It’s not so much the fact that wave pools are being built everywhere – there are currently over 50 projects on the go worldwide, according to Wavepool Magazine – it’s more about the idea of surfing in Switzerland.
It is easy for an outsider to connect Switzerland with ski and snowboarding, mountaineering, alpine life and outdoor sports; even skateboarding. There exists a strong board sports culture. Still, the climate doesn’t lend itself to surfing at first glance.
Having said that, the level of technology and warmth crammed into a new full-suit these days is quite mind-blowing. The extra care and attention that go into the accessories – the boots, gloves and hoods, is also unbelievable.
When one starts looking at the Alaïa Bay wave pool build in Sion, it becomes clear that this is the real deal in Switzerland. This facility will be a world-class and authentic experience for everyone. The Alaïa Bay founder – Adam Bonvin – has worked endlessly in this regard to ensure the experience is mind-blowing, mostly to surfers. “The wave is more powerful than you think, and the facility has been embraced because it brings four seasons of activity to the area,” said Bonvin.
Being a surfer himself, the 25-year-old knew that he had to make it a genuine experience for seasoned surfers as well as those who had never experienced surfing before. “There are excellent learning facilities, but for those that want something more challenging, there is the Beast Mode, which will provide full-on slab barrels.”
The wave pool itself is the Wavegarden Cove technology, and it will be pumping out waves all day every day. Set to open in Spring, it will kick off with surfers who have purchased the early passes, and then it will run through the summer months, pumping out up to 1,000 waves per hour.
Talking to people who have surfed Wavegarden Cove waves, like the Bristol Wave and the Urbnsurf Pool in Melbourne, Australia, they all say the same thing – don’t underestimate the power. The wave has serious push, and if you think you’re in for some sort of mush burger rides, you’re going over the falls.
The Alaïa Bay wave pool in Sion is also built in an area of Switzerland that has a most beautiful climate. Sion is always bright and sunny. In the height of summer, the weather gets into the high 20’s and breaks into the 30’s. Over the last 10 years, there have been heatwaves in the height of summer. The weather has been hot, up to 35 degrees Celcius. During that time, surfers will be in boardies and bikinis, and it is expected to be busy. While gearing up for the opening, the Alaia Bay management opened up pre-opening ticket sales. These were sold out immediately. So the interest is there.
Another interesting angle is that of the California Double – a concept where you snowboard, or ski, and surf on the same day. This will be a cinch to accomplish with access to snow just 20 minutes away from Alaia Bay. With the skateboard park right there it will be possible to do a triple – skate, snow and surf.
The Alaia Bay facility has a lot to offer, with a hotel offering family rooms and hostel options for those on a budget who are simply there to surf. There is a large retail space on-site – a Boardriders Store with products from Roxy and Quiksilver and a restaurant called The Twin Fin Bistro with a 400m2 deck overlooking the wave pool so you can watch people surf. At the same time, you rejuvenate with your food of choice.
Then probably one of the most essential elements of the entire Alaïa Bay set-up is the learn-to-surf school. Qualified coaches are ready to teach anyone the basics and get them up-and-riding. So if you’re new to the sport and want to have a go, or just want to combine your holiday in Switzerland with a bit more excitement, then you can join a learn-to-surf program at the Surf School and get going. There are Beginner Sessions, Progression Sessions and Malibu Sessions, where you get to surf the full length of the wave with supervision from the coaches, which will be quite an experience.
Alaïa Bay is also geared up for those who don’t want to surf – who are with a family or friends and just want to hang out and watch. The Spectator Pass gets you up close and personal so that you can watch your friends and loved ones surfing. You can chill out and have a meal or some drinks while watching, but be close enough to hear the hooting and cheers and maybe even get wet if someone does a big carve and throws enough spray onto the wall.
Those surfers who plan to be regulars at Alaïa Bay and surf it throughout the year will be joining the Alpine Surf Club. This prestigious surf club will reward members with special events, like film screenings and workshops. It will allow them to have access to sessions for club members only and receive unique gifts. Members even have access to public surfing hours at discounted rates, so it’ll probably be the coolest way to enjoy Alaïa Bay.
So this summer it’s going to be time to Surf The Alps. Who would have thought?