July 4, 2022

Alaia Bay, Switzerland

Artificial wave in the Alps

In April 2021, a new artificial wave, Alaia Bay, was built using Wave Garden technology.

It is the fifth rig launched by the company, but this time the opportunity for surfing has appeared in a country where there is no direct access to the ocean – in Switzerland.

It just so happened that I’m right here now and miss surfing, so the temptation to go and try this miracle of technology was irresistible. Spoiler alert: mixed impressions. But first things first.

Place

The artificial wave in Switzerland was built by the local company Alaïa Action Sports, which develops active sports, recreation, and camping.

The place was chosen one of the most beautiful – in the south of the country, in the Rhone Valley, not far from the city of Zion

Around are vineyards and apricot orchards, medieval fortresses and castles stand on the hills, and the majestic Alps rise in the background, the tops of which are covered with snow for most of the year.

Wave

The pool has the shape of a triangle, divided in half by a mechanism that lets out a wave: in the right part, the right lock is obtained, in the left – the left one.

When booking, you choose which one you will ride

From what I’ve seen, most surfers choose the front side. A few people rode in the backside.

Wave Garden technology allows you to change the size and shape of the wave: Beginner and Waikiki are gentle kids for training; they are permitted only on soft tops.

On regular boards, you can visit Malibu, Advanced and Expert sessions. There are also Pro and Beast sessions in theory, but they are not in the schedule; perhaps they are on holidays and special occasions.

Since I am with a longboard, I chose the Malibu session.

For the first half-hour, the waves were smaller and flatter: at the start, they were somewhere up to the chest, further down the waist, or slightly higher.

After 30 minutes, the size is increased; at the start, it becomes shoulder-length, and the wave is sharper all the way.

Next, I watched the Advanced session from the shore, where the size is about growth, strong and relatively fast; in the middle section, it gives well, not a pipe, of course, but you can climb under the visor if you bend and slow down properly.

Waves come in sets, and the number of waves in a group is inversely proportional to the size: in the Malibu session, in the beginning, there are 18 waves in a set, then 10.

On Advanced, I counted six waves in a group. The break between sets is also different, from 30 to 60 seconds, so that the water in the pool has time to calm down.

The start area is in the corner of the triangle

There are special marks on the wall, like a ruler scale.

Depending on the size, the wave begins to close at one of the marks; respectively, the starting point can be selected according to the same scale, taking into account the specifics of the board.

The larger the board, the earlier you take the wave, as normal surfing. When raking, you want to look back out of habit, but by and large, it is pointless – a small bump, of course, moves towards you, but in fact, the wave seems to grow from below, so it is more effective to focus on the markup.

The wind can get in the way. Visually, the water in the pool does not look bloated, but, on the evening of the first day, we had an “offshore” that made it difficult to rake the longboard, blowing the boards under the nose and pushing it back.

Well, and, of course, it is worth noting that the waves are all the same; they come evenly and close in the same place, so you quickly get used to them, and it becomes easy to start.

Good old game “Find the Three Differences”

Surfers

On the site of the surf park, it is written that each surfer catches 10-14 waves in an hour session

In general, it is, and since the more waves, the fewer them in the sets, so that everyone gets it, fewer people are taken to advanced sessions than to beginners:

Beginners: up to 15 surfers in groups of 6 with an instructor

Waikiki: up to 18 surfers

Malibu: up to 18 surfers

Advanced: up to 12 surfers

Expert: up to 10 surfers

Together with the group, a surf watchman always comes in – an employee of Alaia Bay, who sits with the surfers, tells at which point to take the wave and monitors the order and observance of the queue.

In general, the line is not that strict, but since everyone is asked to rake out in a circle, even if it fell – in foam downward, along the perimeter to the channel, and back to the peak, it is more or less observed.

You practically don’t have to sit and wait, really, like on a merry-go-round, you just floated out, and it’s your turn.

It seems to me that I sat on the board for no more than 5 minutes in an hour

Equipment

The surf park has a surf school and rental with many boards, ranging from soft-tops of different sizes, longboards, and malibu to professional shortboards of famous brands

Of course, you can come with your equipment, but there is a nuance for short borders.

The water in the pool is fresh, which means the buoyancy of your board will be noticeably less.

For example, in the Black Sea, the water is less salty than in the ocean, and experienced surfers advise taking a board 4 liters larger than usual for skiing in Sochi.

Accordingly, for freshwater, this difference should be even more significant

Watching the skating of other guys, I noticed that it is not easy for them to accelerate; the board seems to get stuck in the wall of the wave.

There are no such problems with longboards because they already have a large volume, which is enough; on a longboard, I did not feel any difference at all.

Most of the year, surfing in Alaia Bay requires a wetsuit: the pool is not heated, so the water temperature depends on the weather.

Now, in the middle of June, the sun is already hot, the water is pleasant, but still not for a swimsuit. I rode in a 2mm long sleeve wetsuit; it was ok; some surfers wore a full wetsuit.

However, wetsuit rental is also available, so you can look at the situation on the spot and choose the right one

Safety

To create a high-quality wave, the bottom of the pool follows the natural profile of a classic beach break: in the start area, it is profoundly and gradually shallower.

The difference is that instead of soft sand underwater, there is hard concrete, so surfers are urged to observe safety precautions and not jump head-down from the board.
In general, everything is relatively safe, where the wave is already completely closed, the depth is waist-deep, and it is problematic to get to a very shallow zone

The start area is dangerous for the boards since it is located right next to the wall, and if you fall while raking and then still get into the foam from the next wave, the board can be pushed into the wall.

Other surfers and your board are the most dangerous on an artificial wave in the ocean

The rules of surf etiquette are strictly observed here, but special attention must be paid to caution.

Because you ride like a merry-go-round, wave after wave, it’s easy to get into a rage and forget about safety precautions.

It is precisely what happened to me when I didn’t cover my head with my hands, emerging after the fall, and as a result, I got in the teeth with my board.

I got off with a cut on the lip; it could be much worse.

But I tested not only the wave itself but also the service: one of the workers instantly saw what had happened, jumped into the water, took my board, another grabbed my arm, the third was already laying out a first-aid kit on the shore.

With bloody lips, I advise you not to be greedy and pay an extra 600 rubles for insurance; relative to the total price, this is not such a significant premium

How much is

* Around like a month of renting a modest apartment in Bali.

The price depends on the day of the week and the season:

Regular Price CHF 129 (RUB 10 350) on weekdays

Peak Price CHF 149 (RUB 11,950) on weekends and during high holiday/school holidays (e.g., summer 21 June to late August).

The site says that there is still some Best Price 109 CHF (8,750 rubles), but I did not find such a price in the schedule.

Everything you need for skiing can be rented on site:

soft tops for 10 CHF (800 rubles)

regular hard for 25 CHF (2000 rub.)

some good boards 45 CHF (3 600 rubles)

wetsuits for 10 CHF (800 rubles)

bodyboard with fins for 15 CHF (1 200 rubs.)

You can also pay an additional 19 CHF (RUB 1,525) to make the booking flexible – the date and time can be changed, but not less than 24 hours in advance.

The insurance costs 7.50 CHF (600 rubles), covers equipment, reimbursement of the cost of the lesson and just riding, medical expenses, and even helicopter evacuation.

You can also eat on-site; on the second floor, a Twin Fin restaurant with a terrace overlooking the wave

The bread, like the spectacle, is decent, but tasty and the portions are large.

There is also a large Boardriders store at the entrance if you need wax, zinc, or surf gear.

How Wave Garden Works

For obvious reasons, this information is kept secret: the inventors have spent more than one year researching and developing technology and trying to delay the emergence of Chinese counterparts.

Having watched the waves and visited the pool itself, I had several guesses.

Firstly, the channel through which the surfers swim is the deepest part of the pool, and there is a strong current in it; that is, this water is being sucked in

And since the number of waves in a set depends on the size, it is logical to conclude that there is a constant value – the volume of water in the waves produced.

Hence, the theory of hydraulic design takes water into a reservoir and then releases it in batches.

The second point that I paid attention to is that the waves in the right and left parts of the pool come in turns: right, then left, then right, and so on

It suggests that there is either a pendulum or a turbine inside.

Thirdly, the “approaching set” is audible

The growing sound indicates that a relatively large machine comes into action, and the sound “walks” along the central axis of the pool, in which the mechanism is hidden.

In the first paragraph, for a reason, I wrote “delay,” not “prevent” the emergence of Chinese counterparts.

The fact is that there is a statistically verified formula for how the size of a group is related to the time that this group can keep a secret.

In his book “Maximum Repost” author Borislav Kozlovsky shows very coolly how most conspiracy theories do not stand up to the test of this formula.

Let’s say five people can keep a secret for 30 years, and 500 – God forbid, they won’t spill out for three years.

I don’t remember the exact numbers, but the point is simple: relatives, lovers, drunken parties.

We are all human beings with weaknesses, and the more people involved, the faster the leak will happen

So, park employees know how the structure works, and the day is not far off when one of these hired surfers decides to impress a girl in a swimsuit and falls for her “innocent” bait: “you probably don’t know yourself …” “It is, of course, a secret, but there is such a long structure that moves like a snake. ”

My impressions

An artificial wave is incomparably smaller than an ocean

I can’t say I didn’t like it; it was great to ride the board, especially after a long break from surfing.

And people were creating a pleasant surfing atmosphere, but still, it wasn’t it at all.

The water in the pool is without a soul; it is set in motion by a mechanism and not by a real storm, it does not have to travel across the ocean and overcome thousands of kilometers to turn into a surfing wave, and accordingly, it does not carry the charge that you literally with every cell you feel when you are rushing on a natural wave in the ocean.

There is a well-known phrase, “Only surfer knows the feeling,” and this is true, only after riding along with the wave you understand what kind of feeling it is when all the power of the ocean is concentrated at one point, grows right under your feet, accelerates your board and fills your heart the experience of unity with the world and complete freedom.

So, I did not feel this feeling when riding an artificial wave. That’s right at all. It was even strange to me – like that, but not at all—just mechanics.

I was filmed by my friend Phone-On-Tripod, he has a hard time with various angles

Such a high-quality and always the same wave is suitable for practicing maneuvers, but here I will also add skepticism: when practicing a trick on this wave, you work it out on this particular wave.

How many stories are there about guys who quit on the home spot and get lost on others?

Or, for example, our national team coach Pedro Barbudo always says that surfers who ride well in Bali have a hard time coming to Portugal for the first time because the oceans are different.

The waves are very different in their characteristics. The last session ends at 21:00, after which the park staff goes for a ride in the water.

They certainly quench compared to the visitors. But I would be interested to see them in the ocean, not because the result will be the same.

What can we say about sunsets and sunrises? About the salty air and the rainbow in the foam behind the closing wave? And this powerful rumble that the ocean sings with? How does it compare to the hum of a car?

You can count me among the hopeless romantics, but I’m hardly ever going to go swimming in the pool again

Sorry, Kelly, I won’t see you at the ranch; I have other things to do.

But I won’t play the gun; in any case, it was cool and exciting to ride an artificial wave as an experience; I’m glad that I tried it and made up my own opinion.

And I recommend you try and make your own too! It is worth riding at least twice – the first time you get used to the wave, the second time you ride calmly.

The main thing was to remind me that I am a surfer. Now I’m especially looking forward to a surf trip to the actual ocean.

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