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Meet the engine behind Scotland’s newest surf spot

In June Wavegarden Scotland announced that the country’s first wave pool received planning permission from the powers that be in Edinburgh. Work will soon begin to transform Craigpark Quarry near Ratho into a Cove facility with an opening date sometime late Spring 2021.

Andy Hadden, like Andrew Ross of Urbnsurf, Nick Hounsfield of The Wave and Andy Ainscough of Adventure Parc Snowdonia, is the mental engine behind this project that will transform an empty mining site into a surf destination and transform the local economy.

As we’ve learned in the wave pool business, it takes a certain type of individual to see the whole thing through. If we were to create any of the above mentioned mavericks in a lab, the core ingredients would include an addiction to surfing, a fair bit of obsessive compulsive disorder, stubborn-headed drive and the simultaneous vision to grasp the big picture.

We found these bits and more in Andy Hadden, the project’s managing director. Andy also gifted us possibly the best wave-pool building mantra to date: “Nothing has been done before until it’s been done.”

Read on to discover who is driving Scotland’s first wave pool.

wavegarden scotland artist drawing

What is your surfing background?

I fell in love with waves as a 7-year old while my father was on a one year teaching exchange programme that took us from Edinburgh in Scotland to the Gold Coast in Australia. Apparently asking how big the waves were became a daily obsession. Only later in life did I realise that we had some pretty impressive waves local to me in Scotland and that a good wetsuit keeps you warm. Since then I’ve been surfing the south east coast of Scotland, generally alone, for the past 15 years.

How does your background or personality help with what you do each day?

Having played rugby and other sports all my life it became clear the contact base built up over these years spanned all ages, demographics and professional sectors. Enough so that these relationships could drive the diligence that’s required to spearhead a project of this scale. If our board need advice, the chances are we’ll have someone well qualified and close to us that can provide it. And if we don’t, then we’ll know someone who knows someone that does. My wider family is also sociable and supportive, and they’ve helped me figure things out when facing the many challenges a project like this presents.

Share with us one moment when you thought you were nuts for doing this – meaning, what are the biggest challenges?

I live and breathe this project, hold all the information, and am my own worst critic. If a number sounds wrong we cross check it, if something doesn’t look right we analyse it and sensitise the outcomes. And even then we can only be certain of one thing – our predictions wont be exactly correct. So that’s where hedging the business plan and allowing for flexibility comes in, not to mention passion and attitude.

The main personal challenge has been managing the balance between leaving a job I enjoyed in 2017 and that supported my family financially, to set up not only Wavegarden Scotland but a co-working business in my local town called the Lighthouse Business Centre. Explaining this rationale to my wife has been tricky at times, but she’s been supportive throughout, and the success of the business centre project has helped me allay any concerns over this much larger project.

Conversely, name another moment when you heard angels singing a rainbow appeared and you knew for certain that this is your path in your life.

When our predictions in the early years regarding the sector, the technology, the proof of concept and the Olympic movement all came true. But really I knew it was game on ever since my first wave at Wavegarden HQ out in Spain in 2013.

wavegarden scotland drawing

What advice would you give to someone who wants to embark on this very same journey? 

You need multiple components before contemplating how sweet the beer will taste onsite. Aside from growing a thick skin, these fundamentals are land, exclusivity, funding, planning permission, local permits and a business plan for operation. This process needs to be communicated clearly to all those on your team, and many outside your team, daily, over years. Relationships and home advantage are a head start, and make sure you are trustworthy. Do not lie, try not to exaggerate, use supporting evidence at all stages, and equally never let yourself be overpowered by a fruitless argument on the basis something ‘hasn’t been done before’.  Nothing has been done before until it’s been done. If the evidence is there, move forwards and don’t be scared.

This process will take years. One of these components on their own is pointless – they’re all essential, and there’s no shortcuts. So if you treat the project like a very long and challenging game of chess, treating each opponent and hurdle with respect, but have the courage in your convictions and diligence, then eventually a checkmate can be reached.

When everything is finished, who gets the first wave?

Someone we value.

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