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Alaia Bay takes the wind-tunnel training model to the surf

Alaia Bay CEO Vincent Van Laethem about the similarities between a wind tunnel and a wave pool. 

One element comes up in every conversation with wave pools, and that is the element of progression. That is radical, rapid progression. It stands to reason that consistent surfing a wave pool will result in rapid progression because the waves are always the same per each pool setting. 

In theory, one could learn how to surf at Alaïa Bay and go through every stage of surfing there until they have that level totally figured out. This progression could go all the way to the expert sessions. In a sport of movement, of speed and gravity, a wave pool is the most stable and consistent format, the most settled and unvarying playing field for surfing.

This sort of playing field will increase skill growth through repetition and practice. Surfers will be secure in the knowledge that for that particular pool setting, the waves are going to do the exact same thing for every 55-minute session.

There are an estimated 45,000 surfers in Switzerland. With regular waves breaking at Alaia Bay, there will be even more.

Van Laethem has first -hand experience in this learning process. In 2003 he was hands-on in the development of an indoor sky diving facility. “It changed the sky diving community,” recalls Laethem. “The wind tunnel perfectly mimicked the same air stream as if you were sky diving. This obviously led to accelerated learning processes.”

In the past, learner skydiver would need to learn what they could on the ground, and when they were ready, they would need to go to 12,000 feet, jump, and learn what they could in 60 seconds.”

The indoor facility meant that enthusiasts could walk into the facility and go straight into the wind tunnel for a 15-minute session. Similarly, the indoor mountain climbing walls started popping up, where climbers could practice quickly and safely. At their relevant inceptions, both the wind tunnel and the climbing walls were disruptors to their respective sports. 

“We haven’t seen it happen yet, but it’s possible that surfing will have some young 15-year-old prodigy who is totally brought up surfing a wave pool.”

People could walk in, and after a few sessions at the facility, they would be able to skydive. This knocked years off the learning curve and saw young skydivers become incredibly proficient in their sports in record times.   

“This is exactly what could happen at wave Pools,” said Van Laethem. “We haven’t seen it happen yet, but it’s possible that surfing will have some young 15-year-old prodigy who is totally brought up surfing a wave pool.”

He sees a very similar business model coming into play at Alaia Bay as it did at the indoor sky diving facility. “We expect experienced surfers and newcomers to come to Alaia Bay, and we think they will both have an incredible experience here.”  

Van Laethem is also totally focused on the quality of the experience that visitors will enjoy. The initial experience, he explains, will make conversions and see people return to Alaia Bay.

The cold, crystal clear waves of Alaia Bay will sharpen the surf-learning curve for countries like Switzerland.

While Alaïa Bay founder Adam Bonvin has been focused on the pool’s opening, Van Laethem has been focused on ensuring that visitors experience high standards.

“Alaïa Bay will have the best staff, the best attitudes, and a visit will be an absolutely premium experience,” said Van Laethem.

“We have a hotel here, and it is also of top quality, offering both a youth hotel option as well as family rooms,” said Van Laethem. “We have facilities for mountain-bikers, for skateboarders, for climbers as well as for surfers. It really is going to have something for everyone.”

Right now, everyone is waiting for the official opening. The pool is busy being tested, the facilities like the surf shop, the Twin Fin Bistro, restaurant and the surfboard factory are all preparing for their respective opening days. It is estimated that there are 45,000 surfers in Switzerland. It seems like most of them are heading for Alaïa Bay. 

Alaia Bay CEO Vincent Van Laethem

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