095: Nick Hounsfield/The Man Behind The Wave
“Having a real purpose that has an impact on the world means no one thinks it’s a crazy idea. Everybody immediately asks ‘how I can I help you?’, because everyone wants it”.
I’m back! After an unscheduled few weeks off. And I got right back into it with a visit to Bristol, where I was shown around the new Wave site by Nick Hounsfield, the man behind the entire project.
Like most British surfers I’ve been following the story of the Wave for a good few years now, and I’ve long been intrigued by Nick’s role in the whole escapade. Sure, it’s about building the facility itself. But on another level, it’s a classic ‘if you build it, they will come’ story of one man and his unlikely vision.
Rich territory for a podcast conversation indeed, so with the project close to completion and the first waves about to flow, I headed down to Bristol to meet Nick and dig into his whole story.
The result is a conversation that covers a lot of diverse, emotional ground. Because the Wave is much more than a story about – well – a wave. There’s a deeper purpose at play, and a wider community vision for which surfing is the vehicle.
And there’s another level to this, too – the implications of such developments for surfing as a whole, and what it will mean for our oldest and most jealously protected sideways culture.
So yeah, a lovely weighty chat this, conducted on site a few weeks before UK surf culture changes for good. Hope you can forgive the background noise, and enjoy this unique insight into the man behind The Wave. Listen here:
- Recording on the 75 acre site.
- “We found a couple of Roman bodies and a whole load of silver coins”.
- Formerly working in healthcare.
- Bringing the community together.
- Musings from life-related stress.
- The original Wave Garden video.
- Driven by purpose.
- When he thought The Wave wouldn’t happen.
- Planning permission.
- The 250m-wide shoreline and its different waves.
- “It’s like taking a slice out of the ocean and dropping it in the middle of the field”.
- The technology that works for both beginners and expert surfers.
- When technology needs to match the vision.
- His pointers from Eden Project’s Tim Smit.
- Mentored by Chris Hines.
- ‘Let My People Go Surfing’ by Yvon Chouinard.
- Our attitude towards money and profit.
- Being a Wavemaker.
- Developing the work culture from day one.
- 25 million litres of water through a giant pipe.
- Engineering challenges.
- £4 million and 9 months spent to get the ground ready.
- Making something built to last.
- Finding the right partners and investors.
- The future of surf parks.
- The biggest opportunity when bringing new people to surfing.
- “The fusion between artificial and nature’s classroom”.
- Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch.
- Local reactions.
- “Don’t have a plan B to make sure plan A works”.
- Where optimism takes you.
- “I started the whole thing with £500 in the bank, a big mortgage and 3 kids”.
- Building the A-Team.
- Who will ride the first wave.
- Predictably making unpredictability.
- Expanding to London.
- Knowing when it’s time to stop.
- Dealing with mortality: “We’ve got one shot at this”.