This week we’re excited to bring you an exclusive interview between Surf Park Central and Bryan Dickerson, creator and editor-in-chief of WavePoolMag. After working in surf media for close to two decades Bryan saw an opportunity to document the rapidly evolving wave pool industry. Enter WavePoolMag, a dedicated platform to covering artificial wave generation.
WavePoolMag covers breaking news, videos, technology, new surf parks, and anything else that registers on the wave pool radar. Among WavePoolMag’s most popular and useful content: A Surf Planner Guide. WavePoolMag’s Surf Planner Guide lists all the wave pool projects globally, in addition to listing surf parks that people can surf at today. The surf guide serves as a content-rich and helpful resource for the ever-evolving surf park industry.
In this interview, Bryan and Surf Park Central’s own Chris Kluesener, host of the Beyond The Ocean podcast, take a deep dive into the surf park industry. While Bryan is originally from California, he now lives in France, which has given him an interesting perspective on the growth of the surf park industry. Bryan shares first-hand accounts and experiences from Europe’s surf park scene, discussing the nuances and differences between Europe and North America.
This latest episode of Beyond The Ocean gets in-depth about the surf park industry. Chris and Bryan talk about emerging wave technologies, and discuss where the industry is going. Additionally, they chat about current and upcoming surf park projects. It all makes for an insightful, and engaging conversation, especially with Surf Park Summit 2021 around the corner.
Listen below to the full conversation between Chris and Bryan, or on your favorite podcast app. Subscribe to Beyond The Ocean, or listen to past episodes at beyondoceanpodcast.com.
Intro: Welcome to Beyond the Ocean, the podcast exploring surf parks and the impact of technology on the future of surfing. We speak with technology leaders, investors, operators, and surfing legends to explore this exciting new movement. I’m your host, Chris Kluesener.
Chris: Welcome back to Beyond the Ocean. Thanks for joining today for this very special episode called the Surf Park Breakdown episode of Beyond the Ocean. I’m joined today by Bryan Dickerson, the editor in chief and creator of WavePoolMag. Bryan is a journalist, content creator and communications specialist who spent the better part of the last 20 years writing about surfing, surfing culture, and wave pools. Specifically through his work at WavePoolMag, and his collaboration with Stab Magazine, puts him as probably the most prolific writer in surf parks and wave pools that exists today. Surf Park Central’s focus, of course, is on the B2B side of surf parks, where Bryan and WavePoolMag focus on the consumer experience, the end surfer journey as they visit these wave pools and surf parks being built all over the world. And that’s what today’s episode is all about. Bryan and I get a bit nerdy and go into all the details that have been publicly disclosed about the projects being built now, and those to come next. So without further ado, please join me for this wide-ranging conversation with Bryan Dickerson of WavePoolMag.
Chris: Bryan, thank you for taking the time and for joining Beyond the Ocean today.
Bryan: Thank you for having me, Chris, it’s awesome. It’s good to be here. I’ve known you briefly, sporadically, but all our conversations have been great. So, thanks for taking the time to talk to me.
Chris: Yeah, I think it’s an exciting episode because between Surf Park Central and WavePoolMag, I think we definitely have a voice in this exciting new sector of surf parks. And so, I was really stoked when you were willing to come on and share notes. And I think the benefit of today is we get to hopefully translate some of our knowledge to the audience and help get these surf parks built faster. Thanks for doing that, I appreciate your openness. Similarly, I’d love to hear more about yourself and your background. I know you grew up in California and you’ve been working as an editor in the surfing industry for quite a while. So I’d love it if you could talk us through your background and how you describe yourself.
Bryan: I grew up in Huntington Beach, moved to San Francisco, fell in love with the surf at Ocean Beach and spent most of my time there. I finally went to school in San Luis Obispo at Cal Poly, got a journalism degree, worked with Sunshine Makarow, who was on your show, and she was great. She gave me an opportunity right out of college to come help with her publication as a managing editor. All the journalistic skills I cut my teeth on in the newsroom producing a daily paper. I was able to take to a quarterly magazine, which was like going from running to surfing on a glacier or something. It was really slowed down. But that worked out.
Chris: That was Surf Life for Women, right?
Bryan: Correct. That was Surf Life for Women. And that was a lot of fun in the early 2000s. And then after that we moved here to France and I met Bruce Bull who runs Surfers Village, which at the time was like the Twitter for surfing. You would just get an email with a headline scroll that you could click on. And it was all the press releases from the brands, all the WSL contest results. But as it went on Twitter and social media in the early 2010s, it kind of took most of its share of traffic from Surfers Village. I moved over here to France again, when Surfers Village was bought by Extreme Media. We did some great stuff, some great content, and live Facebook things, and I entrenched myself in the European surf culture a little more. So that was good. I learned a lot being from California, and seeing how things are very different here.
Chris: Where in France are you? You’re in the Biarritz area, right? Is that right?
Bryan: Yeah. We’re about half an hour from Biarritz. It’s a great, great place. Everyone says, “oh, it’s the California of France.” But I grew up in California. It’s not California.
Chris: What would you say are some of those cultural surf differences in terms of the south of France and California if anything comes to mind?
Bryan: Yeah. In San Francisco, I’d surf Ocean Beach and Fort Point a lot, and it’s a localized crew and you just know the people who’ve been surfing there for years. It’s just respect and go slow. And here it’s more like the gym’s open and everyone jumps on a peak and it’s a little more chaotic that way.
Bryan: Not really competitive. It’s just weird, like a lot of things that you grew up with in the lineup. Like you get a wave and then you wait your turn. And then that doesn’t really apply to a lot of the popular breaks here. At least not in September and October when all of Europe comes to France to go surfing. But fortunately there are places where you can. You can still get away from the crowds. That’s exciting.
Chris: And generally, I’m curious, how did you pick France? Do you have family there, or was it a decision during those years when you were making the jump? Because I know it’s a hotbed for surf.
Bryan: The waves are great. The waves are really, really great. I wouldn’t be here this long if they weren’t, but we jumped from San Francisco when there was the app boom, and the whole tech bro culture. It became expensive. It just didn’t feel like the city I knew from years and years ago. We came over here because there was a job opportunity in Biarritz when the Surfers Village was purchased by Extreme Media. So I would go into an office every day. So basically I came here for work, and it was work that lasted for about a year.
And then the company went belly up. So I’m here with my family and it was time to find work, and to do something else. And that’s what I did. I tried to get Scott Bass and his surfboard show over here in Europe. I did some work for the WSL, as a media coordinator for some of their events. I did a lot of copywriting. I wrote copy for a dating app that was just about hooking up, and based out of Portugal. There’s a thriving tech scene in Lisbon Portugal.
And then that led to playing around with wave pools, because like you, I was always fascinated with them. So I had time being in a low employment situation, so I just really dug in and had a good time and had fun with it. And I created WavePoolMag.
Chris: That’s so exciting. And what was the first wave pool experience that you had, or the first news about a wave pool that you experienced? Was it the Kelly pool or something else?
Bryan: Yeah, well, that’s weird. Because Kelly’s pool opening in 2015 was right around the time when Snowdonia opened. And that was those days when it was all just plow foil systems. And that was pretty much the height you could get with a wave pool. And then the Wave Garden Cove design came out right after that because Josema and Fernando and Karen were thinking ahead to what makes a successful wave park and everything.
So seeing that come around, it was eye opening. And that the tech and the companies and the technology were evolving quickly enough to not so much what the market demand was at that time, but to what they anticipated happening.
Chris: Absolutely. And it’s been a whirlwind of progress since then. I mean, it’s over the course of a few years as you well know, there have been hundreds of projects that have popped up around the world in terms of starting to plan, and a dozen or so that have made that tenuous, treacherous journey over those first two years of getting titled and getting the rights and choosing a wave technology.
So maybe this is a good opportunity to transition and talk a little bit more about your work with WavePoolMag and how you track the market. And some of the exciting things you’re seeing this year. And, generally for this show, I think it’d be exciting to talk through some of the more well-established surf parks that are open, of which we prepared some thoughts just to rattle off and share what we know. Maybe even some of the farther out long-tail proposed projects. It should be exciting to dig in on the hype and hear what’s going on there. So we’d love to hear more about your work with WavePoolMag and how you approach it.
Bryan: Yeah. It’s fun. It’s one of those things where I get up and look through the newsfeed and see what’s going on and think about what I want to write about. And one of the wonderful things about the space, as you know, is that it’s not really been invented yet, so you can elaborate as you wish. And we do that with a lot of our artwork, with a lot of our video clips, I have some great designers working for us and some good writers. So I’m able to say, okay let’s do something a little different, a little out of the ordinary. There’s basically this wave pool culture that’s emerging, which you can see in the different parks. They all have their own kind of a vibe, but at some point there will be enough wave pools where a common theme emerges and that could be totally random. It could be like 90s skateboarding with big pants, tight t-shirts and then small wheels, or whatever it is, but the equivalent of that in a wave pool.
Chris: I hear you. And I could totally see these different subcultures emerging. Because just personally my first way pool experience was a natural one. It was in the icebox river in Munich, and there was a whole subculture there.
Bryan: Isn’t that place amazing? It’s just weird. It’s like, okay, you’re in the middle of Germany. I want to hear you, what was your take on it? What was your visceral impression when you were there?
Chris: Well, as a surfer, I was with a group of non-surfers. I was on a trip. It was during college actually, right when I was living with John Luff actually at the time. But I was on a trip in Munich. I had no idea this existed until I arrived. And then it was professed to me that you can go surfing in the central park of Munich. And so I went to the central park of Munich and sort of just listened and tried to find the river. And, you know, once you get there, you you get it immediately. There’s a left and a right side. There’s the two walls on both sides. It’s the melting water from the Alps that flows this crystal clear, freezing cold, but beautiful water down, over cinder blocks or something, and creates this wave.
I paid a guy 20 euros to borrow his board and I just stripped down and did it in my boxers there. It was a different time you know. I’d still do it now, I think. But yeah, I found it really fascinating. Immediately I noticed that the equipment needs are different. Everyone had duct tape on their rails, because they had traditional, fiberglass epoxy boards. And so they would hit the walls and destroy them. So I immediately recognized that the equipment might be a little different. And then I recognized that it’s a spectator sport because there was about 50 people up on the top of the bridge watching and about 10 people only doing it. So that struck me. That it’s a spectator sport, the equipment’s different, it’s in a different setting and yeah I think I was hooked at that moment. What was your first experience?
Bryan: Yeah, seeing that I was at ISPO Show in Munich a few years ago and just asked people where do I go? How do I get to the Eisbach? And you know it’s Germany, but everyone’s speaking English. So we have different perspectives on it. But for me it was kind of like I saw it, and I felt like, oh wow, they’re surfing in a river. And it was akin to that sense that I got when I went to Scheveningen, in Holland, which you know, is on the North Sea and it’s like wind chop and it’s super cold, but it’s got this intense thriving surf scene. Cause people just love to surf it. And I remember looking out and thinking, my God, those waves are just crap. I would not. There’s no way I would go out there.
And I, I felt so horrible. And so elitist and people are having fun and thriving, but due to my background, it’s like I’ve got a higher standard or whatever. But seeing how enthusiastic people were and wanting to surf them, it kind of galvanized that core sense that yes, there will be wave pools everywhere. If people are willing to don all this rubber and go on the cold water, surf a river. If they’re willing to surf blown out two foot peaks with a hundred other surfers in the same area, then people will find a way to build a wave pool, to travel to a wave pool, to, to pay for surfing.
Chris: I felt the same way by the way. When I was out in the two foot, windblown, crowded surf in New York in December, and people are fighting over a thigh high, three second ride, I was like, you know this really makes sense. There’s pent up demand. People don’t know they want this yet, but once it’s affordable at a reasonable price, this is going to be big because you can progress. For 10 years of my surfing career, it was about, can I get a couple of waves, not will I be able to learn how to do an air this session. It just was not the progression component of it. I found I was only progressing when I was traveling and visiting places like San Diego.
Bryan: Yeah so it was that and seeing that wow, there is this core demand. And I think in the wave pool debate, when you hear it, people are talking about this thing, and you get kind of kink shamed for liking wave pools. You know, it’s like, oh, you’re not a real surfer. That’s mother nature, energy, which is great.
Wave pools will never replace the ocean first off, but wave pools are this wonderful supplement. It’s like right now I live 45 minutes from my favorite place to surf. And if I could hit a wave pool like you hit the gym a couple of times a week it would be fantastic. And then spend one day searching out waves in the forest.
Chris: Totally. We interviewed Randy Rarick on this show.
Bryan: I listened to that. That was a great podcast.
Chris: Yeah. And he led with that. He’s like those who kind of bash on the wave pool experience haven’t ridden one yet. It’s not going to replace the ocean. And he lives on the north shore, and executive director of the pipe masters for 38 years I think it was. But they’re still fun once he gets to one. I mean it’s hard to not smile and be excited about it.
But yeah I hear you. We’ve heard a little bit of that in terms of the dissing and the shaming related to surf parks, but I think those are the folks that are just a little jealous. And it seems culturally that there’s been a shift this year in particular, hopefully collectively from our work, maybe from the parks opening, or some cultural thing with the pandemic, for some reason in the last 12 months, I’ve heard a lot more positive sentiment from the average surfer. Have you observed anything over the pandemic, and just in the lineup, have you observed generally a more positive sentiment towards surf parks?
Bryan: Well, the way people do the travel restrictions or what not is another issue, and all the other complications that come with a pandemic. We did a piece because we heard from a few people who were not able to travel to Indonesia. So I think surf parks and wave pools kind of emerged as this place where you could plan it or they were accessible. It kept a lot of people in the water who wouldn’t have been able to go on a surf trip.
Chris: It’ll be exciting over the next couple years as more of these facilities start to open up, especially east coast facilities. For me personally, I’m really excited to see Myrtle Beach and Virginia Beach, which are in their planning phases right now.
Bryan: Have you made it to American Dream yet? Have you talked to Skudin Surf?
Chris: Yeah. Will and Cliff Skudin, and yeah, I grew up near those guys. They’re from Long Beach and I grew up in a place called Gilgo Beach, maybe 10 miles away and would always surf in Long Beach. I haven’t visited yet. We are interviewing them for an article now about their surf park that they’re running through American Dream, which is an interesting site because it’s such a large waterpark experience, but with this cool small scale and still interesting looking wave right in the middle of it. Again, it’s tapping into that untapped demand. So a lot of surfers in New York and New Jersey and New England. And so they’re having it seems no problem filling up slots, even if the wave is not the Kelly wave. They’re still having some fun with it. So yeah I’m curious to see and hear how it’s been going once we get a chance to break that interview with them.
Bryan: That was unique the way they did that pool in terms of making it. So it’s surfable, but it’s still accessible to the waterpark users. So it’s dual use, which I guess maybe surf parks have almost come full circle because that was like Typhon Lagoon when they opened. They still do the morning and evening surf sessions, and then the middle of the day is for people bobbing around in the water.
Chris: Yeah. And that’s definitely what we’ve heard as part of Surf Park Summit and other opportunities to talk to developers. I think that the beginner audience is critical for every surf park to have a community of beginners. As we understand it, generally the cost of developing an advanced six-foot barreling wave is much higher than the cost to create a smaller crumbling sort of beginner entry-level wave. And you know, we see that in the different technologies, like the Wave Garden Cove technology, which has the Cove, which is the beginner section. I’m curious when you visited the Wave Garden test facility, that’s the Cove, right? So it has the lagoon section.
Bryan: Yeah. It’s the Cove and it’s fascinating going there. They host people as kind of a filter to see if someone is serious; it’s supposed to be like I think a couple thousand dollars just to visit, and they give you a tour and then they know if you’re serious and opening a wave pool or if you just want the session. But the land, the Basque country is so hilly and mountainous. They didn’t have enough flat surface area to do a left and a right. The machine itself produces waves for the left and the right. Because they needed to test that, but it does not have a left side to it. There’s just the right. And they had to take up some of the original plow system in order to fit room for the Cove and the plow system that’s there now.
It’s amazing. It’s like rusted Hulk of the machinery and I felt like a paleontologist for wave pools going there and seeing this. And the other thing was the Cove model, which you don’t see in any of their publicity material, which is like one-tenth scale, maybe. So with that you could see where they’re playing around with different bathymetries.
Chris: Yeah. And it’s super interesting to hear that the number one thing, even just in your impression of it was the physical space; the physical available room to build it. It was actually more of a consideration and an impact on the experience, just reacting here, then the tech even itself. It’s funny because as we both well know it’s so much about which technology; which one are you using. And maybe that’s missing the first question, which is what is the site? Like, what are you trying to build? Because it does seem like there’s a different situation where a Wave Garden or Wave Garden Cove, a Surf Lakes, American Wave–where they have a different configuration that they would be a better fit for.
Have you had any experience; I know you did a recent interview with the Urbnsurf guys in Melbourne. Do you have any understanding of what their community looks like? Is it 10% beginners? Is it half beginners? I’m curious, is it a core surf, local community? Or I know they have a lot of beginner sessions. I’m just not sure what it’s like culturally.
Bryan: That’s a really good question because I think as we see both the Wave and Urbnsurf opened around the same time, and they’ve both taken different routes to their commercial model. With Urbnsurf, it’s so wonderfully Australian and kind of like core surfing; people are there with the waves turned up to advanced and expert. The Wave Garden is more of a barrel wave; their advanced wave is a Malibu wave. It’s one step down. They’re using the same nomenclature, but it’s just actual different physical waves coming through.
But Urbnsurf I love what they’re doing, where they have punch card. You can get a membership and just show up consistently. They seem to really value their core audience, the core surfers. I know they’re not pushing them out. They’re not canceling beasts sessions to fill the pool with the intermediate. And I think they’re really doing a good job of staying core. At the same time, they’re smart enough to know that, okay, if we have a good restaurant and serve $7 lattes where that’ll help us keep pumping out waves. But they’re definitely more the Australian approach to surfing.
The Wave on the other hand; I love The Wave. I went there last year. It’s just really nice. You go inside and it’s all wood and just feels like a groovy cafe. And it’s like more of an inclusive environment, which is really great. I think English surfing is more like that as more people are learners and beginners. You just have a lot more foamy boards to rent, and a lot more surf lessons.
Chris: I do think that the local community steers a lot of this and I can’t help but think that that goes into the planning components since in the pro forma business models, before these things get authorized, they have to make these assumptions on who the local community is. And if they’re going to receive the demand they need, overall that’s why you see surf parks being built first in places where the waves are already really good.
Like, you know Palm Springs near San Diego, and the Gold Coast of Australia, it’s because the population of existing surfers are there. They’ll bring their friends and family and kind of reinforce itself. But in terms of the specifics of how each of these facilities has designed their cultural impact, I mean, we recently interviewed Damon Tudor from Urbnsurf, and specifically they mentioned adaptability as being one of the big things there. So I think there’s an existing culture, but they are ready to experiment and bring in different populations.
Bryan: It’s tough though, because surfers are horrible clients. They’re horrible customers, think about it. Like your core surfer is trying to save as much money for a new board or a new wetsuit and go buy hard goods. They’re not going to lounge around in the cafe. They’ll drop as much money as they could to buy a new set of fins, or something like that.
So maybe the surf shop model is applicable. Like you go to your favorite surf shop and they have boards and they know surf, but they pay the rent through selling t-shirts. So it could be it’ll be more like that.
Chris: And I think the recent news here is with Wave Garden and Alaia Bay, and what I understand about that technology to your point is it’s probably designed more for a harder core audience. It’s a Wave Garden without the Cove. It’s also colder. And I think generally what we’ve seen is the Swiss are just a little more extreme than Americans are. They have more disposable income, more free time, but just culturally, they’re always on time, and they just get outdoors more. I have a really good friend, actually a mutual friend of mine John Luff we traveled with who’s Swiss. He was always on time.
Bryan: Always on time, and he spoke five languages.
Chris: Oh, exactly. It does feel like a different cultural dynamic there. I’m curious about this Paris project, knowing you’re in the south of France. There is the Endless Surf Whitewater West project in the center of Paris. And imagine what the amenities and the coffee shop espresso, even wine culture might be like with a really cool wave right in the middle of a beautiful city, like Paris. What do you think about it?
Bryan: That one really grabbed my imagination, because going back to us talking about what will the wave pool surf culture be like? Because it is an urban redevelopment project. So it’s in the Sevran area of Paris. So it’s high end employment and it’s not wealthy Paris. Like most Americans, we think of Paris and it’s the Eiffel Tower and Audrey Hepburn’s running around somewhere on a bicycle. This is like core urban living with a lot of disenfranchised people. So the redevelopment is instead of putting up a soccer pitch or couple of basketball hoops and community center, they’re building a wave pool and other more action sports focused attractions, which is cool. Because I really hope it takes off. I really hope it does well. Local authorities have said that residents will have access to the pool, which is great. Because you can spawn a whole surf culture there. That’s a more urban, more resembling skateboarding that is very different than the coastal elite culture of surfing that we’re come to know. So that culturally is I think fantastic. And I really wish them all the success. I want to see that.
At the same time you mentioned Switzerland and from where I am in France, both are about the same driving distance, 8 to 10 hours. And in Switzerland that’s the Cove; they didn’t have enough room to have a full-size one. They still have the same engine in their cove but they just cut off the very last part. So from what I’ve heard there’s no waiting area.
Chris: Yeah. Specifically the official Surf Park Central stat is it’s the same, literally, like you just said the same size wave generators of Urbnsurf, but in a pool that’s half the size. I think it’s two acres versus four. So yeah, Alaia Bay is just over two acres and I believe Urbnsurf, I’ll have to fact check myself, is about twice the size. So a lot more juice. Probably not going to be a fit for somebody who doesn’t want to strap on a wetsuit, or a beginner, but will be extremely exciting.
Bryan: And the other thing about Europe too, is that it makes really great sense to have that in Switzerland. We were fortunate enough to go camping through Switzerland, and all of Europe’s going camping in Switzerland, and yes, it’s expensive and what not, but it’s just breathtaking. And there’s this whole European culture that is more like, okay, we’re going to do the Alps thing now. And that involves the skiing. And it also involves now surfing, but there’s a little more organization. I guess people love planned out packages and activities. It’s not what you and I might encounter and backwards America, where it’s like, I’m going camping, and the mountains are awake, I’ll see you later. Someone just brings a shovel and some matches and then you see them a week later and they had a great time. So it’s more curated, I guess, is the word. And Alaia Bay Wave Pool fits very well into the European curated vision of recreation.
Chris: That makes a lot of sense. I think that same idea of curation is sort of what we’re seeing with other facilities. There’s been a few announced, similarly by Endless Surf, one in Parkwood, which is the Gold Coast, where again, you go there to get waves. I mean it’s an incredible place. Also though it’s one of the most crowded places I’ve ever surfed at Snapper Rocks; it is so extreme. It’s exciting to see Bede Durbidge or Kelly Slater taking off inside of you. But it’s frustrating if you’re competing against those guys to get a wave.
Bryan: Yeah, I have to ask, were you able to get a wave there? Because I see people go out and I’m like, why? You paddle out and you’re out for eight hours. You don’t get any waves. Then you come in. It frightens me. So what happened, Chris?
Chris: I am a scavenger. So I’m through and through an east coast guy. I know how to weasel my way in and I’ll pick one up. My trick was I wait for them to fall. So I would sit one and a half turns from the peak. Like that guy hesitated for a second. I’m going to definitely get this wave when he does not eat that section. And yeah, you have to be an opportunist, but for the Gold Coast your first reaction would be why, because there’s such good waves. But then it’s like, oh, because it’s the most crowded place you’ve ever been. Imagine if you could zip right over to Parkwood and jump in there. And the Endless Surf technology, what we understand to be a really exciting about them is the heart shape, and the pool, which let’s say bring the wife for her husband, who’s a non-surfer family member and kids, and have them have a safe place while you’re getting barreled.
Bryan: Yeah, I can’t wait to see that design because it’s really exciting. It’s unique, and the way they laid it out and the such variety of surf zones, and the fact that the pneumatic chambers can add to the wave as it goes down the line. Or they can adjust it accordingly. That’s cool because it does get everyone in the pool.
Chris: Yeah. And they seem to be replicating that model between Paris, a highly desirable destination where they’ll put this structured project, Parkwood, similarly, the Punta Cana project and the Vietnam project. There are just a lot of locations that you would typically expect to come first. So yeah, really excited to see the progress of those.
Let’s see, we’ve also got some amazing progress with SurfLoch, another one of the amazing technologies that’s coming out. There’s a half dozen or so that are commercially available. SurfLoch has Palm Springs Surf Club, which is really exciting. While they’re not open and it’s definitely a test facility, it’s been pretty cool. I don’t know if you’ve seen. Or I know you’ve seen some of that footage and, I’d be curious what you think about Palm Springs.
Bryan: It’s a perfect place to have a wave pool and it set a precedent. And that it revitalized the waterpark. So taking something that was dead, this archaic leftover from the 1990s or 1980s, whenever it was built, and breathing new life into it with this smaller wave pool and then proving Tom’s technology there. And then Shane and Kalani are such creative marketing, and just only releasing clips of pros absolutely shredding, or people on skinboards shreddin. Or inviting Mason. That was like marketing genius. Because it’s a really small pool and there’s no way. I mean I could maybe get one medium turn there. I don’t know your surfing level, but it’s really tight. And I don’t know if I can say this out loud, you can just cut this out later if it’s secret knowledge, but, they’re building a larger pool on the site. Tom told me that.
Chris: Tom is a good friend of Surf Park Central’s Jess Ponting, our head of research, and has known him for the better part of 10 years, even back in his work with Flowrider. And he’s really a person to pay attention to in the industry from a technology perspective. But yes, we will confirm before we share that tidbit before we launch and they have been very explicit to say that the Palm Springs facility is a test demo sort of experience. It’s not what the full-size thing will look like, but we have heard some exciting rumors about other facilities they’re building, including a private one in the Northeast, which is pretty cool.
Bryan: Yeah with 10 K Songs I think. We interviewed the construction company that built that because I guess it’s pretty challenging building a wave pool. You can’t just pour regular concrete. Otherwise the wave action will eat the bottom. Like what happened in Orlando with Ron Jon’s thing 12 years ago. I was talking to this guy who does construction out of the east coast. And he was like, yeah, I got to blow up some rocks there, so let me send you the video. He sent the video and he got to do a demolition. So he pushed the plunger and you see all this bedrock just explode. And then they were able to clear it out and build the pool. But it was funny. It reminded me that, oh yeah, you do get to talk to the engineering, the construction side of that, that you don’t normally experience with ocean surfing.
Chris: What’s got me most excited is that it’s in an area of the country not typically known for waves. And I just think that’s really cool to just open up the aperture of how people think about surfing and being able to do that in New England is always a good thing. So long story short for SurfLoch, there’s a lot more to come, and we’re excited about additional opportunities to help their team to share about that.
Bryan: Yeah. They’ve also got Spain, Costa Del Sol and then Sydney, about 45 minutes outside of Sydney. They’re working on a project.
Chris: I mean I will just round out the list. So another kind of unique technology–standout technology– is Surf Lakes. Really unique, and that’s the plunger system. Their Yeppoon facility is what we’ve seen the videos of where it looks like Mad Max dropping that big plunger down and sending waves out.
I think the exciting update there is they’re scaling up their North America commercial teams. So as I understand it, a lot more activity on this side of the world for Surf Lakes, which will be really exciting to see what they can get done and bring to the table. Have you had a chance to talk to anybody over there and learn?
Bryan: We’ve interviewed Aaron Trevis a few times and speak with Wayne Dart regularly. I love their system. Most people love their system and where Kelly’s is responsible for making wave pools public, being on the Today’s Show and whatever else, Surf Lakes has kind of done that, but more from a bizarre, as you mentioned, Mad Max, oh my God what’s happening perspective. They have a great design. It’s having the wave go out in 360 degrees and you’re not near a wall. You’re not in a confined area. So it is more open, like an ocean experience. And it’s such a visceral thing. You see it and you say, oh my God, what is this? And I liken it to a stack of Marshall amplifiers or something where it’s just big and heavy and in your face and very rock ‘n roll in that way. They’ve gone so shot for the moon and they were able to develop this. And how that translates into the day-to-day of being able to construct such a giant device, I think people are working through that and trying to make that happen. And that’s one of the bigger challenges, but being able to accommodate that many surfers and that many waves and just dreaming so big is the great thing about Surf Lakes.
Chris: I know they have an executive team and big visions for that cultural-around-the-waves experience. And if I’ve got my facts right here, I think one of their team leads is a former Topgolf executive. So it really comes from an experience of creating a fun place where people want to come back, and aim to grow really quickly. So I think a lot more to come from Surf Lakes this year, and we’re hopeful to hear more from them.
And then of course American Wave Machines. They power BSR. We’ve also heard some news about some other projects they’re working on, but what’s on your radar from AWM?
Bryan: They’ve got Japan, they fired out a test wave or two already. They’re probably testing it a lot. They’re filling up the pool, that one’s going to be larger. They have two other projects, one in Brazil, one in Richmond, Virginia, I believe. Brazil is coming along faster and that one’s supposed to be twice the size I believe of a BSR surf resort. And it’s great, the marketing they did with BSR through Bruce McFarland, going down and adjusting the waves for top-notch surfers to do crazy things. It’s really great. It’s a great design too. I talk to people and a lot of people say that it’s one of the few parks you leave feeling like you’re surfed out. There again another great design.
Chris: Yeah, I’ve heard the same. Like the experience down at BSR is one that is very social, bringing a couple of friends, and have more of a camaraderie around trying new things. It feels like the way the tech works allows people to throw a backflip or two and go for it. Whereas other technologies, such as like the Kelly Slater technology, where there’s a four-minute lag time between waves, doesn’t create that same effect. It creates more of a scarcity effect, where you want to make sure you beat the section. And we’ve heard about this, from others that have felt that pressure, like Ian Cairns, who’s a former champion surfer. Kanga is like, well I rode it on a SUP, and I fell, and everybody was giving me dirty looks. And so it’s just interesting when you actually think about that customer experience, that user experience. I’m excited to get down to BSR and give that a try and do that with a good crew. A lot going on. And that’s just the facilities that we’re relatively certain about. I mean, there’s hundreds more that are announced.
I mean maybe we could just rattle off some of the more recent announcements to build for some hype.
Bryan: Let’s jump into some speculation here, Chris.
Chris: Well, we don’t have to speculate too much, but, yeah there’s just a lot of amazing stuff. I mean just in the Palm Springs area alone, there are now four sites.
Bryan: With all four technologies leading technologies at this time from Thermal Beach Club, DSRT Surf, Coral Mountain and Palm Springs Surf Club. Yeah. We just talked about it. So you’ve got SurfLoch, you’ve got Kelly’s wave, you’ve got Wave Garden and then you’ve got American Wave Machines, right?
Chris: Yep. That’s right. So it’ll be Coral Mountain with the Kelly Slater technology, DSRT Surf, which is the project that John Luff from Surf Park Central is involved with. That’s a Wave Garden technology. We’ve got the American Wave Machines project with Thermal Beach and then SurfLoch at Palm Springs Surf Club. So yeah, quite the technology battle in Palm Springs, it’s like the proving ground.
Bryan: I have to ask you this, how do you see Coral Mountain going with a Kelly Slater wave pool as the central thing? Because at first, when I thought about it, I thought, oh, this is great. I’m off to work, I’m going to set up a 7:30 wave, you know, and you show up and you have your morning wave and you get a minute-long ride and you’re stoked and you’re ready for the day because you bought a $1 million condo on the property or however that’s going to work out. But then there’s the noise. There’s the noise of the machine as opposed to foil down the track. And I’m curious how they’re going to, I guess for lack of a more polite term, beautify like what we see in Lemoore. How are they going to do that? Do you have any thoughts, Chris? I would love to hear it.
Chris: With Jess Ponting on our team, as our head of research, he’s a professor at San Diego State, and his background is in sustainable surf tourism. In addition to helping us too, he helped Jon to create the first Surf Park Summit. So anyway, he ran it. He wrote a recent research paper and also pulled some stats from other studies. One stat is that a home, a residential home that’s located near a good surf break, controlling for everything related to real estate and location and amenities, is worth about $106,000 more than the same home, not near a great surf break. So the question is, is it going to provide the same level of benefit if there’s a cranking, spitting, spewing, loud machine? But we’ve heard from the architects that we engage through Summit, and in our network, that they’re just going to level up the insulation.
So it will be part of the residential home design is how they address this. And then in terms of noise dampening for the machine itself, to be honest, I’m not sure. I’ve never experienced the Kelly technology firsthand. If it’s truly as loud as you say, there’ll be an interesting problem. But Palm Springs overall feels like it would be like if you want to get into media, you go to New York. Or if you want to get into tech, you go to San Francisco. If you want to get into surf parks, you go to Palm Springs and you stay for a couple of days and try them all. You run the gauntlet.
Bryan: But then let’s talk about the next Coachella Valley, which is Phoenix and the areas around there: Mesa, Arizona, Gilbert, which ironically is where big surf launched in 1969. And they were surf focused when they first opened, which I find incredible. But now you have other parks and plans going on there and we’re due to get a press release from them Monday. They are a Swell MFG, the group Shane Beschen is working with.
Chris: Really exciting to hear about their work. And just as a caveat on my last comment too. Before I move past the Palm Desert, Palm Springs stuff. I just also want to debunk the myth or the misconception we’ve heard about Palm Desert and Palm Springs. They’re not the same. They’re actually two different towns, different cities that are adjacent to each other, but that is important. So the Palm Springs and Palm desert area, just to be factually correct there.
Bryan: But they’re all the Coachella Valley, right?
Chris: That’s right. They are sibling areas, same region, but factually different towns. So that’s important, just to get the facts right.
And over to Tempe and the projects generally popping up in Arizona, we also interviewed Shane Beschen about Wai Kai, his Oahu project a couple of weeks ago, and we got to meet the team over at Swell MFG. And we’re still a little early on being able to comment from the Surf Park Central side there. And we’re excited to see the press releases that they can share. But generally from what we understand, it’s going to be an exciting new technology that will be coming on people’s radars very quickly once they announce. And then the other exciting component about some of the projects mentioned is that there’ll be other secondary waves involved. So this is the first time we’re seeing like a primary wave and a secondary wave, and it’s unofficial as of now, but we have seen some leaked press that there’ll be a Unit Surf Pool included at Revel at the facility with the Swell MFG technology.
So kind of cool. That’s the first time we’re hearing of two wave techs. And I like that from a customer perspective, because while you’re waiting for the big wave, warm up on the little wave, that kind of dynamic really makes sense to me. So anyway, that’s just what we’ve heard so far. Data to be validated after the press releases come out next week.
Bryan: Yeah, we’ll see what happens. It’s really exciting. Because it leads to the fact that in five years time, there are going to be so many surf parks. And that’s the other thing that I could pick your brain on is what about emerging technologies? What’s your take on it? We did a story on some south American technologies coming up. I know there are a couple in the US, and Germany has one going on that we know of. So basically there’s the pneumatic setup where people can just basically compress air in any configuration. But there are also quite a few, like a wave prism, which uses levers and things like that. Do you see like a kind of revolution where you, Chris, can go and buy a few parts at Home Depot and set up your own wave machine?
Chris: It’s a fun question. And there was this video from SurfLoch, actually talking about Tom Lochtefeld early and visually showing some of his early designs where they had this version of a plow that they towed behind the boat. And you just see that and you’re like, wow, this will never work. And then you fast forward to today and it has come quite a long way. So it took 10 years for Tom to get to that point.
So I do think that because of the emphasis and the investment, there will be a surge in innovation. And specifically there’s a couple emerging technology companies that are already making waves so to say, literally. And we highly encourage that. And specifically for Surf Park Central we’re trying to find ways to better feature those folks. So it’s not just talking about the commercially available technologies. So for example, at the Summit, we do this thing called the Emerging Tech Leader Showcase, where we bring in folks like that to help them talk about what they’re building. All that said, admittedly at Surf Park Central, we play it a little more conservatively. We generally will be very reluctant to over promise what a new technology can deliver before we start to see larger at scale performance. So I’m optimistic, cautiously. And I do expect it to take a couple years. But all that said, I am definitely a proponent for if you build it, I will come and come check it out. So I’m optimistic that we will see more commercially available technologies in the next couple of years. How do you feel about it?
Bryan: I think it’s great. I’m more like a dreamer. If someone approaches me and says, oh, we’ve got this great technology, it works like this. I’m like, all right, let’s put it out there. Let’s see what happens. And we get a lot of people reaching out to us to say, hey, we’ve got this concept, we’ve got a test tank. We need funding, we need to grow it. And that’s the part where you have to do some vetting and explore as you know. Is this guy wearing a foil hat to keep radio waves from bouncing into his brain or whatever? Because there is that element out there. But most of the time someone’s genuine and they have this great technology and they just need some support to get it going. You know how a lot of tech industry had incubators and such? Maybe we can start up the same.
Chris: I love that actually. Who are the guys building in their garage right now? The future wave that we’re all going to enjoy. I love that idea, some sort of a way to just help encourage and accelerate this stuff. And it’s a great idea. We should look at that as our next collaboration.
Bryan: Okay. Yeah. The incubator.
Chris: Yeah. I love that. Awesome to hear about your different takes, and kind of share notes. And just for any viewers that are newer, hopefully this was good. We’ll make sure we do some show notes and put links to all these different facilities and help to bring these names to the surface. I know you guys have some resources on this stuff as well, that will link back to like the map you guys have built and things like that.
But just to bring it home, maybe a little more in the clouds is the dreamer. So what’s the future of surf look like? What’s it going to look like in 10 years, once more of these parks get built and more people get exposure to them. What’s the future hold?
Bryan: I think the first thing you’ll see is that everyone will be a capable surfer. And I know that sounds really ambitious, but right now the learning curve with surfing, as you know, is just one of the most difficult things out there. But with access to repetitive waves, people will be much more proficient. And learn at a quicker rate, thereby getting more enjoyment and immersing themselves deeper into surfing. So in that regard, you’re going to see like this core kind of ethos that we have with surfing, where it sparks something in you. You have to do it. You just feel a little larger than yourself.
Maybe we’ll see that grow to more and more people as more people surf. The contrary to that is the people who think, oh, it’s going to crowd ocean lineups, because more people will know how to surf. I think as long as wave pools and surf parks keep coming up, then people will have a place to surf. And there’s not going to be too many transitioning from pool to ocean because the ocean is just a whole different beast.
Chris: You got to paddle and duck dive too. Sorry, guys. It’s hard, especially when it’s cold.
Bryan: And you have to read the ocean.
Chris: Yeah, and where do you surf? How do you access the wave without putting yourself in harm’s way? That’s a big part of surfing is when to go, where to go, how to go.
Bryan: Yeah. And which swells are coming from it, from which direction. The thing I’m most excited about again is the culture that emerges. What happens when instead of a skate park, a community builds a wave pool. That’s a rapid wave or a traveling wave. And then everyone has access to surf, and it’s not necessarily going to be tethered to ocean surfing. So it could become this totally unique thing. Kind of like we saw when snowboarding took off 40 years ago where it became definitely its own core sport with its own vibe and everything.
Chris: Love that. What a great way to end. Thanks for taking the time again for this today. Where can folks learn more and connect?
Bryan: Yeah, we’re on Instagram, WavePoolMag. We’re online, wavepoolmag.com, and on Twitter and Facebook, if you still use those platforms.
Chris: LinkedIn now, too, right?
Bryan: Yes, we just started LinkedIn, which I begrudgingly go to each Monday. So LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, all the social platforms and then wave poolmag.com. And yeah, look forward to doing more with you in the future, Chris.
Chris: Amazing. Well, thanks again. We’ll call it for today. So thanks Bryan. And we’ll talk soon.
Bryan: Awesome. Thanks for having me.
Chris: Hey everyone. Here’s Chris again. Thanks for tuning into today’s episode. For those of you who want more information on surf parks and the topics covered in these episodes, surf park Central’s insider membership might be for you. Insiders are people serious about surf parks and the organizations they represent. You can join insiders for a monthly membership fee and rewatch all the surf parks summits that have ever happened. You can get transcript, access to research reports and white papers, even see webinars with special guests, like those who visit us on this podcast. So check out surfparkcentral.com/insiders to learn more about this exclusive professional community for surf parks. Check it out, surfparkcentral.com. Please subscribe to our podcast on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. Do leave us a review if you like what you hear. It really helps us to get the word out, get featured and get more people to listen in. Also, please out our website beyondoceanpodcast.com.