THE WAVEGARDEN GODDESS
YOU NEVER KNOW WHERE YOU'LL END IN THIS SURFING LIFE. PEMBROKESHIRE PRO JO DENNISON SWAPPED CHASING TOUR POINTS FOR A NINE TO FIVE WITH A DIFFERENCE.
What’s your official title? Water Operations Manager.
How did you score the job?
I was visiting the prototype near San Sebastian in 2014 with my coach Martin Waltz when I found out that they'd started building one in North Wales and it instantly fuelled my interest. Could you imagine the first ever Wave Garden opening in your home country and being involved? I mean, it could have been done anywhere but instead it was in the valleys of North Wales.
Were you nervous about moving from West Wales to the North?
After finishing university in Swansea I started chasing the summers for endless sunshine and waves. I spent eight months in France competing in any of the WQS events I could. And in the winter travelling all over, living the dream some would say. Making another move wouldn’t be a problem, however moving nine miles inland for effectively an office job definitely made me nervous.
Is part of your job making sure Surf Snowdonia’s wave is surfable every morning? Every morning starts with a risk assessment and surf check. It is very important to know the facilities are safe before letting the customers in…
Are you one of the few people in the world pretty much guaranteed waves every day?
I have had to change my mind set a little bit because I used to spend six to eight hours in the water a day. That’s 40 plus hours a week. I currently surf about four or five hours a week now, but actually the amount of waves I ride is higher. It is so reliable and consistent it actually feels like a gym session or a proper training session. Sometimes I get 37 waves an hour, really giving me the opportunity to ‘train’ manoeuvres. I would have to say I am one of the luckiest people in the surfing industry to have a Wave Garden as my office.
The whole operation seems to be running like a well-oiled machine?
I think that everyone was really quick to judge when we first installed the machinery and ran into some unexpected problems. Due to the scale of the project and it being the first commercial Wave Garden in the world, it is natural that it takes some time to find systems that work both operationally and mechanically. The engineers do a really good job. It's like running a massive car: giving it regular MOT and checking your tyres but on a huge scale.
How is it going back in the ocean now, do you have to adjust?
When I go back in the ocean, it definitely takes time to adjust, over time I have turned into a wavepool surfer. My equipment is completely different, the rules are different and also the timings. It is more difficult to practice a specific move in the ocean, getting two or three waves in an hour is more likely than the 37 I am now used to!
What’s on for the winter break?
I spent the last two winters in Indonesia, one on a boat trip in the Mentawi with some of the WQS girls which was the best trip of my life. Another winter at Lakeys which is like a natural wave garden. I would like to stay closer to home in Europe this year, let me know if you’ve got a space on a trip!