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GUEST POST: ​Maximizing the Potential of Surf-Anchored Properties

Guest post from Bruce Greenfield with AO:

As architects, we are fueled by a creative drive to design built environments that deliver extraordinary experiences for people while adding value to the city, clients and communities they serve. The rise of the surf-anchored resort has paved the way for immersive, aspirational and intensely experiential developments that are surprisingly sustainable – a key element that is more important than ever. With challenging goals ahead like attaining 0% emissions by 2050, surf-anchored resorts can be an excellent, environmentally-friendly, revenue-generating development option. Success lies with having the right vision, strategy and design team to get the most out of surf-anchored developments.

Surf park fever will only grow as everyday people with limited access to surf vacations due to geography, cost – or even skill – now have the ability to try surfing within reach. In anticipation of this escalating demand, it’s critical to maximize the revenue-generating potential of surf parks by designing an immersive 360-degree experience that considers a range of possibilities, spaces, activities, connections, operations, and technical requirements.

With eight active surf-anchored developments in our design pipeline, we’ve surveyed our team of architects, planners, designers and engineers to establish AO’s “Top 5 Considerations” to maximize the potential of your next surf-anchored resort:  

1. Think globally and early: Surf-anchored properties should provide a complete experience.  The surf has to be awesome, and the non-surf time should be awesome too, filled with complementary attractions that maintain the right vibe while also, remaining true to your brand and vision. With this in mind, it is highly recommended that design and development partners are brought on early in the visioning process to ensure that all components are cohesive and well-orchestrated. Doing so will allow for a more seamless development process as you can rest assured you have an experienced team guiding and advocating for your vision. When creating an immersive destination experience, be thoughtful about incorporating revenue-generating retail, food and beverage options, guest services and resort-style amenities that embody the place. A well-executed design will pave the way for a memorable and unique experience guests will instantly recognize and remember.   

2. Leverage creative placemaking to create emotional and physical connections: Design a 360-experience utilizing architecture, landscape and programming to craft the ultimate surf paradise for guests. The surf lagoon itself should be the showcase – it’s just as exciting to watch as it is to experience, and the thunderous sound of waves crashing is uniquely emotive. Leverage this focal point as the backdrop for all other activities – restaurants, bars, lookouts, residences, hotel rooms, pool decks, etc. Everything onsite should be designed to frame the surf lagoon, allowing guests to feel close to the action. Be intentional about physical connection with thoughtful wayfinding, pedestrian pathways, active and passive lounge areashighlighted by landscape. These key elements of placemaking are critical, creating memorable connections that keep guests returning again and again. Such emphasis on the holistic experience will create an energizing space for surfers and guests to thrive, learn, come together, and feel a part of an especially unique community.  

3. Design for operations: Like all commercial and hospitality developments, the success of surf parks relies upon the smooth, discreet, and seamless operation of services, staff, equipment, and maintenance. The design team must have an expertise in back-of-house operations as well as an applied understanding of the complex technology and systems that drive the waves. Additionally, the design must consider the operational requirements for food and beverage, retail, and other services offered within the surf park. Well executed design and space planning with these elements in mind allows the business to run smoothly, ensuring a positive and memorable guest experience. 

4. Keep it local: In order to succeed, surf resorts should be truly emblematic of the local surf culture and the communities they serve. As surf parks become increasingly accessible and continue to cement themselves in popular culture, making these destinations great for all walks of life to enjoy will allow your surf park to create a legacy of its own within its community. Contextual design solutions that are specifically tailored to locals, climate, resources, landscape and topography are all distinguishing factors central to a successful design and business.  Whether the Swiss Alps or the English countryside or the California desert – it’s mission-critical to surround yourself with knowledgeable designers and planners to guide you through the entire process, from early concept through completion, so each destination lives up to its distinct standards of design and authenticity.   

5. Stay ahead of future trends: With increased demand for surf parks, we’ll see designs expanding to appeal to different vertical audiences. Expect surf parks to soon lure the professional surf community with things like training facilities, rehabilitation centers, spas, meditation centers and other surf-centric uses to create a total surf environment for the pro and enthusiast, while allowing space for the beginner and casual user. We should also expect to see surf parks becoming popular destinations for conferences, group gatherings, events and retreats. It’s a compelling proposition: learn all morning; play and surf all afternoon; dinner and poolside cocktails at night that overlook moonlit surfing activity. Flexible programming is important to leverage when thinking of the future. Consider potential licensed brand partnerships and entertainment events onsite, including new product launches, fashion shows, private concerts or movie screenings, etc. Incorporating these elements will aid in building your brand, visibility, profitability, and fostering a destination surf hub that is instantly recognizable and synonymous with fun, energy, and long-lasting memories.  

Bringing a surf-park to life requires both technical and creative appreciation for the opportunities and memorable experiences that can be fostered within these spaces.  The right architects and design partners will translate your vision for a unique surf destination by implementing innovative design solutions that consider the future, emphasize placemaking, technical and operational design expertise, and createsustainable environments emblematic of local surf culture and the communities they serve.

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