Does Bristol's Wave pool survive the eco-test?

Lily Holbrook on the newest attraction in Bristol - an outdoor wave pool - and whether it is a boon or a bane to the environment.

Lily Holbrook
11th November 2019
The end of October saw huge excitement among the surfing community following the opening of a brand new outdoor wave pool in Bristol. But is the £26m development in the middle of rural countryside a contradiction to its eco-friendly ethos?

Making waves

After almost a decade in the making, on 26thOctober 2019, Nick Hounsfield’s brainchild finally opened to the public.

The Wave is the UK’s first inland surf facility inviting people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to take to the waves.

The story behind the newly established wave centre, located 20 minutes away from Bristol city centre, is an inspiring one: to bring people together through surfing, nature and connecting with others. But what exactly is a surf lake?

What is a surf lake?

 Over 7 times the length of a regular 25m swimming pool, the 180m long surf lake is the only inland pool of its kind in the northern hemisphere powered by Wavegarden Cove technology. This can generate up to 1000 waves per hour, each one carefully curated to be as close to a natural ocean wave as physically possible. This provides the perfect training ground for seasoned surfers looking to take to the water without contending with popular surf spot crowds.

Time to rave about the wave?

 Designed to bring communities together, The Wave is ideal not only for pros, but for first-timers, kids and amateurs unable to easily access the coast.

The centre also welcomes people with disabilities, including meningitis survivor Marshall Janson who was one of the first to ride the waves.

Described by UK surfer Harry Timson as ‘a skatepark for surfers’, The Wave’s authentic waves over 2 hours from the ocean will also be an invaluable facility for athletes in the lead up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

 Is it eco-friendly?

 With no noise apart from the lapping of waves and murmur of excited surfers, The Wave has passed the test on the noise pollution front.

But can this justify the unavoidable disturbance to the surrounding area during construction? Mr Hounsfield admitted concern over public reaction to the artificial site, but with the go-ahead from environmentalists who suggest it will ‘be the perfect classroom to get [their] message out there in a really engaging way’, developments like this may be the way forward.

The site may also inspire a new appreciation of nature for those who have become disconnected. By promoting ways to minimise environmental impact by raising awareness of plastic pollution and carbon emissions, The Wave may be the missing piece of the puzzle igniting that reconnection.

Away from the surfing, there’s a lot more to this place than sport. Accommodation for family camping trips, an education centre and beautifully landscaped outdoor spaces are just the start.

Powered by 100% renewable energy costing an extra £100,000 a year, chief executive Craig Stoddart says the environmental element of their business is a big price to pay, but one they are determined to stick with, ‘The idea of helping to acidify the ocean where natural waves come from, that’s crazy’.

With timber buildings insulated by sustainable wood fibres, an initiative to plant 16,000 trees onsite and plans to generate their own power within 6 years, the people behind The Wave undoubtedly have an environmental conscience.

By adopting a triple bottom line approach or ‘3Wave thinking’ to consider the social, environmental and financial implications of their business, it is clear that this wave is moving in the right direction.

On a roll

Despite costs of development, it’s safe to say that The Wave is striving to make a positive difference. And it’s only the start: plans have already been agreed with Lee Valley Regional Park Authority to bring the next wave to London.

None of us are environmentally perfect, but the message here is clear: anyone can change the world, one wave at a time.

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AUTHOR: Lily Holbrook
MA Media & Journalism student and science sub-editor for the 20/21 academic year.

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