My recent trip to Switzerland, a landlocked country in central Europe, was no different thanks to groundbreaking artificial wave technology at Wavegarden’s latest facility – Alaia Bay.
Although, while I was surfing in the Swiss Alps, my mind could not help but wander 7,000 miles away to a place called Tsurigasaki Beach where a monumental moment is about to take place this weekend. For the first time, surfing will finally receive the sporting recognition it rightfully deserves when the competition at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games gets underway.
I am excited that a global audience will finally get to see the exceptional level of skill required to perform at the highest level of surfing and be inspired by these hugely talented athletes.
Like many Scots, I am proud of our beautiful country, but I am also aware of its perceived limitations for surfing where the seas are cold and the weather unappealing for outdoor pursuits. I don’t share that view at all – with wetsuit technology as it is, and the undeniable evidence around how outdoor pursuits, exercise and cold-water immersion are all excellent for both mental and physical health. We already have some of the best waves and beaches in the world to learn how to surf.
The Wavegarden Scotland development, which will be located beside the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena in Ratho, will be much more than a fantastic surfing destination. It will be a place for families, friends and professionals to surf, learn, relax and stay, all set in 60 acres of beautiful country park.
The facility will be inclusive for all. Children will be able to learn at a pace suited to their age and development and older adults can become “silver surfers” with an in-water workout that encompasses strength and balance. Importantly, this is a sport that celebrates its adaptive athletes, with another Wavegarden Cove facility, The Wave in Bristol, doing a great job in hosting the recent Adaptive Surfing Open. It is only a matter of time until surfing is included in the Paralympic Games under the controlled conditions of an inland facility.
Surfing is for everyone, regardless of people’s abilities and when our facility opens, the opportunity for the public to experience a taste of the world’s most aspirational sport will be in clear sight.
I am not alone in this vision. The Scottish Surfing Federation is currently riding on the crest of a wave as the popularity of Scottish surfing is at an all-time high. They understand the enormous potential of what will be one of the UK’s most exciting destinations and have confirmed their commitment to Wavegarden Scotland as playing a pivotal role in shaping their future plans to supercharge and transform Scottish surfing by nurturing and developing our home-grown stars of the future.
Together with the Tokyo games, surfing is also set to feature at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, Los Angeles in 2028 and Brisbane in 2032. Few things excite me more than the thought of a new generation of surfers training at Wavegarden Scotland for these games and future tournaments. The idea of surfers from Scotland and landlocked Switzerland winning Olympic medals no longer seems like a pipe dream.
Andy Hadden is co-founder of Tartan Leisure Ltd, developers of Wavegarden Scotland and a director of the Scottish Surfing Federation