Making In The Mountains

08 . 05 . 16

​Two weeks ago, whilst the surfing population of southwest England stared in frustration at the small, wind-blown, waves lapping on their shores, James was enjoying an hour of regular shoulder-high waves every day at the push of a button. He was spending the week at Surf Snowdonia, where we had been invited to run a “Make Your Own” wooden surfboard workshop course, and ironically enjoyed better waves than Chris and Mat who stayed behind at the workshop here in Cornwall.

James arrived in Snowdonia on the Saturday evening, and spent the Sunday before the workshop was due to start setting up a small marquee on the far side of the Surf Snowdonia’s Wavegarden lagoon, next to their wooden glamping pods, and fitting it out as a workshop for the week. In the van he’d taken up trestles, a small bandsaw that we have for mobile workshop events, a fully stocked tool-wall, and of course a couple of our demo boards to surf during the week. The following five days were mostly spent between the canvas workshop, the wave, Surf Snowdonia’s onsite café, and the individual camping pods where James and Ben, who joined him for the week to make his own surfboard, were sleeping.

They woke up each morning and walked around to the other side of the lagoon to get breakfast in the café, then spent the morning working on Ben’s Coaster which gradually grew into a wooden blank that Ben then shaped back into a refined 7’2” rounded pintail. They would walk back over to the café for lunch, sometimes sitting down to eat with Vern Wright-Kotzé, Surf Snowdonia’s retail manager who had organised the week with us and who used to share a house with Mat when they both lived in Jeffreys Bay several years ago. The afternoons were then spent back under canvas working on Ben’s board and happily chatting away about waves and the places that they’d both been lucky enough to visit, before they washed the dust off at 6 o-clock with an hour’s surfing.

The artificial wave at Surf Snowdonia has proved somewhat contentious amongst the surf community; it’s had its fair share of technical and widely publicised teething problems, and of course it is no match for the incredible and pure experience of surfing in the ocean – but it’s not really meant to compare with that and it certainly didn’t stop Ben and James from enjoying some really fun sessions on the wave. What it is, is a unique surfing experience with a wave that is consistent in both shape, speed, and regularity that is breathing new life back into a former industrial area on the edge of a beautiful mountain national park, and doing so in as sustainable a way as possible. The knowledge that they had an hour of guaranteed waves booked in at the end of a day on the tools gave Ben and James something to look forward to, before they could retire to one of the local pubs for a well-earned pint or two.

A huge thanks to Stewart Mackellar for the photos of us at work, and at play, at Surf Snowdonia.

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