How a wave pool became the social glue for a group of bodyboarders

The unsung virtue of wave pools is that they create communities. In countries with a board riding club culture like Australia, it’s a natural transition from salted to machine waves. In unlikely places like Hawaii where waves are plentiful, Wai Kai has become a central gathering point for the Island’s surfers. And Bristol? Well Bristol is unique. The surf park found a groove with local surfers from up and down the fickle UK coastline. Consistent waves proved to be a magnet for groups wanting to surf and enjoy a club meet-up. At just two years of age one of the longest-running clubs in the wave pool world is the Bristol Bodyboarders Club. We spoke with founding member Grant Britton to discover how it all came about and how a wave pool acts as a social glue in this community.

Bristol Bodyboarders Club
Bristol Bodyboarders Club meetups are big affairs, drawing members from all across the UK. All photos supplied by the Bristol Bodyboarders Club

How did the Bristol Bodyboarders Club come about?

It sprouted after Covid, with restrictions still in place myself and my cousin opted to start using The Wave. It wasn’t long before we started to regularly bump into the same faces and start chatting. Paul (my cousin) couldn’t believe there were a few likeminded people locally as he’d rode for most of his adult life alone not knowing many in the sport. From there I set up an instagram page and slowly started building ‘members’ from the wave. Just riders who wanted to enjoy a good positive session. In May 2022 we affiliated ourself as a club to Surfing England, with each member paying a membership fee. 

How many members are you and does the group have a diverse range of experience?

Currently we have 66 paid members from the Bristol and surrounding regions. We have a number of members from all over though with guys travelling from Cornwall, Northampton and Reading regularly for meets. Skill levels range vastly within the club but it’s been amazing to see everyone welcome each other in and continue to push and develop each other. We have members from all over the world in the club including South Africans, Portuguese, England & Australia. 

Bristol Bodyboarders Club

What does becoming a member of the Bristol Bodyboarders Club entail? Secret rites? Stonehenge ceremonies?

Stonehenge ceremonies will be brought in this year… For us the club was always about giving positive people from the area an opportunity to ride together. We want to make sure that anyone who rides regardless of skill level feels comfortable enough to try new things and express themselves in the sport. No judgements passed, we have some sick experienced riders and the most amazing thing at monthly meets is to see how excited they get seeing someone push themselves to try new things. We’re a welcoming group and as long as members are positive & happy to not cast judgement on others that’s all we ask. 

Once someone’s a member, what’s involved and what do you do?

So those that are paid members are invited to our monthly meets, these generally are at The Wave but we are hoping to push more coastal this winter to give riders a bit of variety. Our WhatsApp group is a busy community of riders trading tips/pointers/location advice abroad/kit & equipment. 

Bristol Bodyboarders Club

Would this club be possible without having a wave pool nearby?

I think there would be pockets of people who would eventually meet at coastal sessions when the swell hits but personally I don’t think Bristol would have a bodyboard club without a wave pool. 

Anything else to add?

The sport in the UK is certainly have a resurgence. Its is very much dominated by older guys at present thanks to its popularity in the 80’s/90’s and we hope to help it grow further by bringing the sport to younger audiences in our area and at the wave pool.