next season.
If surfing is not really your thing, Surf Snowdonia is worth a visit regardless. There are plenty of things to keep you amused on site including a restaurant and cafe with outdoor sun terrace, a coffee shop incorporating a soft play area for children and a surf shop. Along with the re-branding to Adventure Parc Snowdonia comes a whole host of new attractions coming in the summer of 2019. The new Adrenaline Indoors building will feature attractions such as climbing walls, extreme slides, Via Ferrata, artifical caving and even a zip line across the surf lagoon. I personally cant wait to try that out.
The Surfside Deli is open during the day serving great breakfasts to start your day, as well as a self serve style lunch. If it’s coffee and cake that you want, this is also available here as well as the adjacent coffee shop. The Surfside Diner serves food from 5pm including pizza, pasta and burgers to name a few things. It’s a great spot to gaze out through the floor to ceiling windows watching the surfers to their thing.
If you want to make a weekend of it, there are glamping pods available at a reasonable rate. These used to be situated at the edge of the lagoon, but have been relocated to a woodland area for the 2019 season in preparation for construction of a Hilton Garden Inn hotel, which is due to open in Autumn 2020. The pods sleep up to 4 people and breakfast is included in the rate.
From a photography point of view, the attraction is a great place to test out your sports photography skills. I have spent many an hour at the edge of the lagoon trying to get those cool surfing shots. Here are a few of my favourites – watching the professionals and instructors doing their thing.
On a personal level being a boy from the Conwy Valley, I feel that Surf Snowdonia / Adventure Parc Snowdonia is a huge a success story and has injected some life and vibrancy into an area where, over the past few decades, has seen large businesses fold resulting in a high numbers of job losses. Pubs and local shops in small villages closing, leaving no real hub or sense of community. Nowhere for people to meet for a chat and a catch up. The valley is coming alive again with visitors travelling from far and wide to experience new attractions. Europeans living amongst the locals. It’s great to see and makes me feel very proud of my roots.
I don’t think I’ll ever make it as a surfer though.
The Conwy Valley is a great base to explore the beautiful outdoor scenery of North Wales. There are stunning waterfalls nearby, as well as beautiful stretches of coastline such as Llanddwyn Island in Anglesey.
Have you visited Surf Snowdonia?
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