Francis Menassa, JAR Capital: Surfing in Bristol, an investment opportunity that is bringing the ocean inland
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Francis Menassa, JAR Capital: Surfing in Bristol, an investment opportunity that is bringing the ocean inland
Surfing is a sport that you might not intuitively link to the UK. However, surfing is having its moment, both on the global stage and in Britain. The fastest growing sport in the UK (according to an annual participation survey recently conducted by the British Marine Association), there are now around 650,000 surfers in the country, with the number of wave-riders increasing 40% between 2015 and 2017. But with British weather being what it is, and wave conditions only being at their optimum around 30% of the time in the UK, you might find yourself asking, where exactly are these Brits hitting the waves?

The answer might surprise you: inland.

Due to technological advances in wave-stimulation, leisure developers are bringing surfing to the masses, and opening up surfing centres miles from the coast. First, there was Surf Snowdonia in Wales. Now, Bristol is about to get its own surfing resort called ‘The Wave.’ Additionally, the Lee Valley Regional Authority also plans to bring surfing to London too.

But it is The Wave in Bristol – which was founded by Nick Hounsfield and is run by CEO Craig Stoddart – that JAR Capital investor Francis Menassa is most excited about. Growing out of a creative response to a basic high demand/low supply scenario, The Wave fills a gap with an innovative solution. People across the UK want to surf, but the supply of waves is limited. The Wave, which uses the latest advancements in wave-making technology brings the surfing experience to urban, inland areas, like Bristol. It’s not just about surfing though. Menassa says: “The Wave is about getting people active and sharing incredible experiences in a naturally, healthy space.”

A healthy investment

Like surfing itself, the leisure sector is enjoying a healthy (and previously unprecedented) growth spurt of its own, despite the fact that consumer confidence is low right now. In fact, according to Deloitte data from February of this year, the field grew by two percentage points year-on-year in the final quarter of 2018.

And Bristol’s The Wave looks set to build on this trend as it employs cutting-edge technology that safeguards the system against failures that could result in shutting down the centre, ensuring the commercial capacity remains consistent. “One key element,” explains Menassa, “is that the technology has been designed with no single points of failure, so up to a third of the motors can fail and it can still produce surfable waves.” The centre has even been designed to remain open during building works. “There are no maintenance jobs that require emptying the lake,” Menassa says.

While a landlocked surfing resort could appear to be a precarious venture, Menassa believes the design and the technology behind The Wave are first class. “The team at The Wave worked hard to prepare the ground for us by hiring some of the best in the business,” he says.

Technology that suprasses nature

In fact, Menassa believes that The Wave could even be capable of producing better surfing conditions than nature can. For example, a new design called the Wavegarden Cove system eliminates some of the pitfalls surfers might find in the open waters. Secondary waves, which often follow an ocean swell, can often infringe on a surfer’s experience by rendering the surf unpredictable. However, Wavegarden Cove is able to eliminate these secondary waves, while also conserving energy within the mechanics.

According to Menassa, “The technology produces better quality waves at a greater frequency. It can generate up to a thousand surfable waves per hour, that range from 50cms to around 1.8m in height.” Menassa argues this approach helps tailor surfing zones to specific skill levels, resulting in more tailored and even safer surfing. “With six different surfing zones catering for all levels of surfer, these kite-shaped lakes have the potential to host over 80 people at any one time.”

Waves from a laptop

In the past few years, Wavegarden Cove has moved its wave model recreation to computer technology, meaning that, in Menassa’s view, Wavegarden Cove technology is “more advanced” than competing wave automations at different surf centres. “By using the right technology at a great location in a market that is set to grow year-on-year, the capacity for growth is huge,” he says. “All the fundamentals are there.”
Surf’s up.