Story by Fernanda Hurtado Ortiz
MADRID–Perfect 6-and-half-foot waves, a health-food café, a surf school and shop and chilled-out bars will be some of the features of a landlocked beach 40 minutes away from the center of the bustling Spanish capital of Madrid.
The project, Wet Madrid, was officially announced on April 9 and is scheduled to open in the summer of 2016. The goal is to create a tropical escape in Madrid, not just for those interested in surfing but for people who crave a beach experience in a city that has nothing of the sort.
Borja Camblor, 26, co-founder and chief financial officer of Wet Madrid, is also a surfer and said the idea for the lagoon first arose due to a variety of aspects, mainly a passion for the sport. Those who love it have to travel nearly four and a half hours to the north coast in order to catch a decent wave.
“The idea was produced through a combination of a passion for surf and an entrepreneurial mind, after a night full of investigation after first seeing a video of artificial waves produced by technology,” Camblor said, remembering back to 2013 when the idea initially came up. “It comes from past experience of traveling all the way north and not having good conditions, which are essential for surf yet hard to find and through this project that will now be guaranteed.”
Set to be located in the neighborhood of Hortaleza, next to Feria de Madrid, the city’s international trade fair and exhibition center, and about four miles away from Barajas Airport, Wet Madrid will feature a 164-foot-long and 590-foot-wide artificial wave pool that will pump 60 waves per hour, ranging between 1.5 and 7.2 feet with each ride lasting approximately 25 seconds. It will also feature a 65,000-foot beach that will accommodate 5,000 people. It will be accesible by two different metro stops, bus and car.
Today, that area is just open land with dirt and scrub brush.
The company behind the project’s artificial waves is Wavegarden, an engineering technology firm located in the Basque region, which is in northern Spain, bordering the Atlantic Ocean and France.
Felipe Verger, Wavegarden’s press manager for the 10-year old company, said the organization, which is the market leader in innovative wave-generating technologies, does not seek to replace nature but instead create accessible and perfect surfing conditions for people who are not near any water.
“It is a way for people who like surfing or would like to try surfing but who live far from the ocean or have limited surfing seasons to be able to experience it. The majority of our 18 clients are installations which are far away from the ocean,” Verger said. “Wavegarden does not try to compete with natural waves. We know, since we live close to the waves and the ocean, that natural waves have a series of aspects which Wavegarden cannot provide, like the landscape and the ocean’s beauty. But we are trying to create something alike in a setting which otherwise would be impossible.”
Madrid is home to the third largest population of all European Union cities, after Berlin and London, and according to an economic study by Madrid’s city council, in 2011 Madrid registered 8.3 million visitors. The Spanish capital offers a range of cultural and historical attractions, yet lacks a body of water like its Spanish city competitors, Barcelona and Valencia. In 2016, tourists will be able to get the well-rounded experience they are searching for during their stay in Madrid.
“I don’t know that much since it is a privately funded project but obviously any added tourism asset will be beneficial for Madrid,” said Francisco Rivero, technical director of media at Turespaña, an organization that promotes Spain as a tourist destination. “Once it is up and running and if it is successful, it will surely benefit Madrid as a whole.”
Recently, Madrid has become home to several surfing communities and a newly formed surfing team. Joaquín Cotta, owner of La Madrileña Surf, the first surfing school in Madrid founded in 2011, and member of the Spanish Federation of Surf, said his business operates by going to the coast every weekend and summer for surf camps.
“It began three years ago and what we have always done is to promote surfing in Madrid by primarily offering trips,” Cotta said. “All of our business that we have in the north is located in Cantabria because it is the closest beach from Madrid and is on a direct highway without any toll booths, which is very appreciated.”
For Cotta, life as a surfer in Madrid is complicated since he lives with the constant urge to hit the water. He believes both his business and passion will benefit from Wet Madrid.
“We are hoping to take part in their surfing school since we are the first surfing school to have risen from Madrid,” Cotta said. “Advanced surfers will now be able to satisfy their surfing urge and at the same time perfect his technique and have that constant contact with their favorite sport and passion.”
Borja Hernández, co founder of UP Surf Club, a surfing community in Madrid founded in 2012, said he believes the project will be a good way of getting people to experience surfing comfortably before heading to the ocean for a more realistic experience.
“Wet Madrid will be like the first experience with surfing, very comfortable, so people are going to learn easily because you don’t have a tide and all the kinds of stuff that make surfing difficult and you can focus on the technique of surfing,” Hernández said. “Nobody wants to surf every day in a pool so I think they are going to look for another experience now in the ocean and hopefully I am going to be there with Wet Madrid to help organize all these second experiences, practicing in the ocean in real conditions.”
Wet Madrid will not be Wavegarden’s first use of their tidal technology. The first installation using such methods will open this summer in the north of Wales and will be called Surf Snowdonia, an outdoor adventure resort. Also, Wavegarden announced in early June that it will be collaborating with American entrepreneur Doug Coors, CEO of NLand Surf Park, to open a state-of-the-art surfing facility in Austin, Texas.
Hernández said though he worries people who try surfing in the ocean will be overwhelmed after surfing in the safer environment of Wet Madrid, he is happy that there will be a local option for him and his fellow athletes.
“The surf community has been increasing a lot here in Madrid because surfing is in fashion. Everybody wants to surf and young people are looking at surfing as a cool sport they can partake in,” Hernández said. “I don’t know if they will continue to surf after having a first unique experience through Wet Madrid, but at least people will look more for surfing because we are going to have perfect waves in the middle of the city, which is crazy.”