7 wave pools over 7 seven years

The Bristol Wavegarden is an example of what projects in Japan could look like from the sky. Photo: Wave Garden


Wave pools are all the rage lately. For years they were almost there, but not quite. But now, as technology gets better and better and the waves they can produce are perfectly suited to what a surfer wants, they are popping up all over the world. And recently, Wavegarden announced that, along with a velodrome company called JPF, they are building seven additional swimming pools in seven different regions of Japan.

In 1934, the world’s first wave pool was opened to the public. It was at Wembley Pool in London, and it wasn’t a wave pool as we know it today. It wasn’t good for surfing, which, since surfing wasn’t even a spot on the general public’s radar, didn’t really matter that much. The pool measured 200 by 60 feet, and electric pistons moved huge paddles, generating waves that swimmers rocked into. It was a novelty at best, but the first real seed had been planted.

Over the years, however, surfing took hold, the imagination was unleashed, and the developers poured salt water from their noses onto the grindstone. Little has been improved over the years – three decades later, the Summerland Wavepool in Tokyo, Japan has opened up to surfers. Then, in 1969, the now famous Big Surf opened in Tempe, Arizona. It was a massive facility: On 20 acres of Hawaiian-themed luxury, Big Surf featured a 300-by-400-foot wave pool developed by an engineer (not a surfer) named Phillip Dexter. The wave there, however, still ignored the waves created by the ocean. But still, we tried to recreate those waves.

In 1985, Tom Carroll won the World Inland Championship in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The wave there, compared to the waves that pools are pumping now, was sucked up. It was one more step into the future, however, and over the following years more and more openings, usually only for a few years before costs and lack of interest forced them to close. Typhoon Lagoon, Ocean Dome in Miyazaki, Sunway Lagoon in Malaysia – all were viable surf waves, but none were really good enough to move the needle.

In 2011, the world of surfing was shaken up by the first images of Wavegarden from their test bench. I spoke with Josema Odriozola, CTO and co-founder of Wavegarden at the time, and even though the technology was still slapped like a newborn, it was clear that something fundamental was going to change in surfing. And the change did.

Now that we know, let’s go back to the Wavegarden press release. The new pools will be built over the next seven years. The partnership between Wavegarden and the JPF Group is good; Wavegarden, of course, built the technology while JPF has been responsive in the successful management and development of six velodromes.

Wavegarden is already in Asia, with the largest surf park in the world. The Wave Park near Seoul is an absolutely huge facility, built with the help of Daewon Plus Construction Group, one of South Korea’s leading real estate and theme park developers.

In July, Wavegarden also announced its entry into the Latin American market. “For the next 10 years, Brazilian developer, KSM Realty, will be the national representative of Wavegarden,” said a representative of Wavegarden. “Following the success of Praia da Grama, the world’s first tropical beach with man-made waves in a private condominium, KSM now plans to create several similar developments across Brazil.”

A Wavegarden Cove in Perth is also in the works. In the UK there is a project proposal in Manchester which only recently got the green light. The company is expanding its reach incredibly quickly. “Wavegarden has seven facilities in operation and currently five projects in the pre-construction / construction phase,” the statement said. “Garopaba, Brazil; Coachella, United States; and Sydney, Australia. 47 others are under development on five continents.

On the back of all those other pools in the works, it’s clear that while there are other wave pool equipment out there, Wavegarden’s announcement puts them squarely ahead of the race for wave pool domination. .

About Douglas Moser


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