THE WAVE GARDEN GODDESS
You never know where you’ll end up in this surfing life. Pembrokeshire pro Jo Dennison swapped chasing tour points for a nine-to-five with a difference.
Jo, what’s your official job title?
Water Operations Manager at Surf Snowdonia.
How did you score the job?
I was visiting the prototype wave garden near San Sebastian in 2014 with my coach Martin Waltz, who was running a project on the wave for his Master’s Degree. I’d heard that they’d already started building one in North Wales, which 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 in any of the alreadyfamous surfing destinations of Australia or America, but instead it was in the valleys of North Wales.
Is part of your job making sure that Surf Snowdonia’s wave is surfable each day?
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… You may have noticed the staff surf sessions in the mornings.
Would you agree that in the world of the surf industry, you are one of the few people in the world pretty much guaranteed waves every day?
I have had to change my mind-set a bit, because I used to spend six to eight hours in the water each 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 that 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, are you ever worried something is going to break with the tech?
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 took some time to find systems that work both operationally and mechanically. The engineers do a really good job, doing daily checks and dives to find any potential issues before they happen. It is literally like running a massive car – giving it a regular MOT and checking your tyres, but on a grand scale.
How is it going back in the ocean now, do you have to adjust?
When I get back in the ocean it definitely takes time to adjust; over time I have turned into a wave-pool 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!