Alaïa Bay Offers Surfing in the Heart of Swiss Alps
When people think of the Swiss Alps, surfing probably doesn’t come to mind. Yet, the small city of Sion, Switzerland, nestled beneath the Bernese Alps, is now home to Alaïa Bay, a cutting-edge outdoor artificial surf pool.
Wavegarden is an engineering company in northern Spain specializing in the creation of wave-generating systems and lagoons for surfing and water sports. Alaïa SA develops and manages centers dedicated to action sports like skateboarding, freeskiing, and snowboarding. They’ve come together to create this extraordinary water-based attraction that opened this year in April.
Both companies know that one crucial element in Alaïa Bay’s long-term success is to appeal to not only experienced surfers, but also to families and other casual vacationers just looking for some enticing fun.
“We’ve created a wave menu specifically for Alaïa Bay that is organized into five categories—Waikiki, Malibu, Turns, Barrels, and Air waves,” says Josema Odriozola, founder and CEO of Wavegarden. “Here, we have waves of all sizes and degrees of difficulty for everyone across all levels. There are knee-high waves and overhead waves. The technology is so versatile it’s allowed us to create a diverse and truly complete wave menu, an offering like nothing else in the world, which we’re quite proud of.”
The 8,500-square-meter lagoon can throw out almost 20 different wave types, suitable for newcomers to pros training for the Olympics. There are multiple variations of each wave type, and private sessions allow guests to select waves “a la carte” for their skill level.
“It makes it very entertaining and the best way for surfers to feel a combined sense of progression, evolution, and enjoyment,” says Odriozola. “This has a positive influence on repeat visits and the creation of a solid and loyal customer base.”
Flanking the surf pool, which Wavegarden says is the first of its type in mainland Europe, are restaurants, a surf store, and a surf academy. The latter has experienced surf instructors and guides to assist beginners in building their techniques, style, and confidence. Guests wear wetsuits in the surf pool because of the chilly climate in Sion.
Planning and development for Alaïa Bay began five years ago. Getting the pool in the ground was no easy task.
“Switzerland can get very cold, especially in the winter months when temperatures drop to below 0 degrees Celsius with regular snowfall,” says Odriozola. “There was a cold snap this year, and our assembly team worked in frigid conditions and low light.” But the reward is at hand, and waves are now ready to surf not far from the Alps’ most prominent ski resorts.