In September, Barefoot Ski Ranch (BSR) in Waco, Texas, announced plans to build the first Perfect Swell wave pool by American Wave Machines (AWM). BSR is a 500 acre ranch park outside of Waco, Texas, which has, amongst other things, 3 cable lakes (including a split level), one of the most fun water slides we’ve seen, and waterfront cabins. They will now replace one of the cable lakes with AWM’s Perfect Swell wave pool.
AWM announced in 2013 that one was under construction in Sochi, Russia, and another had been agreed for the Meadowlands in New Jersey. We’re unaware if Sochi has been completed or if Meadowlands has broken ground on the pool. BSR however, have already shown pictures of the earth removal works in the space of one of their former lakes and seem to be advancing quickly. BSR will effectively be a full-scale commercial prototype for AWM.
The Perfect Swell surf pool is interesting in the surf park industry context, because it shares some design parallels with the Ocean Dome in Miyazaki, Japan. That system, part of the Sheraton Sea Gaia resort, was built by Mitsubishi in 1993 for US$2bn and closed down in 2007, after having produced some incredible waves. They could produce lefts, rights, A-frames and close outs in any combination and the waves were short and punchy beach break waves, with barrels and air sections. For many this was the start of the dream of high quality surfable man-made waves.
The Ocean Dome project closed down due to high running costs: the water was kept to a permanent 28o C and the air to a constant 30o C. This aside, it functioned as a themed water park: high volume low ticket entry. It was rarely used for surfing, with the exception of evening theatrical surfing shows (with no participation), a few ASP speciality events and the occasional group of surfers who could rent out the whole pool for US$1,000 for 2 hours.
The important point is that the Ocean Dome was the first high quality artificial wave to be produced that accurately replicated ocean waves and could be used for high-performance surfing. It did so long before the advent of wave foils (as used by Wave Garden, KSWC and Webber Pools). The builders of Sea Gaia were never open to replicating or selling their wave technology on the open market and there are few details of the project available. Today, there is uncertainty regarding the quality and reliability of the Perfect Swell waves, as well as the economics, though clearly BSR have been convinced. Despite a similar technology basis, Murphy’s wave pool is generally regarded as inferior due to a very low wave rate (and subsequent throughput) and very short rides that quickly lose their size. The more open design of the Perfect Swell pool suggests it will be different.
Slated to open in the summer of 2017, the surf park market awaits anxiously to see whether this will be another viable option available to developers wanting to capitalize on the billion-dollar global surfing market.