If there is a tableau that currently symbolizes where surfing is at right now, and where's it headed, it might be Zeke Lau, performing a backflip, in a pool, at night, with a backdrop of the snow-covered Swiss Alps.
The Hawaiian recently traveled to test a new Wavegarden facility at Alaïa Bay, Switzerland, ahead of its opening on May 1. This will be the fifth Wavegarden facility open to the public, and like the recently opened park in South Korea, features new improved barrel and air sections.
"I've probably only done two backflips ever, and so I really worked on the technique," Lau told the WSL. "Each one I learned a bit more, about the timing and how to tweak my body, and by the end I landed four or five in a row. I just felt I got better at surfing, which is a rare feeling." Rumors that he completed a new maneuver called "The Swiss Roll" is yet to be substantiated.
Lau had traded the boardshorts and warm water of winter in Hawaii, for the hoods, gloves, and booties of the new venue located in Sion, that sits 1,500 feet above sea level. While some of the worlds best ski resorts are within easy reach, he instead spent most of his time doing reps on the air section.
"I ended running out of airs I knew how to do. I was doing straight airs with single grabs, then air reverse with and without grabs, with slob grabs and lien airs," Lau said. "Then I worked on my rotations, even a superman for a bit of fun, so there was so much I learned. Any surfer that comes here will improve."
Lau was joined by some of Europe's best surfers including Aritz Aranburu, Andy Criere, and Maud Le Car. Unlike Zeke, Le Car concentrated more on getting barreled. "I am really grateful that I came here to train and now I am going back to France with more confidence and knowledge especially in the barrel," said Le Car afterwards. "I can head now chase bigger barrels at La Graviere".
Le Car was true to her word, though after a week of pulling into some of the biggest barrels of her life in February, she then broke her ankle towing into a bomb in Hossegor.
However, unlike France, with its 6,000 miles of Mediterranean and Atlantic coastline, Switzerland is landlocked. That means the estimated 45,000 Swiss surfers have had to travel to get their surfing fix. With this being the first wave pool in mainland Europe though, and a truly unique surf destination, that pilgrimage might soon be reversed.
"Switzerland is a country that has practically everything, although it was missing a wave," said Adam Bonvin, founder of Alaïa Bay. "Now we have a local surf spot to which everyone is invited."