LONDON-The complex, called The Wave, cost £26m to build and can generate up to 1,000 waves an hour.

It provides a gentle swell for aspiring surfers and fast, hollow waves for veteran surfers. Its owners call it “the perfect classroom” to raise awareness of environmental issues such as plastic pollution and carbon emissions.

The surf lake is in the village of Easter Compton, 12 miles north of Bristol city centre. The site covers 75 acres, with the lake itself measuring 180m long and 200m wide.

Alongside raising awareness of environmental issues, those behind The Wave hope to inspire social change. The first people to ride the waves were selected from hundreds of nominees.

They include a group of schoolchildren from central Bristol, some of whom had never seen the sea; Marshall Janson, a youngster from Cornwall who lost his hands and legs to meningitis, and Claire Moodie, who set up the campaign group Plastic Free North Devon.

The complex has also been designed to make the waves accessible to those with even the most severe disabilities. It was Nick Hounsfield’s idea, and it’s taken 10 years to see the first wave break. “We’ve got a real opportunity of getting people, particularly kids, off computers, getting them outdoors, get them interacting with nature, and improving people’s health and wellbeing on a physical and a mental basis,” he said. “That’s the bit that really makes me tick.” Mr Hounsfield admits to being worried what the reaction would be.

“Some of my friends are seasoned environmental campaigners, I was quite worried about building something quite artificial like this, as though it would somehow devalue it,” he said.

“But all of them categorically say we cannot wait for the wave to be open because it will be the perfect classroom for us to be able to get that message out there in a really engaging way.”

The site has been built using as few toxic chemicals as possible. The buildings are timber-clade and insulated with sustainable wood fibre. They’re also fitted with solar thermal panels that pre-heat water to reduce energy use. There are also plans to build infrastructure to allow the site to generate its own power.

Chief executive Craig Stoddart says it’s costing an extra £100,000 a year to use renewable energy. “The idea of helping to acidify the ocean where natural waves come from, that’s crazy - why would you do that? Let’s get a conversation going about this; let’s be responsible as an industry.”

Some 16,000 trees are being planted around the site; wildflower meadows and wetlands are also being created; hedgerows are being restored, and a space for outdoor learning is being developed.

The landscape architect is Ian Richardson. “My brief was to bring kids out of the inner city and play in a natural way - to be kids. Also for older people, to give them space to be in a natural environment.”