12.12.2019

GET CLOSER TO NATURE – GO SURFING!

We love finding ways to reconnect to nature and being active in the great outdoors, as well as in our awe-inspiring oceans, just makes us happy humans.

Which is why we love The Wave, a brand-new, inland surfing lake near Bristol designed to be as close to the real thing as possible for when you simply cannot get to the seas; and built entirely with new technology creating over 1000 waves an hour, and all with 100% renewable energy. A true feat of man & technology harnessing the incredible power of nature.

Surfing is a barefoot adventure, so it made total sense for us to get involved and ultimately we share the same vision: bringing people and nature closer together.

We sat down with Asher Clark, Co-founder and Design Director of Vivobarefoot, and Nick Hounsfield, Founder of The Wave, to talk surfing, nature and why bare feet are the best!

 

How did you two meet – and decide to bring The Wave and Vivobarefoot together?

 Asher: I first met the founder Nick Hounsfield through Nick Asheshov, an old friend of mine from my DJing years (ok, ok, also clubbing, truth be told!) and Director of Investments at The Wave.

Back in 2017 we rented a Tesla and all drove to Surf Snowdonia where thewavegarden1.0 was. I caught a few slouchy waves and then we all sped home, talking about the vision for The Wave and charging the car up all the way back to London. Not long after that, the two of them joined forces to create The Wave. There was an obvious synergy from the start, we realised there had to be a way to work together. The plan now is for us at Vivo to be part of The Wave experience, be it by providing healthy, barefoot footwear for their staff, making our footwear available to try on and buy and, yes, I’ll admit, it’s a great excuse for me to work on my backhand Bristol barrel technique…. 

Nick, where did you get the vision for The Wave? Is it close to the reality you’ve now created?

Nick: I spent almost 20 years as a healthcare practitioner and I increasingly saw a lack of holistic thought going into people’s health, their relationship with the planet and each other. Getting many more people get fitter, healthier and happier became my mission. 

As a lifelong surfer I could see that learning to surf and experiencing the power of water, waves and the outdoors could change lives for the better. I then stumbled upon a video from a team of surfing engineers who were bringing surfing inland… that was my eureka moment. An in-land surfing destination that would bring the joy of surfing and its health benefits to people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities….

We’ve only open for a few weeks and I’m already witnessing people who have massively benefited. We’re just at the starting line… and the future is exciting!

 

The Wave is built on the idea that people benefit mentally and physically from spending more time in natural surroundings, and experiencing natural forces. How does this influence you as Design Director at Vivobarefoot?

Asher: At Vivobarefoot our mission is to reconnect people and planet, and for us that starts from the ground up – with our FEET. We believe that people and planetary well-being is totally connected; although most of us are living longer, our urban, sedentary, ‘cushioned’ lifestyles are making us, our feet and our planet pretty bent out of shape. We’re starting to realise the disconnect between our bodies and being in nature – where we’re supposed to be - is affecting both our mental and physical health. No-one needs a man in a white coat to tell them that getting out the city, off the phone and into nature is going to be a good thing!

Everything we do at Vivo is about creating footwear to literally bring you closer to nature, by stripping away the effects of all the padding in ‘normal’ shoes and then designing footwear that lets your feet do what they were designed to do – be feet!

 The future of our products and business is not just about making it sustainable, we want to be earth positive, circular and ultimately regenerative.

I like to think that the effect of footwear like ours, and experiences like The Wave will play a big part in not just peoples’ well-being, but in people valuing nature, which our planet desperately needs right now.

 

How has your respect for nature, the sea and waves influenced how you’ve built The Wave, Nick?

Nick: An integral part of our authenticity is to have minimal visual and environmental impact on the space, as it’s greenbelt land. We are going above and beyond to minimise our environmental impact and maximise social impact and ensure we are financially profitable… keeping a good balance.

We decided to design a space with as much flexibility as possible, so that we don’t have to do expensive and resource-hungry retro-fitting down the line to ultimately see our whole site come off-grid.

We already have solar thermal panels to heat the hot water for our building and an air source heat exchanger. Our building itself has been built to be as energy efficient as we were able and made of materials which have been considered from a carbon footprint perspective. Our food is responsibly sourced and local wherever possible. Our retail offer has been manufactured ethically and is based on reduce, reuse, recycle principles. We manage our waste responsibly with a company called Geneco. 

We are also planting 16,000 trees, 500m of new hedgerow and wildflower meadows, all of which will dramatically improve the biodiversity of what was formerly low-grade agricultural land. 

The concept of biomimicry 100% influenced the design of the lake. The engineers and design team at Wavegarden have taken the principles of the perfect, flawless reef break that so many of us would travel to the other side of the world to experience, and there are two major components to make that happen… firstly creating a controllable pulse of wave energy that mimics the energy you get from the long-distance groundswell generated by the oceans. Secondly, a perfectly contoured lake bottom which replicates a coral reef you’d get in the ocean. Water clarity and purity is also an important factor, and while we’re “Low in Salt” we believe the way the water looks is so important to create an authentic-looking and feeling surf destination.

 

Asher, your whole world is about getting more people barefoot and in to nature – where does this come from and does your own surfing influence this philosophy?

Asher: Absolutely. I first tried surfing as a skinny 8-year-old kid in a small town in south Devon called Bantham where my family have been holidaying for generations. I had these 8-week long summers there surfing, in boats, tidal swimming and running around… all barefoot. I now know how valuable all that barefoot time in nature was for me.

As a designer my barefoot journey started much later when I started learning from Lee Saxby, he started me off on everything I know today about the feet, kinetics (forces) kinematics (shapes) natural movement and the effects the shoe has on all of this.

There are sports like boxing, gymnastics and martial arts where foot dexterity and feeling are totally understood and valued – this is absolutely the case with surfing too! There’s no doubt there’s a powerful connection between surfing and barefoot performance. A strong, wide, natural-shaped foot that isn’t bent out of shape by traditional shoes is clearly going to be better for surfing, right?

Ultimately, your feet have the same amount of nerve endings as your hands, and like hands, they’re designed to feel. Feet are perfect bits of kit with a key role as movement sensors, getting information to the brain so we can move naturally and skillfully.

And I know it can sound a little hippy, but if you’re a surfer you just know… spending time in the sea feeling the force of nature through waves is a profound experience.

 

Are people going to be able to experience this at The Wave? And do you think the experience will help people become active in looking after our environment?

Nick: To me surfing to me is about having fun. Simple as that. Surfing helps me have fun by challenging me, humbling me, helping me learn, getting me fitter, immersing me in an element which makes me feel alive and also providing me with a different natural rhythm. Surfing can flip my mood 180 degrees, help me reflect and gives me time.

People visiting The Wave may well feel similar emotions, maybe they will have a totally different and unique experience, but above all it will be fun. Happiness is everything.

I think The Wave will inspire people and feel familiar - it’s like being by the sea and creates an important link to the ocean and coastal environments. It allows us to tell stories and educate people about protecting these precious habitats. We’re also able to have honest conversations about how we consume, recycle, reuse and generally try to be more conscious of our impact on the planet. We aren’t perfect by any means, but we really want to walk that journey with our visitors so that together we make a positive impact and create hope for the future.

ASHER at Surf Snowdonia

 

Asher and Nick, what advice would you give a first-time surfer, or to someone who says they’re too shy to try it out? 

Asher: Wear it with pride and be humble as it will take a bit of time to get going. Better that than being all the gear and no idea! The feeling you get in the water and riding a wave never fades… I think it was Laird Hamilton that said, ‘you only catch the waves that you paddle for.’ It’s a pretty accurate life lesson for all of us!

Nick: Never be shy, there is a surfer in all of us! I’ve been watching surfers for over a month now at The Wave and one thing is absolutely consistent: every single surfer falls off the board. Falling over is what we do. The most important thing is having the determination to get up and try it again with a smile on your face. 

That’s a great metaphor for life, and that’s the power of surfing….

Vivobarefoot are working with the team at The Wave providing their staff with barefoot footwear to keep their feet connected to the ground, while visiting surfers will be able to try out and buy shoes on site.

Enter our Vivo x Wave competition to win a weekend break surfing now.

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