By: Alex Murphy
As surf parks continue to open around the world, the access for new potential surfers has grown. Cross-training for surfing is evolving, and the emergence of surf parks makes for a dream situation for riders to improve their skills. This article explores some trends among leading surf/skate cross-training facilities and what the future might bring.
Cross-training and offering a variety of activities can help cement a thriving business model to help surf parks flourish and even benefit their customers.
Combining mixed action sports experiences provides a multiplier effect
Successful organizations like Woodward take the popular sport of snowboarding and combine it with other activities that benefit guests in multiple ways to perfect their passion while securing recurring visitors. Guests can participate in mountain sports like skiing and snowboarding to other activities like skateboarding, gymnastics and even parkour. This model, which focuses heavily on newcomers and training, can be replicated and used in the surf park industry as well.
The range of activities and nonstop action has allowed the company to grow and fulfill its mission of bringing newcomers into the sports Woodward focuses on. The organization can now be found in 11 different locations and range from the mountains of Colorado and Utah to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. While some of these locations are within popular ski resorts, others like Woodward Park City are stand-alone facilities. This location is open year-round with an indoor facility for skateboarding and a trampoline park. Outside you can find mountain biking and other mountain sports.
Woodwards’ website describes it as, “an outdoor innovative environment, consisting of skate, BMX, MTB, scooter and parkour parks. Whether made of dirt, wood or concrete it’s where progression and creativity is limitless.”
Guests will find similarities to the Woodward concept at Wai Kai, one of the newest surf park facilities preparing to open in Hawaii. The facility plans to have expansive mixed-board use offerings as well. While the Shane Beschen connected project has made headlines with its plans to implement the largest deepwater standing wave, by Citywave, at 100 feet wide, it will also feature other activities such as stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, and potentially windsurfing in its 52-acre lagoon.
Like Woodward, Wai Kai also plans to use professional video to help surfers analyze their techniques to improve their form with the help of coaching. Access to the video will allow visitors to see how small changes can significantly enhance their time at the surf park or in the ocean.
The availability of coaching at surf parks will also help drive customer engagement as they are exposed to a tailored experience unlike anything else. Other examples where this has been used can be seen through the work of coaching legends like Rob Case, who has not only worked with WSL champions but now operates out of the Surf Ranch, where he shares his insights into creating the best experience for new visitors to surf parks.
These all-encompassing plans for coaching and cross-training also pertain to Wai Kai’s plans for hosting competitions, something former pro-surfer Beschen says he’s passionate about making happen.
“There’s a lot of skills required when competing in the ocean, but there’s a lot of ‘x factor’ and luck factor as well. There’s a lot of unpredictableness,” said Beschen at the 2021 Surf Park Summit. “For me, as a competitor, I remember looking back at the surf park and thinking that’s really cool. Everyone gets the same waves, and it’s just based off skill.”
Removing weather and the unpredictableness of the ocean remains a subject of discussion in the Olympic world. With surfing now part of the Summer Games, teams like USA used the PerfectSwell Shizunami’s Japan as their training grounds. This shows that creating more amenities for athletes and cross-training is now part of the demand of visitors to these parks.
Cross Training & Coaching Benefits
Although the idea of cross-training isn’t new and coupled with the recent growth of surf parks, it has helped in training the next generation of surfers. That includes Texas-born Erin Brooks, who had a lot of her initial training at wave pools and surf parks and still uses these facilities for training.
“Waves pools have helped me because they’re exactly like a skate park. You can practice things over and over again and have the confidence to bring them to the ocean,” said Brooks at the 2021 Surf Park Summit. “And you have the knowledge of where the section is to go up and hit and how much speed you need. I think it’s definitely helped a lot of people surfing especially younger girls like me.”
Brooks is far from alone in this mindset, and it’s already translating into new opportunities for companies to create better training opportunities. Companies like Aventuur are partnering with organizations like Micro Surf Academy to develop high-performance training centers. Aventuur’s goal is to give surf pros more opportunities to build on their careers as surf parks grow.
Sunshine Makarow, a former member of Team USA, has worked with several coaches over the years and says access to training is a game-changer for her. It has helped her continue to improve even after her professional career—especially when using the elements of wave pools.
“I see it as being just the ultimate training ground. In any sport like baseball, there’s a batting cage. In golf, there’s the driving range. You break it down to each element that you’re trying to do and really focus on the mechanics,” said Makarow while speaking on Beyond the Ocean podcast. “With (ocean) surfing, that can be hard because even if you get to a really good wave, you’ve got to get there, there’s got to be swell, and then there’s a crowd element of waiting your turn. There are just so many unknowns when you go out there and you’re trying to train versus if you have a wave park.”
This evolution in the idea of cross-training is what has fueled the idea behind PUSHparks, a company focused on designing and building skate parks and features to specifically compliment surf parks.
“We’re actually taking a deeper dive into the science of surfing and combining that with the principles of modern skate park design,” said Jason Baldessari in his presentation at the 2021 Surf Park Summit. “So now you have a facility that instead of people running off-site to occupy their time, they now have somewhere to go on site. Not only to keep them there to continue to buy food and beverages, but now it’s something to build a community or a culture within that overall facility.”
The Complete Package
Creating all-inclusive surf facilities with cross-training options and an expansive array of activities will continue to help surfers and guests of all types grow both within the pool and the ocean. The addition of complimentary sports such as paddle boarding and skateboarding along with strong coaching opportunities will continue to help evolve the progression of these parks into the ultimate destination for all things surf and surf culture related.