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Topgolf of Surfing: The Surf Park Boom

Updated: Jun 12


Surf Park Illustration

Have you noticed more and more surf parks popping up lately? That's no coincidence—it's part of a growing trend that's making waves in the world of surfing.


These man-made paradises are not just for the pros; they attract everyone from beginners to seasoned surfers.


Last month, I had the opportunity to speak with Aaron Travis, the CEO of Surf Lakes, and Seán Young, the Head of Development Projects at Wavegarden. They provided me with great insights into the industry and their wave-generating technology.


Let's dive into the surf park boom and see what all the excitement is about.





Table of Contents




What Are Surf Parks?


So, what exactly is a surf park? Essentially, it's a controlled environment designed to produce waves suitable for surfing. These parks can be found indoors or outdoors and are equipped with advanced wave-making technology to ensure consistent surf conditions.


Surf parks come in various forms. Some are part of larger water parks, while others are standalone facilities. The main types include wave pools, surf lagoons, and river surfing parks. Each type offers a unique surfing experience tailored to different skill levels and preferences.


For professional surfers, surf parks provide an invaluable training ground. The ability to practice on consistent waves helps athletes fine-tune their techniques and prepare for competitions.


To maximize income, some venues build a resort-type venue where people can enjoy food, drinks, and other activities (Similar to Topgolf), as well as offer accommodation and memberships. However, some standalone surf parks are also doing well on their own.


You can listen to the Wave Pool Mag podcast featuring Barton Lynch discussing wave pools, their potential, and much more here. It's a fascinating and insightful conversation, particularly focusing on Surf Lakes, as Barton Lynch, the 1988 world champion, is a brand ambassador for Surf Lakes.





Technological Innovations Driving the Boom


The heart of any surf park is its wave generation system. Technologies like pneumatic wave generators, hydraulic systems, and artificial reefs are used to create waves. Companies like Wavegarden, Surf Lakes, and Kelly Slater Wave Co. are at the forefront of these innovations, continually pushing the boundaries of what's possible.


Having spoken with the CEO of Surf Lakes and the Head of Development Projects at Wavegarden, we'll primarily focus on these two leading companies, along with Kelly Slater's wave company.


While these are some of the most prominent names in the industry, there are numerous emerging companies bringing innovative technologies and ideas to the market.



Surf Lakes



Surf Lakes Logo

Surf Lakes, a pioneering Australian surf-park company, emerged from a simple yet ingenious idea conceived by Aaron Trevis while skimming stones with his kids near Brisbane in 2006. This vision eventually led to the development of Surf Lakes' groundbreaking concentric wave pool technology.


What sets Surf Lakes apart from its competitors is its innovative wave generation system, which radiates multiple breaks simultaneously from a central plunger. This design allows for a diverse range of wave types, catering to surfers of all skill levels, from beginners to advanced riders.


Unlike traditional surf pools that produce a single wave, Surf Lakes' technology generates numerous waves simultaneously, maximizing the number of rides and making it the most productive option in the market.




While other surf-pool companies, such as Wavegarden and Kelly Slater's Surf Ranch, have also made significant strides in wave pool technology, Surf Lakes distinguishes itself by offering a more cost-effective and profitable solution.


Unlike the high rental costs associated with single-wave pools, Surf Lakes predicts that riders could enjoy their waves for as little as $50 an hour. Additionally, the company's circular design not only creates a dynamic surfing environment but also maximizes beach-front real estate, making it an attractive investment opportunity for developers.


Surf Lakes has secured licensing agreements in various locations, including California, Texas, and Singapore, indicating strong interest and demand for its technology worldwide. But they still haven’t got a single surf lake open to the public.



Surf Lakes Technology

In May 2024, Surf Lakes launched an open investment round, valuing the company at $105 million. This initiative aims to generate additional capital for upcoming potential projects.


Surf Lakes technology is considered among the best available. Its ability to utilize a natural lake or lagoon without requiring additional structures gives it a more authentic appearance. Moreover, the technical details (see below) are highly promising. H


owever, the high initial costs and the lack of operational facilities beyond the prototype currently stand as the main drawbacks of Surf Lakes.

You can find the projects in their pipeline here.


Wavegarden



Wave Garden logo

Wavegarden embarked on its bold business venture in an unexpected locale, opting for a discreet inland property near Zarautz, Spain. Despite initial skepticism, their innovative wave pool concepts revolutionized the surfing experience.


From humble beginnings to global recognition, Wavegarden's journey has reshaped the industry landscape. A Wavegarden pool is a sophisticated fusion of surf science and business acumen. Behind its tranquil waves lies a complex infrastructure, bolstered by innovative patents and machinery.


To ensure financial viability, Wavegarden venues offer diverse revenue streams, including surf schools, dining establishments, and event-hosting services. Additionally, they catalyze promoting complementary ventures, enhancing the appeal of surrounding hotels, resorts, and commercial projects.





Wavegarden Cove technology boasts a diverse menu of over 20 waves, catering to surfers of all levels. With six distinct wave categories and customizable sizes and speeds, it facilitates skill development and progression, from learning to advanced maneuvers. This versatility not only encourages repeat visits but also accommodates private sessions and surf competitions. Controlled by sophisticated software, the wave generator ensures a tailored surfing experience for every individual.


Additionally, the company's circular design not only creates a dynamic surfing environment but also maximizes beach-front real estate, making it an attractive investment opportunity for developers.


During our discussion with Seán Young, the Head of Development Projects at Wavegarden, he explained that their operational parks are continuously monitored for maintenance during operating hours. So far, no urgent maintenance has been necessary. Additionally, their modular machine design allows for quick replacement of modules in the event of a sudden breakdown.


Wavegarden has operational surf parks around the world, with additional projects in the pipeline. If you're interested in visiting their surf park, you can find their location list here.


Popular Surf Parks Around the World



In December 2015, Kelly Slater unveiled his Surf Ranch, featuring a wave-generating machine that moves along a railroad at the side of the water to create waves.


The original Surf Ranch is closed to the public, but in 2023, the first commercial facility opened in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.


Other notable companies in the industry include Endless Surf, Surfloch, and Allwaves. Many more companies are out there, each with its own advantages and disadvantages, making the choice dependent on your budget and concept. If you're eager to learn about new surfing venues and technologies, check out Surf Park Central and Wave Pool Mag —they're doing an outstanding job.


Economic Impact of Surf Parks


Surf parks are more than just recreational spots; they're also significant contributors to local economies. From construction jobs to positions in hospitality and retail, these parks create numerous employment opportunities.


Local businesses might also benefit from the influx of visitors to surf parks. Hotels, restaurants, and shops often see increased traffic, leading to economic growth in the area.


Opening a venue with a surf park, along with accommodation options, restaurants, bars, and event centers, offers significant revenue potential. It also presents a compelling opportunity for property developers, as such venues tend to increase the value of nearby land.


An interesting case to explore is the Wavegarden story in Brazil, which highlights how much value a wave pool can add to a development. You can read more about it here.


Environmental Considerations


With any large-scale development, environmental concerns are paramount. Many surf parks are adopting sustainability practices, such as using renewable energy sources and implementing water recycling systems, to minimize their ecological footprint.


Water usage is another critical issue for surf parks. Efficient water management systems and the use of non-potable water sources are some of the measures being taken to ensure that these parks are environmentally responsible.


Conclusion


The surf park boom is transforming the world of surfing, making the sport more accessible and enjoyable for everyone. With technological advancements, economic benefits, and a growing number of parks worldwide, the future of surf parks looks bright.


Whether you're a seasoned pro or a complete beginner, there's never been a better time to catch the wave and experience the thrill of surfing in a surf park.


Consultation for Surf Parks


We offer consultation services for EATertainment venues, including surf parks. If you're unsure about which technology to choose or want to understand the challenges and potential income associated with surf parks, feel free to contact us anytime.


Our consulting services include:


  • Business Plan

  • Feasibility Study

  • Choice of Technology

  • Sustainability and Circular Economy

  • Competitor Analysis






FAQs about Surf Parks


What is a surf park?


A surf park is a man-made facility designed to produce waves suitable for surfing. These parks use advanced technology to create consistent, high-quality waves.


How do surf parks create waves?


Surf parks create waves using various technologies such as pneumatic wave generators, hydraulic systems, and artificial reefs. Companies like Wavegarden, Surf Lakes, and Kelly Slater Wave Co. are leading innovators in this field.


Are surf parks environmentally friendly?


Many surf parks are adopting sustainability practices, such as using renewable energy sources, implementing water recycling systems, and utilizing non-potable water sources to minimize their environmental impact.


Can beginners use surf parks?


Yes, surf parks are designed to cater to all skill levels. Many parks offer lessons and have sections with gentler waves suitable for beginners, as well as more challenging waves for experienced surfers.


What are the costs associated with visiting a surf park?


The cost of visiting a surf park can vary widely depending on the location, facilities, and duration of your visit. Prices typically include entry fees, equipment rental, and optional lessons or training sessions. It's best to check the specific surf park's website for detailed pricing information.


Are surf parks safe? Safety is a top priority in surf parks. Strict protocols are in place to ensure the well-being of visitors, including lifeguards, safety briefings, and emergency response plans.






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