From new surf parks opening around the world to the announcements of incredible new opportunities, 2019 saw a seismic shift in the surf park business.
2019 was one of the most seismic in surf park history. New facilities opened up and other developments announced their intentions to start making waves sooner rather than later. It truly is a new era in man-made waves, and it’s really exciting. Looking back on some of the biggest stories of the last 12 months, one thing is for sure, we can’t wait to see what 2020 brings!
1. The Cove Arrives
The last couple of months were big for the engineers at Wavegarden as two new surf parks came online. URBNSURF in Melbourne, Australia, and The Wave, in Bristol, England, were both pumping waves and stoking out surfers by year’s end. The first parks to use the Cove tech open to the public in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, both have been very well received and already garnered a lot of media attention. And there are more projects coming down the pipeline, one of the biggest will be built in South Korea and is scheduled to open sometime in 2020. There’s another in the works for the Swiss Alps.
2. California’s Next Surf Destination?
At the moment there are a handful of different surf park endeavors in various stages of approval in Palm Springs. The three making the most headlines include DSRT Surf, which intends to use some version of the Wavegarden tech and has the backing of surf influencers CJ Hobgood, Josh Kerr and Shane Beschen. The Thermal Beach Club, in the Coachella Valley and just 25 miles southeast of Palm Springs, would utilize the PerfectSwell technology. And there’s the Palm Springs Surf Club, also vying for a piece of the action.
3. Gold Coast Starts To Shine
Also vying for a slice of the media hype this year was the Surf Lakes project in Yeppoon, Australia. We first got a glimpse of the steampunk-style wave-making machine a year ago, and the wave continues to be refined and developed. Leaning on the viability of surfers like Mark Occhilupo to validate the technology, they’re definitely making progress in the right direction. It remains to be seen how scalable this kind of surf park is, but it’s certainly interesting. It is expected to open to the public in 2020.
4. Mall Surfing
It’s been a longtime coming for the surf park development at the American Dream Mall in Meadowlands, New Jersey, but the DreamWorks Water Park finally started making waves at the end of 2019. Utilizing American Wave Machine’s PerfectSwell technology—the same tech used at the B.S.R. Surf Resort in Waco, Texas—this project has been simmering for years and finally got to the finish line. You’ll be seeing more of the PerfectSwell tech in the next year or two as more developments are planned for Brazil, Japan
5. Surf Parks Go Mainstream
The Surf Ranch in Lemoore, California, has been at the forefront of the surf park movement, and this year it continued to validate the notion that you can have world-class surf a long way from the ocean. For the second year on a row, the WSL’s Championship Tour landed in Lemoore for the Freshwater Pro. Featuring the top-rated surfers in the world, it showcased how viable a man-made wave like this can be for competition purposes. It was also announced that next year the Surf Ranch will host a reality TV show called “Ultimate Surfer.” Hosted by the mastermind of the Ranch, 11-time world champ Kelly Slater, it will air on ABC.
And announced in the fall of 2019, there are plans in the works to bring a $1.1-billion version of the Surf Ranch to the Sunshine Coast of Australia. The project would be the first for the Kelly Slater Wave Company and WSL outside of the U.S. They are working jointly with Queensland developer Don O’Rorke’s Consolidated Properties on the proposal, which includes a 20,000-seat stadium and 200-room eco-resort. The approval process is currently ongoing.
6. Pay-Per-View Becomes A Reality
Before the Texas weather front from hell rolled in during the final of the STAB High event at the BSR Surf Resort in Waco, the action was nonstop. The second iteration of the surf park air show, this year the organizers at STAB introduced a pay-per-view option to watch the webcast. It got a little spotty when somebody literally unplugged the broadcast, but hiccups aside, it could be a model for how to run and watch a highly entertaining surf contest in freshwater.
7. Surf Park Summit 2020 Announced.
2019 was a huge year for surf parks, and the upcoming year’s going to be even more interesting. Announced at the end of the year, Surf Park Summit 2020 will bring offer a comprehensive examination of where we’ve been, and more importantly, where we’re headed. Everything from the latest surf park technology, to presentations from the developers themselves, to topics such as water quality, safety, investment, emerging technology, sustainability, surf therapy and what surf parks mean for the participation of women in the sport will be delved into. Surf Park Summit will be held March 31 – April 1st in La Jolla, California.