Damon Tudor, CEO of Australia’s first surf park, URBNSURF, is no stranger to the ever-evolving demands of operating a world-class wave pool. In fact, Tudor has faced just about every challenge imaginable: from a global pandemic that forced business shutdowns, to ever-changing operational demands and construction complications. In our latest episode of INSIDERS, Dr. Jess Ponting discusses Tudor’s experiences, expertise, travails, and successes in the surf park industry.
Before beginning work with URBNSURF in 2019, Tudor spent his career in sales and marketing. Though he worked extensively in consumer goods and services, his main focus became creating meaningful customer experiences in the hospitality and leisure industry. Following a 10-year stint in Dubai, Tudor and his family decided to return back to Australia where Tudor began surfing decades ago. A matter of weeks before boarding a plane to Sydney, Tudor received an offer to work with URBNSURF.
“There are not many times in your life you get asked to work on a surf park,” Tudor shares with a laugh. “It was kind of like being given the keys to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.”
Upon return, Tudor began commuting from Sydney to Melbourne to help develop the first URBNSURF wave pool at Tullamarine, a short drive inland from downtown Melbourne. In his discussion with Dr. Ponting, Tudor acknowledges how coming on during the Melbourne project’s infancy contributed to his overall understanding of its operations.
“The whole thing was like a giant mad scientist’s experiment,” Tudor shares. “The scale of this thing was overwhelming.”
Tudor was quickly faced with foreseen and unforeseen challenges that affected the wave-park site, from construction glitches to environmental factors, like the importance of high-quality soil for site development. The key to facing these challenges Tudor says, was ongoing adaptability—from pre-development to launch. Once the park was open to the public, Tudor and his team fine-tuned the operations side of the project.
Part of URBNSURF’s success is Tudor’s expertise in listening to consumer experiences and then implementing the changes needed to satisfy the needs of his customers. For example, after polling a crew of core early-adopter surfers, Tudor and his team learned that most wanted a wide variety of waves that could scale with the individual surfer’s ability and desire to improve.
Utilizing Wavegarden technology, URBNSURF is able to cater to a variety of customers. A gentle wave called “The Bay” offers whitewash for beginners, swimmers, and bodyboarders, while “The Point” can generate thick, heavy barrels. This variety in wave conditions allows URBNSURF to appeal to surfers of all skill levels, from beginners to advanced surfers looking to hone their skills.
The experience gained from URBNSURF’s Melbourne project will guide the way for the development of its second wave park in Sydney now underway.
“We feel once we’ve got Sydney moving, we’ll have some really good momentum,” Tudor shares. “Ideally this will enable us to build URBNSURF parks three and four simultaneously.”