In a nutshell
An artificial, 300 metre-long wave lagoon in the Conwy valley, on the edge of Snowdonia national park. A mechanical underwater “snowplough” generates a wave up and down the lagoon every 90 seconds. The bottom of the lagoon (formerly part of an aluminium processing plant) is contoured, creating a metre-high break for experienced surfers as well as ideal, knee-high waves for beginners. You can have surf lessons, or if you already have experience, simply hire a board and “hang 10”.
The adjoining Crash and Splash lagoon – think BBC’s Total Wipeout – opened last year. There is an assault course over the water and then the “Blob” – a sort of aquatic catapult that hurls people up in the air and into the lagoon.
Best thing about it
The staff are enthusiastic and fun; and that really makes a difference – the whole place has a good vibe. Our surfing instructor was deft at enthusing two 13-year old girls who had never surfed before. Also, the weather in north Wales is notoriously unreliable, but that doesn’t matter once you’re in the water.
What about lunch?
Local meat, fish and pasta dishes (from £8.95), as well as pizzas (from £7.50) are served in the restaurant and bar, which overlook the surf lagoon. Good food, served without fuss. There is also a deli/cafe selling coffee, salads and sandwiches.
Exit through the gift shop?
You can buy photos of your children riding the crest of a wave, or of yourself upside down, falling off your board, as well as branded T-shirts (from £12). If you get the surf bug badly, there is a proper surf shop next door, where you can invest in wetsuits (from £99.95) and boards (from £199.99).
By train to Dolgarrog (limited services; a 20-minute walk) or Llandudno Junction (regular services; seven miles in a taxi). By car, it’s 10 minutes from the A55, the major arterial road through north Wales, and around 90 minutes from Manchester or Liverpool.
Value for money
Ninety-minute surfing lessons for beginners cost £50 (£40 off-peak) for adults and £35 (£30) for children, including board hire. Hour-long surfing sessions for beginners without tuition cost from £30 (£20 off-peak) for adults and £25 (£15) for children. Wetsuit hire is £5.
It’s not cheap but is still good value: because waves come regularly you do improve quickly. Crash and Splash lagoon sessions cost £25 (£15 off-peak) or £20 (£10) if purchased with a surfing session. Camping pods cost £100 a night for three or four people and £70 for a couple, including a good breakfast. Entry to the complex and parking are free.
The surf lagoon is open 10am until sunset, seven days a week. The restaurant/cafe/bar are open from 8am until last orders in the bar, at 11pm.
Robert Penn is the author of The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees (Penguin). To order a copy for £8.49, visit bookshop.theguardian.com