World’s only inland community surf club is thriving in the Conwy Valley
Less than two years after its launch the world’s only inland community surf club – Clwb Syrffio Dyffryn Conwy – is celebrating an array of achievements, including helping six of its members find employment at one of the UK’s most exciting adventure destinations.
The club, which was born out of a partnership between the community, local charity The Outdoor Partnership, Conwy County Borough Council and Surf Snowdonia, is based at Surf Snowdonia – the world-first inland surf lagoon in the heart of the Conwy Valley, North Wales. It offers low cost surf coaching to youngsters aged 8 to 18.
“We founded the club with an emphasis on inclusion and we welcome members of all abilities and aptitudes, but we don’t see why that isn’t compatible with a strong development ethos” said Jon Williams, the club secretary. “It’s an opportunity to equip our youngsters with all sorts of transformational life skills, surfing is really just the start of it.”
It is an approach that has already delivered significant results. Six of the club’s members – Lewis Smith, Tomos Land, Kiana Brown, Finn Watkins, Cara Michael and Adam Hutin – have passed nationally recognised lifeguarding and first aid qualifications supported by the club and its partners. They are now employed by Surf Snowdonia in a variety of roles.
Adam, 17, started work at Surf Snowdonia’s wetsuit stores in July 2018 and hopes to progress on to the lifeguard team later this season. He said: “We’ve learnt loads of skills in surfing, lifeguarding, first aid and customer services. It feels like a huge opportunity, and it’s such a relaxed, friendly place. It could definitely be a career starter.”
Lucy Farrell, 13, says surfing with the club has helped her better manage the stress of exams and schoolwork. She said: “I love it, it gives me true happiness. It really has given me a real break away from school. All the stress just goes when I’m out there on the wave.”
Clwb Syrffio’s members, who currently number 26 boys and 20 girls, meet at 8am every Saturday morning to train on Surf Snowdonia’s man-made waves. Surf Snowdonia donates its waves and equipment to the club without charge, and club members are coached by volunteers from Surf Snowdonia’s coaching team. Membership is £12.50 per year per child and then £5 per week for coaching.
Gags Jones, from Dolgarrog, said:
“My daughters Ruby and Grace are keen members. At first Grace was very apprehensive and scared of the waves, but she has now progressed to getting up on her board and really enjoys it. Ruby surfs on the intermediate wave and it is the highlight of her week. The club offers a fantastic opportunity for local children to learn to surf and gain water confidence at an affordable price. They are given excellent advice and tips from the surf instructors and coaches.”
Club Secretary Jon Williams added:
“Parents tell us all the time what a positive impact being part of the club has had on their children. For some it has helped them to focus more and knuckle down at school, for others it has helped to overcome fairly significant self-confidence issues. And now six of our members are over the moon to have jobs at a place and in an environment they really love. You could never put a value on the difference it has made to their lives.”
Justin Everley, a North Walian who returned from two decades living in Australia to join Surf Snowdonia as commercial director, was instrumental in setting up what is now a thriving community club. He said:
“We’re delighted to be able to share our facilities with local kids who might not otherwise have had the opportunity to experience them on a regular basis. We value our position in the community enormously and it has been really gratifying to see an ever-increasing proportion of our staff coming to us from local towns and villages. To have the kids come through the club and on to work with us is the best possible endorsement of what we’re doing.”