Alaïa Bay Guide: Travel, Tips, Prices and Settings
In this guide to surfing Switzerland’s best wave pool, we provide helpful hints including prices, wave settings, best travel options, where to stay and more.
One of the most unique surfing destinations on planet earth. Nestled in the heart of the Alps, Alaïa Bay offers surfers a bucket-list experience in a natural setting with views of snowy peaks and vineyards. Alaia Bay built their wave pool last year, persevering through a pandemic and, yes just like Swiss clockwork, opened up on time.
The pool is unique in the world of Wavegarden Coves. It’s more compact but a smaller footprint doesn’t limit ride time because there is no whitewater bay section. Consequently, beginners get a more intimate open-faced wave experience with instructors. If you’re an expert, your Beast Mode session will only have other advanced surfers in the lineup.
To bring you the lowdown we spoke with Vincent Riba of Alaïa Bay who provided us with insider advice on how to make the most of your visit plus a few extra perks…
The Surf Scene in Switzerland
It is strange to think that Switzerland has an Olympic surfing team. Surfing (in one form or another) is done in rivers (Bremgarten or Thun for example), in lakes (Leman or Neuchâtel during strong winds), or in rapid wave pools (Zurich or Lucerne). The Swiss Federal Statistical Office counts about 40’000 surfers who travel for their sport. “It is not very surprising that the Swiss love this sport,” says Vincent. “Skiing and snowboarding are as much a part of Swiss culture as fondue or raclette cheese. The practice of these snow sports is very similar to surfing and there are many windsurfers as well. Let’s hope that with Alaïa Bay, we can have a new generation of surfers who may one day participate in WSL competitions.”
Along with the nature walks into the Alps and fondue tasting, Sion is home to architectural wonders Chateau de Tourbillon, the Valère Basilica and the Cathédrale Notre-Dame du Glarier.
Getting to Alaïa Bay
If you’re traveling internationally, the closest airports are Geneva and Milan. From the Geneva airport, there are trains every 30 minutes to Sion. Both train and driving from Geneva Airport take about two hours. From the Sion train station to Alaia Bay it’s a 20-minute bus ride or you can take a cab if you’re schlepping a coffin bag stuffed with boards. From the Milan airport, it is three hours by train and/or car to Alaia Bay.
Staying at Alaïa Bay
In Sion there are several hotels averaging between $100-$250 for a Saturday night stay. Vincent recommended checking prices on the Tourist Office website.
There are also two campsites close to Alaïa Bay including a surf camp. Set in a uniquely Swiss surf theme the TCS campsite is a five-minute walk from the wave pool. It opened just this year and offers camping cabins and tents with names like “Jeffrey’s Bay”. The Alaïa group will also offer stays at the resort of Crans-Montana (20min away by car). The Alaïa Lodge hotel will open at the end of November/beginning of December and will offer double rooms, dormitories for several people and a suite.
Temperature & elevation
Sion sits at 500meters elevation or 1,700 feet above sea level. It’s adjacent to some of Europe’s best skiing and bid on a few occasions (unsuccessfully) for Winter Olympic hosting rights. The deep winter daily average temp is 32F (0C). Transition seasons in spring and autumn hover in the 60s (15C).
Switzerland is not so cold as people think and the Valais region is very sunny. So don’t forget sunscreen to avoid sunburn.
Alaïa Bay is totally unique for several reasons. First off, it’s the only commercial pool in continental Europe using Wavegarden Cove technology. In addition, this is the first time that Wavegarden has implemented a wave pool without the “Bay” part of the Cove for beginners. The Wave and Urbnsurf have a larger footprint with dedicated whitewater and learner bay areas. At Alaïa Bay, all sessions, from beginners to pros, take place at the “Reef” part of the pool. Due to this structure, there is a different skill-level session each hour. So, advanced and beginning surfers don’t share the pool at the same time.
Vincent says that the wave pool’s controlled environment is perfect for those hesitant to take up the sport. “In the ocean, some people are afraid of not being able to touch the bottom or of being swept away by currents,” says Vincent. “These factors disappear in a wave pool.” For all beginner sessions, a foam surfboard and wetsuit are included in the hourly surf price.
Alaïa Bay offers a few intermediate wave options including the Waikiki, Malibu and Advanced wave settings. But Vincent says they will have a new offering soon. “My favorite wave setting is the new intermediate session that will be open soon to the public. It’s fun, you can cruise on a longboard but also improve your turns. It’s easy to share this type of session with all your buddies.”
For the experienced surfer, Alaïa Bay recommends spending more than one day, taking on only a couple sessions each day (Beast Mode is tiring) and doing sightseeing in the area between surfs.
Session prices at Alaïa Bay are the same for all the different wave settings which include Waikiki, Malibu, Advanced, Expert, Pro and Beast Mode. But that price will vary according to when you book your session. Season, day of the week and time of day all factor in. Fortunately, it’s not a confusing algorithm but a simple three-tier price structure: Peak, Normal, and Best. Peak times are the busiest slots while Normal is your average weekday rate. Best describes the lowest cost time to surf and could prove to be a good value as things in Switzerland tend to cost more than elsewhere in Europe. Hourly prices for adults run between $120 – $160US. Check for bulk-buy discount packs. You can check all prices on the Alaia Bay website here.
Alaïa Bay rents foam boards, intermediate shapes and high-performance shortboards. To keep you warm they have the whole range of wetsuit rentals from summer jackets to full winter kits including booties, gloves and hoods. They offer protective gear, helmets and life jackets at no extra charge.
There’s a Boardriders surf shop stocked with Firewire Surfboards and other brands along with all the little extras you might need for your session. The Twin Fin bar and restaurant offers Poke bowls and other dishes found in surf-rich locations. If you sit out on the large terrace (they don’t take reservations so plan early) you can watch all the action in the pool below. If you’re feeling crafty you can even shape your own board in The Factory.