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Watershed Month Ahead in the Evolution of Surf Parks

By Jess Ponting

It is a really interesting month in the evolution of surf parks. All kinds of data points are swirling as new surf parks prepare to open, others deal with teething issues, and we’re seeing the tangible beginnings of the impact of surf park training on pro surfing beyond specialty air events.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest happenings in the world of surf parks.

Palm Springs Surf Club

It is widely known that there are issues hampering the sustained launch of the Surf Loch lagoon at the Palm Springs Surf Club. However, the precise nature of these issues is far more opaque. 

I’ve heard on pretty good authority what’s up but that information was given in confidence. This week I got through to both Tom Lochtefeld and Cheyne Magnusson to try and get some shareable information directly from Surfloch and PSSC. Neither were prepared to divulge exactly what was causing the second closure of the lagoon since January though I was able to ascertain that Cheyne is understandably frustrated and determined as hell to get waves pumping ASAP and that Tom is letting PSSC handle comms on the matter. 

I’m wishing the PSSC team all the best and I’m glad the rest of the park is humming along in the meantime and scheduled events are continuing. With luck, and sheer Magnusson willpower we will see the 5 Slabs of Fury back in action soon.

Cheyne is hellbent on bringing slabs of fury back to PSSC ASAP. Image: Robbie Crawford.

URBNSURF Sydney

Surf Park Central favorite Damon Tudor has less than 3 weeks as CEO of URBNSURF. At that point, he will pass the baton to incoming CEO Jennifer Vanderkreeke. Jennifer is going to land in the deep end of the lagoon as the Sydney location is due to open in less than two weeks! Waves have been pushed and Owen Wright has been barrelled. I’ve been trading emails with Damon trying to get an interview despite his hectic schedule so close to the public opening. We were due to chat on his morning commute but he had to reschedule to handle some urgent onsite issues at Sydney Olympic Park in the ramp-up to opening. From the outside looking in, things appear to be running smoothly, if a little behind the original projected opening month of April (though to be fair, waves began on time). Two weeks out from opening, all surf sessions in week 1 are either completely booked out or very close to it, and the back end and weekend of week 2 are as well. Bodes well for a strong opening.

I was chatting with James Miles, URBNSURF’s Head of Sales & Partnerships a couple of weeks ago and he was reflecting on just how urban URBNSURF Sydney really is. Slap bang in the geographic center of a city of 5.3 million people with an average salary of $92,172 in a state that is home to 50% of Australia’s 1.8 – 2.5 million surfers. We’ve really not yet seen a surf park of this scale operate in a big city environment like this one. It’s going to be fascinating to see what happens on a cultural level. What new communities of surfers are going to form around this facility? 

URBNSURF is literally in the geographic center of the greater city of Sydney.

The May 13th opening of URBNSurf Sydney will mark another historic moment in surf park evolution – URBNSURF will become the first owner/operator surf park company to have two properties operating concurrently under the same flag. URBNSURF is boldly going where no surf park company has gone before.

O2 Surftown Muc

The first Endless Surf venue to reach completion, O2 Surftown Muc, situated on the outskirts of Munich, is slated to open this month as well. Munich, a city of 1.4 million is home to a hydraulic jump wave in the Ice River (Eisbach) that inspired Citywave and other standing wave engineering companies. There is a surprisingly robust surf scene around the Eisbach and many Germans are summer surfers in France, Spain, and Portugal.

In a clear show of local support, Surftown Muc’s pre-sale packages and bundles are sold out. Endless Surf is prepping an invite-only victory lap of Munich for partners and potential customers this summer. 

Training in Surf Parks

In a separate but interesting data point this week, I watched the broadcast of 18-year-old Kai Odriozola, the older son of Wavegarden co-founder/engineer Josema Odriozola, finishing 25th in the World Surf League Challenger Series contest at Snapper Rocks on Australia’s Gold Coast. Facing a field of 80 of the world’s best professional surfers that included 21 former World Championship competitors in conditions that looked exactly like a Wavegarden Cove, Kai’s surf park honed skills were really only defeated by superior wave selection on the part of his competitors. He was full-on ripping. 

Kai’s 15-year-old brother Hans won the Under 16 International Surfing Association’s World Junior Surfing Championship in Rio de Janeiro just five months ago. Not to take anything away from the Odriozola boys’ achievements—they are both amazing—but it is fair to assume that these two have had more surf park reps than any other competitor they are likely to face, and the proof of that experience and the competitive advantage it yields appears to be in the pudding. 

Hans and Kai Odriozola surfing Wavepark in South Korea

With the results of surf park reps being clearly demonstrated on the world stage and surfing’s second appearance in the Olympic games just a few months away, one wonders when the first government-funded Olympic surf park training facility will come to fruition – I know several are being proposed. And further, when the first Olympic surfing competition will be held in a surf park and what that might mean for surf park demand among those that have not surfed before, particularly in landlocked locations.

I’m often seeing positive signs in the surf park tea leaves but May 2024 is showing signs of being a watershed month in the evolution of surfparks.

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