If it seems like the entire world has wave pool fever, that’s because it does. Wave pools are popping up all over the place, and not just standing waves — legitimate, barreling man-made creations that seem to stretch off into the distance forever.
Not only are they popping up all over, but project proposal after project proposal is hitting local municipalities as the two major players (Kelly Slater/World Surf League and Wavegarden) attempt to out-gun the other in surfing’s wave pool arms race.
With all that in mind, we wanted to provide you with a handy list of the existing wave pools you need to know about and the potential ones that should be on your radar. With surfing’s inclusion in the 2020 Olympics on the horizon, it’s not inconceivable that wave pools will be the next big thing in tourism — think about it: you’re guaranteed waves and won’t have to deal with crowds.
Whatever your feelings are on wave pools, it seems they’re here to stay, and things are only getting started.
Wave Pools In Existence
The original of the modern wave pool age, Wavegarden’s technology opened the minds of everyone in surfing and beyond to the possibility of truly creating a perfect manmade wave. Its unveiling in 2011 set off a chain of events in the wave pool arms race that we’re still in the middle of today.
But their 2.0 version, The Cove, is set to compete with the perfection of Kelly Slater’s wave and will be the focus moving forward for Wavegarden we imagine.
Do you remember where you were on Dec. 18, 2015? That is the infamous day that Kelly Slater unveiled his manmade creation to the world. Immediately the standard for all other wave pools to judge themselves upon, it makes sense that the greatest surfer ever would create the greatest wave pool we’ve seen (so far).
The United Kingdom got in on the wave pool action with their very own Wavegarden in 2015, and it seems to be a smash hit with the Brits. They also held the first international wave pool event in the modern wave pool era and truly gave a glimpse at what surf contests in wave pools could look like in this age.
Want to be a surf cowboy? Then Austin, TX is where you should head. Wavegarden’s first location in the U.S., NLand is a glimpse into how modern public wave pools will operate.
You’re probably not going to the UAE anytime soon, but it’s nice to know that such a fun-looking wave pool exists there.
Sunway Lagoon in Malaysia claims its wave pool can create waves up to eight feet in height. We’re not sure it’s that big (maybe Malaysia uses a reverse Hawaiian wave measuring scale?), but it does seem that Mick Fanning, Owen Wright, Stephanie Gilmore and the rest of the Rip Curl team enjoyed the filming of those Mirage 2 ads back in 2010.
Another international wave pool that doesn’t get much play, it looks pretty fun on video but it’s probably been left in the dust by the Wavegarden and Kelly Slater pools.
Typhoon Lagoon is certainly one of the wave pools made pre-modern wave pool era — it was built in 1989. Watching it in video footage it certainly feels old. That said, it is still a heck of a time and can be quite fun if you want to venture to the middle of the Sunshine State.
Wave Pool Projects In The Works
Kelly Slater’s Florida Surf Ranch – Palm Beach County, FL
Well…it's official…we have a building permit in Palm Beach County for #SurfRanchFlorida. I'm beyond proud and stoked to see the first of our developments at @kswaveco going to my home state of #Florida. Thank you to Mayor Burdick and the city commissioners for your approval and support of the project. Also thank you to #JupiterFarms for your comments and support. Looking forward to being neighbors. I keep joking about it but it might be true that now I can move back home now and surf as much as I want! Cannot wait to see a bunch more stoked people riding waves. This is gonna be fun.
Florida’s prodigal son Kelly Slater has brought 11 world titles back to his home state, and now he’s officially going to be bringing his manmade perfection there. Officially granted a building permit by Palm Beach County, the Florida Surf Ranch is underway to becoming a reality and opening to the public in 2019.
Wavegarden Virginia Beach, VA
New plans for old Dome site involve Pharrell Williams and a surf park https://t.co/ZZZ712C34i
— Virginia Beach (@PilotVaBeach) October 25, 2017
This one is even less official than Slater’s Florida Surf Ranch, as a development group (Venture Realty Group) is merely in negotiations for a proposed project that would bring Wavegarden’s Cove technology to downtown Virginia Beach. As a bonus, Pharrell Williams is a partner in the group that’s pitched the city on the project.
Looking to bring Wavegarden’s technology to Australia, URBNSURF was supposed to be open by late this year. But since construction didn’t get started in 2016 like it was supposed to, the project has been pushed back a bit. They recently entered the final stages of fundraising and hope to have an updated timeline soon.
Pretty much the white whale of wave pools, the surfing world has been hearing about Greg Webber’s concoction for so long it feels like it will never happen.
The looped linear theory he presents for endless waves makes sense in sketches and renderings, but how come we haven’t seen anything concrete yet? Then again, maybe the design is so revolutionary that he’s kept it under such lock-and-key because once the first version is unveiled it will make Kelly Slater’s wave pool look like Typhoon Lagoon?
Wavegarden claims that they have over 20 projects in the works all around the world. From the map they present, it looks like places like Florida, California, New York, South America and all over Australia are all potential sites.
As we said earlier, wave pools are en vogue right now and these projects tend to pop up quickly (and sometimes fizzle out even faster).
Did we miss any notable wave pools or projects? Let us know in the comments below.
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