So guys and girls, this is my well overdue ‘The Wave, Bristol – Session & Lesson Review’.
I was lucky enough to make a recent trip to test the place out for myself. The following review should be a big help if you’re just about to book that first surf.
If you fancied reading more about The Wave itself, check out my ‘The Wave, Bristol – Everything You Need To Know’ post.
Here are the areas we’ll be covering…
1. Arrival & Parking
Although it may seem fairly easy to search “The Wave, Bristol” on Google maps, I found it a bit more difficult in real life.
If you’ve not been to The Wave before, it’s worth knowing there’s only one main entrance to the site. This entrance is the turn off of the B4055 road towards ‘City Auctioneering’ (as seen on the map below).
Once you’ve turned off the B4055, the carpark is ahead and parking is free.
The check-in cabin is located at the end of the carpark, so is really easy to find. Remember to take all your surfing gear with you as you probably won’t be returning to the car. All that’s left is a 15-minute walk to The Wave.
2. Surf Desk & Rentals
After the ‘warm up’ walk you’ll arrive at the main building, The Clubhouse.
If you’ve got a surfing lesson or session booked the first place you’ll want to go is the Surf Desk to sign in. It’s located on the the same side as the changing rooms and lockers (far left windows on the picture below).
The Surf Desk is also the place to go if you want to rent a performance hardboard for an extra £10.
They’re two windows and a queuing system so doesn’t take long to get seen by a wavemaker. After signing in mosey on around to the changing rooms and start getting ready.
3. Beginner Lesson Review
I’ll start with a review of the beginner lesson, then go onto the advanced session review.
I need to start off by saying my girlfriend took part in the beginner lesson, not me – so this section is reporting back her experience. I also watched the whole thing from the sidelines, so have a good idea of what went down.
The Lesson Plan
First things first is to get the equipment out and sit in a cosy little circle. Once everyone is sat down the instructor will start off with a standard ‘What’s your name and what’s your goal for this lesson?‘ ice breaker.
Once the awkwardness is over, the instructor explains a bit more about the lesson itself. This includes the types of waves to expect, as well as where to enter and exit the water during the lesson.
Each instructor then gives a brief anatomy of the surfboard, a demonstration on ‘Popping-up’ and how to paddle correctly. Everybody has a few goes and it’s finished off with a quick warm up and stretch.
Then, it’s time to get into the water.
The group is led into the water in an orderly line by the instructor. Once the waves start up, the instructors help one surfer at a time catch a wave, with an aided push. As mentioned above, the group is told where to exit the water and where to enter – so it remains a safe environment.
After each rotation, the instructors will be giving specific tips to each surfer on what they need to improve. After a few rotations the instructors will be encouraging surfers to paddle into the waves themselves. After almost an hour of practice, the group returns to the circle to breakdown how the lesson went.
Beginner Wave Shape and Size
The beginner lessons takes place in ‘The Bay’ which is the area closest to the shoreline.
Any waves reaching ‘The Bay’ will have already broken (also known as white water waves). This basically means the waves are perfect to learn on. They’re small and foamy but have enough power to push a surfboard along long enough for a beginner to stand up.
Here are the typical measurements for the waves that happen during a beginner lesson.
- Wave Type: Small white water waves
- Wave Size: 0.8m
- Time Between Waves: 6-8 seconds
- Wave Length: 10-12 seconds
Good things about The Beginner Lesson
- Well organised
- Good balance between surfing theory and actually surfing
- Instructors provide really helpful tips and support
- Small group size resulted in more personalised teaching
- All the equipment provided looked new
- Plenty of time to stand up and improve
- The safe environment helped builds water confidence
- Great value if booked in the off season (Winter months)
- The water is very clean
- Made me want to surf again
Not So Good Things About The Beginner Lesson
- Two groups on one side can make it feel a bit crowded
- Had to wait for my allocated wave before I could try and surf
- You only get one wave per set so there’s pressure to get it right every time
- Queuing system meant I was a bit rushed to set myself for each wave
- Expensive if booked in the peak season (Summer months)
Would I Recommend The Beginner Lesson?
If you’re new to surfing, I would always recommend getting a proper surfing lesson to start your journey. The beginner lessons given at The Wave, Bristol are a fantastic example of this. They offer a really great first experience for complete novices of any age in a safe environment.
I asked my girlfriend if she would recommend the experience, this is what she said…
“The lesson itself was well organised, a lot of fun and I even stood up before the end. The environment felt very safe, which really helped me build my confidence in the water. By the end of the lesson I was totally knackered, but I loved every minute of it – would definitely recommend!“
So, very positive from someone who’d never had a surfing lesson before. If you’re planning on booking that first lesson – don’t forget to read the 10 tips section below before booking.
4. Advanced Session Review
Now, onto my review of the advanced session… and yes, it was quite chilly when I went (mid October).
The Session Plan
Just like the beginner lesson, the wavemakers hold a quick safety briefing 15 minutes before go time. At this stage you’ll need to be changed and ready to get in the water. The briefing includes useful information for first timers and is mandatory for every surf.
Things that are covered in each briefing;
- What to expect from the wave you’re booked on
- Where to paddle out and where to pop-up
- What to do after falling off
- How to signal the lifeguards
Once the briefing has finished, the wavemakers ask you to head over to your respective side. This is when the paddle out to the take off area happens, which also forms the line. Once at the take off area, each surfer takes it in turn to catch their wave.
Each set contains around twenty waves and once the set has finished the water settles for a few minutes. The session lasts around an hour including 40-45 minutes in the water, so plenty of time to get the legs pumping.
If you want a better idea of the level of surfer on an advanced session, here’s a brief description… Good. Fudging. Surfers. These surfers have more or less nailed their bottom turns so most are working on cutbacks. As I’m still trying to cement my bottom turn, I did feel a bit out of my depth and in hindsight should have probably booked an intermediate session.
Advanced Wave Shape and Size
The advanced sessions take place at ‘The Reef’ – the area furthest from the shore.
‘The Reef’ pumps out green waves that build quickly and are steeper the closer you’re positioned to the wall. This makes your positioning before you catch the wave a big deal, something I wish I knew beforehand.
One important thing to remember is that this is a legit reef break. The way the wave builds up, breaks, moves and barrels is completely different to anything most UK surfers have come across. So, if it’s your first session at The Wave, book yourself onto a level you know you can surf.
Here are the typical measurements for the waves that happen during an advanced session.
- Wave Type: A mixture from slow peeling, rapidly breaking and steeply barrelling waves
- Wave Size: 1.5m
- Time Between Waves: 6-8 seconds
- Wave Length: 12-15 seconds
Good Things About The Advanced Session
- Well organised, every surfer knows what they’re doing
- Equipment still provided at this level
- Perfect amount of time in the water
- Amazing for improving paddle fitness
- Allows practice on a legit reef break, not common in the UK
- Good value if booked in the off season (Winter months)
- The water is very clean
- Made me want to try out more wave settings
Not So Good Things About The Advanced Session
- There’s a fair amount of pressure on you to not mess up
- Not a bad thing but it’s still not as good as surfing in the sea
- Expensive if booked in the peak season (Summer months)
Would I Recommend The Advanced Session?
This is quite an easy one to answer – yes!
If you’re regularly out the back and in the process of improving your cutbacks, an advanced session is a great way to hone those skills. Each wave is exactly the same so once you’ve figured out how to navigate the reef break – it’s just a case of practice, practice, practice.
The queuing system helps keeps the lineup organised, so the group rotates each set pretty smoothly. The short break between sets is also a nice time to catch a breather. Although an hour doesn’t seem like long enough to get amongst it, your legs will be pumping by the end.
There are some great value deals in the colder months. So, to save the frequent surfer some cash – I’d recommend getting at least one session a year during the off peak season. Winter is also the time of year that only hardcore surfers venture into the cold, so you’ll be in similar company.
5. Food & Cafe
After a knackering surf there’s nothing better than a sit down with some decent grub.
The Clubhouse Cafe
The Wave have (of course) thought about this and provided a top notch cafe. The Clubhouse Cafe chucks out proper meals that cater to all tastes and diets.
The menu itself has a wide variety of options and caters to all dietary needs.
My choice was the blackbean burger with skinny fries and a hot chocolate to warm the toes. The price was wasn’t too bad at £14.95 for both and the portion size was massive.
The ordering system is fairly techy. It involves getting a small disk thingy that makes a lot of noise when your meal is ready to collect. I’m no food critic but the blackbean burger was proper tasty and the hot chocolate was also very nice.
Menu & Sides Options
Here’s a list of meals from the indoor cafe menu;
- House Burgers – Beef / Chicken / Blackbean / Fish Finger all served with skinny fries
- Catch of the Day – Cider battered south coast fish served with thick cut chips
- Tart of the day – Tart served with a selection of super foods, grains and salad
- Vegetable lasagne – Butternut squash, smoked pepper served with rocket pesto, dried tomato and garlic bread
Here’s a list of sides that can be added to the above meals;
- Mac and cheese (+£4.50)
- Mac and greens (+£4.50)
- Thick cut chips (+£3.50)
- Skinny fries (+£3.50)
- Wookey hole cheddar sauce (+£2.00)
- Gravy (+£1.50)
Not sure how often the menu changes, but the above gives you a good idea of what to expect.
The Clubhouse Cafe is not the only place you can get food onsite.
There are some great food trucks outside that do high quality street food. The one that was setup outside on my visit was the Quay St. Cantina that specialises in Mexican food!
6. 10 Tips Before Booking
These 10 tips before booking are mega important so take note…
- If you’ve never surfed before, book a lesson
- If you can surf but haven’t surfed at The Wave before – book a session you know you can surf
- Check the map above – it’ll make the last 3 minutes of your drive A LOT easier
- Arrive one hour before your planned lesson or session
- If you want to do two sessions in one day, don’t book them back-to-back – you’ll be knackered
- Make a day of it, in the Summer it’s a genuinely lovely place to just relax with an ice cream in-hand
- If you’re only spectating, there is a spectators fee
- Book during the colder months if you’re surfing on a budget
- For surfs between November and February, take/hire all the wetsuit accessories; boots, gloves and hoods
- The Wave gift vouchers are the perfect surfing present
7. Does It Live Up To The Hype?
Before The Wave, Bristol opened – there was a lot of hype surrounding this particular wave pool. But has it lived up to all this hype?
Nature & Wellbeing Centre
Firstly, The Wave isn’t just about surfing… it’s also about reconnecting people with nature and wellbeing.
A lot of thought and care has gone into how the place looks and feels. For example, the beautifully timbered Clubhouse was built with sustainability at its core. This approach has helped the whole site melt into a very green backdrop. The wild gardens were shaped by the very soil that came out of the ground to create the wave pool. The use of natural materials throughout helps keep that feeling of nature constant.
All of these things add up to a really uplifting experience that help people reconnect with nature in a very easy way.
But, the main reason for all the hype (other than it being an awesome thing to have in the UK) was due to the technology it used.
It was the first wave pool in the Northern hemisphere to use Wavegarden’s Cove technology. The UK’s other wave pool (Surf Snowdonia) is based in Wales and uses Wavegarden’s Lagoon technology.
So I would say yes it has also lived up to the hype from a technological standpoint. In my opinion The Wave, Bristol is not only the best surfing wave pool in the UK – it’s arguably the best in the Northern hemisphere right now. The Cove technology alone means that 1,000’s of wave types can be created with the flick on a switch. From a surfing stand point it’s a fantastic resource for the UK’s surfing community as a whole.
And so folks, that’s my full review of The Wave, Bristol.
I’m hoping some of you found it useful and maybe even a bit interesting. All in all, I think The Wave, Bristol is a fantastic place. It not only promotes great values but also pumps out the best artificial waves in the UK for surfers at all levels.
I plan on venturing there a couple of times a year max to keep my technique in check. If you’re an avid surfer who has a spare £45 – I’d definitely recommend trying it out. Click here to book a surf at The Wave.
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Next read: ‘Best Places To Surf in North Devon’