Hey Nick, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your connection to the sea.
I was lucky enough to have a Dad who was a passionate waterman, we used to spend many weekends visiting my Grandparents who lived on the beach on the South Coast of Sussex. Not exactly classic surf conditions, but as a tiny grom, surfing the breakwaters of sussex was enough to get me hooked! That is the cool thing about surfing, you don’t need to be John John Florence and live next to Pipeline, anyone can get hooked with a board and some waves.
Most of our childhood holidays were spent in Cornwall , mainly in Portreath. I used to surf with my Dad who had a pretty funky mint green pop out board. ( too small for him but perfect for me!)
However, looking back I used to spend most holidays down there with rampant conjunctivitis and ear infections. I’m actually left slightly deaf from it. It is only looking back now that we realise this was caused by swimming and surfing in sewage discharge, frightening really. This is one of the reasons I am passionate about Surfers Against Sewage, I have permanent damage caused potentially by the water quality back in the 70’s.
I’ve also always been a fisherman and diver. My summer jobs were spent running a fisheries and have always found water, sea, lakes and rivers a therapeutic and soul calming environment. My first university offers were to go to study Oceanography and Marine Biology, I always had a vision of working in marine conservation. Fate took me a different path for the next 20 years and I trained as a healthcare practitioner. This whole time I was surfing regularly, sometimes in Summer getting up at 3.30 am to drive to the beach for a surf and get back in time for a 9.30 work start in Bristol!
I am definitely one of those people that the longer I am away from the sea, the more I feel like a part of my soul is not being nourished. It sounds cliche but I know its true. My dear long suffering wife sometimes has to remind me “go for a surf Nick…you need it”. After my Dad died several years ago, I was getting into a bit of a head spin about life. My best mate threw me in a car and we went to Ireland for a trip. It was there that the tidal wave of inspiration hit me to bring that calming, healing and exciting experience of water, waves and nature back to the city…..the start of The Wave.
What is The Wave and what’s your involvement in it?
The Wave is exciting and ambitious! I promised my father during his last breaths that I would do something to make him proud, something impactful and legacy building. When I returned from Ireland I saw the original grainy video of Wavegarden and based on the inspiration of The Eden Project, I started to draw up plans. I saw it as a chance to encompass all the things that I’m passionate about and bring them to my home city.
I see it as a destination that fuses surfing, water, waves, healthy food, marine protection, health, education, nature, culture and art.
The Wave Bristol will be a community and leisure destination in Bristol that can pull together my passions and deliver it to people who have never even been to the sea: inner city kids with poor opportunities, no sense of positive adventure, people with disabilities and social needs.
People will be able to come, surf perfection for an hour and then leave. Or they can come and immerse themselves in a creative, educational, cultural hub based around a lake of perfect barrelling head high waves…in a field…surrounded by woodland!
Why are you so passionate about bringing surfing inland?
We genuinely have only one shot at life, one chance to make an impact, to leave a legacy we can be proud of. I approach life from a stance of “what would I do today if I knew I couldn’t fail”. That approach helps me drive the plans for The Wave Bristol: to build waves inland, and use them to make a positive impact on people from all ages, backgrounds and abilities. All the team working with me are just as passionate as I am. Chris Hines MBE is my right hand man in making sure the vision is delivered effectively. Our ambassadors: Stokesy, Celine, Sam, Easkey, Sophie, Gabe And Zara are all inspiring watermen/women who have a core drive to use their talents to make a better world. I’m blown away by these people daily, they inspire me and drive me forwards.
You’ve surfed The Wave, so tell me, what’s it like and how does it compare to surfing in the sea?
Surfing artificial waves is definitely different from the ocean. Different wave technologies have different waves but in the case of Wavegarden, the wave is convex in shape and therefore performs in a different way to a true ocean wave. However, the skills you learn on it are 100% transferable to the sea. At 41 years old and fully stuck in middle aged surfing mediocracy, within a few hours surfing in the lake I was progressing onto boards and manoeuvres that I could only dream of trying. This is what makes it exciting for me, the ability for beginners and intermediates to push their abilities way further than they thought possible.
It is weird riding waves in fresh water, pulling off a wave and not having that salty taste on your lips is unusual. I think the whole quality of the experience will be as much to do with the environment and the landscape that wave lakes are built. The Wavegarden in Spain is a great example of this, nestled in woodlands in a mountainous valley, it is part of the kooky charm of the place. We see The Wave Bristol, and any future projects we do, as being a really beautiful landscaping project. We see it as an opportunity to make something visually stunning whilst blending with nature.
You’re launched a Crowdfunder – what’s the idea behind it, how can people get involved?
We have to raise some massive funds for this project to be built, we are taking care of the fundraising for the lake and building. We realise that it will take a while of operating before we can reinvest this money back into the site, renewables and the social aspects of the project. I personally want to see the entire site be off grid one day. Therefore, we decided that through crowdfunding we could raise extra funding to make the socially and environmentally important parts of the project begin. We would love people to help and pledge on the campaign and help us make waves of positive change. We are on an amazing journey and we would love people to join us. http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/thewavebristol
So when do you hope to open your doors?
We hope to be pushing waves by the end of 2015 and have a grand launch in March 2016. The plan is to fulfil our crowdfunding pledges before we open, so people can come and surf with us before the general public bookings start.