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Ian Waller and his family enjoy a beginner’s surfing lesson in Bristol

Yes, you saw that right – surfing in Bristol… Well, the edge of Bristol, that is, and not a sandy beach in sight but instead a fantastic, purpose built outdoor lake complete with wave machines, surf lessons, a fair few dudes and a wonderfully warm welcome for everyone taking part.

Opened back in 2019, The Wave was the brainchild of Nick Hounsfield, who had a dream of a surfing lake that would offer physical and mental health benefits to people of all ages and background, all based around a love of surfing. Now it attracts visitors from right across Europe, plus it’s a popular attraction for London families popping down for a break in the South West.

Like most visitors to our beginner’s session one Saturday afternoon, we had never surfed before and really didn’t know what to expect. Still, right from the start, the welcome at The Wave is incredibly friendly, with the helpful team directing us all to where we needed to pick up our wetsuits, then on to the changing room and lockers, before meeting up with the other beginners at the green flag to meet our instructors.

Sam and Ben were the perfect hosts, both with that surfer dude look and an enthusiasm for the activity that went beyond it being a day job. Before hitting the water, we were taken to the dry area to be given soft helmets and the bright green shirts of beginners, before being put through our paces on our boards. This was where the basic techniques for paddling out ahead of a wave and jumping up into positions were demonstrated and practised.

Sam explained that for us beginners, the fun would start by walking out in the water to the blue marks on the wall of the surfing area, where the waves would suddenly be turned on and we put that practice into action. And you know what – it was LOADS OF FUN!

For our group of 12, the ages ranged from perhaps eight years old to mid 50s. In fact, The Wave has recently started its Little Rippers sessions for children aged 4-12 years old, so pretty much all ages are welcome to take part.

Over the next hour or so we all took turn after turn – to be honest, I lost count of the exact number but it was plenty – to walk out to the waves, then do our best to head back to the shore, initially lying down and then springing into the perfect standing position like a pro.

I say ‘springing’ and ‘standing’, of course, in the loosest way – for most of us it was desperately trying to stagger up before inelegantly plunging back into the water, generally to emerge seconds later with a grin and a determination to try again.

And then, suddenly, it happens… With Ben and Sam’s constant advice and encouragement, you find yourself up and surfing, perhaps just for a split second but you’re actually doing it, and it’s amazing!

Then as you get better, there’s plenty of opportunities to come back and improve your skills, perhaps even graduating to mixing it with the seriously impressive super surfers at the back of the bay, hitting and working the big waves.

For the very keen, you can even book into the Camp at the Wave, offering overnight accommodation for groups and families in impressive tents complete with comfortable beds, a kitchenette, woodburners, private toilet and a balcony.

For us, our first hour in the water was enough for now – we were shattered but grinning like Cheshire cat fish. With time for a quick warm up in the on-site sauna, followed by an outdoor shower, we headed off to the cafe for some seriously tasty burgers and dirty fries, and a conversation about holding our youngest’s birthday party back here.

The Wave was just great for our family day out at a fantastic facility with excellent staff and plenty to encourage a return visit.