Wave pools seem to be popping up everywhere. There are different technologies and it seems that with every new place, the technology is getting better and better. Some are public, while others come with memberships or communities where you can buy property. Either way, nothing replaces perfect offshore waves or remote surf trips, but wave pools are fun and a great substitute for when mother ocean isn’t feeling like serving up the goods!
The Gold Standard: Kelly Slater Surf Ranch
If you ever get invited as a guest, walk, don’t run! Kelly Slater Surf Ranch is in rural inland California, about three hours from Los Angeles or San Francisco. Designed by the GOAT himself, Kelly Slater, this wave is both fun and intimidating. I have been lucky enough to go there a few times and I would be lying if I didn’t say that my butterfly level was at full-grown bats. It is basically formed by a freight train running the length of a football field-sized pool. There are four different waves of varying levels, but most people surf the two more advanced waves. Let’s face it, this wave is really about how deeply barreled you can get and make it out.
Depending on how many people are in your party, you get a finite number of waves, usually a split of lefts and rights. You can also poach other people’s waves if they fall (not that you’d ever root for someone to fall). But once you are up, the wave is just smile-inducing fun.
Everything here is top-notch: the food, accommodations, and most especially the staff and the coaching. Everyone is there to cheer you on, ensuring you make the most out of your time there. If you are keen to improve your pop-up, your cutback, your snap or your barrel stance, they will analyze video with you and even follow you on a jet ski to call out directions.
Before booking, keep in mind that The Ranch is on the more expensive side. You must rent the whole place for a day, with add-ons like staying in an airstream on the property, night surfing, photographers and live music. While the ideal way to get there is to be invited, several surf schools and groups now have days where you can reserve a spot for the price of a week’s surf trip (still really steep).
“My friends and I took a surfing trip to Waco Surf in June of 2021. Arriving at the incredible BSR surf park was heavily anticipated: the first sight of the enormous slides and impeccable waves seemed like it was out of a movie. There were endless perfect waves with warm water and music playing. Barrels galore. The only con is that you are not in the pool for longer!” - Teenage Ripper, Jack Fentress
Jack Fentress is a senior at Portledge School. He likes surfing, skateboarding and Chipotle.
Waco Surf brings the beach to Texas! They offer more affordable options, with both public sessions catered to ability and private sessions for a bit more wave time and variety. There are more than fifteen wave settings to choose from, depending on ability.
The resort features the Waco Surf Hotel, Cabins, RV Hookups, Surf Houses, The Cable Park, a lazy river (rumored to be the longest in Texas...) and Wedge Slides. Its two-acre surf lake uses PerfectSwell® surf-generating technology to guarantee you’ll get the perfect ride. Other add-ons are available to purchase, such as board rentals and photographers.
Typhoon Lagoon Surf Pool
Created by Florida surfer Ken Ohrstrom, Typhoon Lagoon Surf Pool is located in Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park. There are two, three-hour sessions, before and after the park opens, both in the morning and evening with a hundred waves each. I suggest going with four people and bringing along someone to take pictures or videos- it’s a great way to dial in your equipment and practice technique. You can split the hundred waves by rights or lefts, with a less powerful split peak wave as an option. Be warned, this wave is not really for children!
The sessions are all private and you need to make reservations a few months in advance as it gets booked up. The proper old-fashioned way I suggest is to book through Disney, but if you’re on a budget and want to catch just a couple of waves find a private company or group that rents the pool for larger groups of people. Disney does not provide boards, so you must bring your own. Instructors and photographers are also available.
Skudin Surf at American Dream
Located in New Jersey, Skudin Surf at American Dream is the world’s only indoor surfing wave pool. I won't lie, the first time I went to Skudin Surf, I expected it to be a novelty and never return. Wow, was I wrong! The Skudins are a well-known surf dynasty on the east coast and Will Skudin is a world-renowned big wave surfer, so I should have known better.
There are both public and private sessions. A private session is expensive, but not crazy, especially if you split it with others. I have done several iterations of private sessions and find 6-10 people is ideal. Anything less is exhausting and anything more has you waiting around a lot. The wave is fun for kids and adults alike with a giant Shrek watching over the pool and spiraling water slides. There are cabanas with drinks and snacks for non-surfers or surfers who need a break. The staff of pros/lifeguards is just plain fun. They keep adding to their roster of waves for all levels with great names from Sinatra to the Vortex. You can try to get a mini barrel, work on your turns or attempt to get some air.
If you live in the tri-state area and love to surf this is a must-do with friends. If you plan it right you can also hit the indoor ski slope for a legit Salt + Snow experience!
The Wave in Bristol, UK by Java Bailey, Private Surf Coach and incredible surfer.
If you ever find yourself in England with a desire to surf, the Wavegarden Cove is a 2.5 hour drive from London in the middle of a sheep pasture. The stark contrast from the surrounding industrial infrastructure creates a unique vibe. Created by legendary surfer and coach Java Bailey, the pool acts as an attraction for the local non-surfing residents who come and watch while grabbing some lunch at the on-site restaurant. Open year-round, the temperate climate requires wetsuits most of the year.
The Wavegarden Cove wave generator features a unique, modular technology that was developed in-house. The main advantage of this technology is it can produce 20 wave sets that can accommodate up to ten surfers at a time. The takeoff zone is tight and only offers two chances to catch a wave before having to paddle to the back of the line. The pressure can be a bit intimidating, but once you get the hang of it, it's a super fun, rip-able wave, comparable to a beach break on a small but fun summer swell.
There is a pool at the base of the alps in Switzerland. Two are close to opening in Palm Springs, and I believe one is a residential club with KS Wave Co technology. There is a club operation breaking ground in Long Island. Australia has a few pools, including the Surf Lake technology. The United Arab Emirates has a few pools as well.
Readers, if any of you have tried any of the other pools- please be sure to send us a little caption and a photo or two and we will include it above!