Surfers will come up with whatever means necessary to replicate the feeling of riding a wave.
From skateboarding to surfing the swells created by tankers traveling up and down Galveston Bay, all of us are looking for that glide, the sense of weightlessness and otherworldly transcendence that comes with sliding across the water’s surface.
Wave pools are perhaps the most extreme of this ever-evolving search for stoke. Over the decades, most wave pools have been chlorinated disappointments, producing weak dribblers not really suited to surfing.
But over the past five or so years, the technology in wave pools has evolved immensely. And Texas is home to the first of these new generation wave-making locations in North America.
NLand Surf Park opened just east of Austin in 2016 and features technology developed by Wavegarden in Europe. Wavegarden CEO Josema Odriozola told Surfline that the wave at NLand is made by a large blade — called a wavefoil — that moves from one end of the lagoon to the other to create a swell that interacts with an engineered bottom contour to lead to breaking waves.
At NLand, there are essentially three waves for surfers to ride — a bay wave geared to beginners, a bit larger inside wave that’s great for surfers who want more of a challenge and a reef wave for intermediate and advanced surfers.
NLand has opened to mostly positive reviews from those who have ridden the wave, but some surfers have complained that it lacks significant power, that the reef wave isn’t big enough and that the price ($90 an hour for the reef wave) is too steep. Still, for most, those complaints are pretty small potatoes when you consider that surfers are catching waves 250 miles from the nearest slice of coastline.
While NLand might be the only man-made surfing option in Texas for now, that will change next year when BSR Surf Resort opens in Waco. BSR is implementing technology developed by American Wave Machines, a company based in Southern California that bills itself as a world leader in designing, engineering and manufacturing wave pools and surf parks.
BSR will feature a proprietary technology from American Wave Machines called PerfectSwell, which uses an air-powered system to mimic ocean waves of all different sizes and shapes — including beach breaks, point breaks and reef breaks — suitable for all different levels of surfers.
The BSR Surf Resort is set to open by spring or summer next year. NLand, which closed for the season last month, is reportedly gearing up to reopen in the spring. I plan to visit both when they open next year to offer my impressions and comparisons between the waves created at each.
While the Texas wave pools should be enough to keep a landlocked surfer — or one who’s suffering through an interminable summer flat spell — stoked, the king of all wave pools has been built in Lemoore, Calif.
From the various videos posted online of pro surfers trying it, Slater’s Surf Ranch is a sight to behold.
The wave appears to be much larger and more powerful than other artificial waves created to date. It even has a barrel section where surfers can disappear completely inside the green cavern of the wave, emerging into sheet-glass and utter perfection for another hundred yards or so.
The World Surf League was so impressed by the technology that earlier this year it bought Surf Ranch — and its associated technology — from Slater for an undisclosed sum and will hold one of its World Championship Tour events there next year.