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First public waves ridden at Bristol's inland surfing destination: The Wave

The first public session has taken place at The Wave in Bristol, featuring a group of people specially selected for being especially deserving. Credit: James Diamond

The first public waves have been ridden at Bristol's brand new inland surfing lake, The Wave.

The site in Easter Compton, just a short drive from Cribbs Causeway, is a 180 metre long lake, that uses unique technology to create up to 1,000 perfect waves every hour.

It is the only surfing destination of its kind currently open worldwide. 

The group of people chosen to ride the first waves were selected from an initial pool of around 350 put forward by members of the public, who thought they were especially deserving.

They included school children from the centre of Bristol, some of whom have never seen the ocean, Marshall Janson, a youngster from Cornwall who lost his hands and legs to meningitis, and Claire Moodie, who set up an anti plastic campaign group, Plastic Free North Devon.

The technology used, created by a company called Wavegarden, is so unique its exact details have not been revealed.

What is public knowledge though, is that the bottom of the lake has been specially shaped to resemble natural reefs found out to sea.

The project to create the site has lasted 10 years and cost around £26 million. 

Its founder Nick Hounsfield, told us where the idea came from:

"My background is actually from healthcare, I used to be an osteopath," he said.

"I guess I was kind of frustrated that I wasn't really making an impact on people's health, at volume I guess.

"It was one person at a time, and I loved my job but I was starting to think about how we can do this on a much, much bigger scale, how can we get people healthier and happier?

"I started to think about creating a space outdoors, get people outdoors, into nature, get them exercising, eating good food, get that narrative going about the environment and why it's important to look after it.

"And then I'm a mad keen surfer for 40 odd years, and suddenly this technology got released to be able to bring waves inland for the first time, and that was the eureka moment where I suddenly thought, actually, if we could actually bring surfing inland and then build this health destination around it, that was totally accessible to people from all ages, backgrounds and abilities, that to me, I guess that became our North Star.

"I think it's fair to say I've been relentless in pursuit of that since then."

Currently the site boats the surfing lake, which is 180m long and 200m wide with a jetty running down the middle, and a clubhouse with a cafe, shop, surf hire area and changing rooms. 

Eventually it will also boast gardens featuring wild flowers and 16,000 trees, plus a site for camping, though landscaping work around the lake is still ongoing. 

It has been designed to create waves for all abilities; the tallest rise 1.9m above the surface and barrel at their peak.

In fact it creates waves of such high quality, that the Great Britain surfing team are set to use it as a training base in the build up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, at which surfing will make its Olympic debut. 

As well as being a world class surfing destination though, Nick and the rest of the team behind it have also placed a real emphasis on sustainability.

For example, the electricity used to power the lake comes from 100 percent renewable sources, and ways to offset the carbon footprint generated through building the site, are currently being explored. 

"I think everyone understands now, and if they don't understand the [environmental] crisis that we're walking into and that we're already in, then they're sleeping," The Wave's head of sustainability Chris Hines told us.

 "Every wave that you see rolling in now is generated from 100 percent renewable electricity.

"And that's something that we absolutely from day one, we said if we're going to do this it must, must, must be generated from renewable energy."

Eventually they want the site to be as carbon neutral as possible.

"We know our carbon footprint, we've worked it out, we've calculated that, and we're now in the process of, how do we offset that?" Chris said.

"All the energy will be 100 percent renewable, and our footprint, of the products we buy and consume, we'll measure the carbon footprint of that and balance that as much as we can."

Officially the site opens to the public on November 4.

You can listen to our full interviews with Nick, Chris and The Wave's chief executive Craig Stoddart, below:

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