Surfing is one of the fastest growing action sports in the world. People from all over the world flock to the ocean to enjoy the beaches, relax, exercise and surf.
Perhaps the biggest impact on the surf industry has come from the rise of surf parks. One of the big challenges for surfers around the world is access to the waves, both geographically and in terms of quality and consistency. With the advent of artificial surf pools, many of these challenges have been resolved. At a time when the sport has started to conquer new markets and population segments, surf parks have been instrumental in welcoming experienced and novice surfers into a fun, social and non-intimidating version of ocean surfing.
There are currently 17 surf parks open around the world and 47 more on offer or under planning and construction. With several surf pool technologies available, operators and investors, as well as residential and commercial developers, are now looking with great interest at the potential of this growing industry.
The surf park sector, although young, is a rapidly evolving market. There are only a handful of operational surf park lagoons in the world, but they continue to gain popularity around the world.
Hotel & Leisure Advisors carried out its first feasibility study on the surf park market in 2008 in the United States. Since then, we have followed the growth of this industry. The following table shows the number of surf parks open around the world and those in the pipeline (i.e. proposed or under construction). These do not include projects at very early stages.
In addition to surf lessons, most surf parks offer sessions for surfers of all levels. Prices for hourly sessions typically range from $ 40 to $ 50 for beginner sessions to $ 70 to $ 100 for advance.
Existing surf pools vary in size from around 2 acres, like BSR Surf in Waco, Texas, to around 5.5 acres, like URBN Surf in Melbourne, Australia.
Pools are generally capacity controlled, with a limited number of people allowed to both maintain safety and provide a quality experience. These capacities are defined by the size of the surf pool and the technology used. Depending on the location, some surf parks may operate year round while others must close or limit their hours during the winter months.
A unique opportunity
Man-made recreational waves have been around for generations, and technology has continued to advance as experts attempt to build the “perfect wave”.
The first model suitable for surfing opened at Big Surf Waterpark in Tempe, Arizona, in 1969. Twenty years later Scottish engineer Douglas Murphy designed the Typhoon Lagoon wave pool, a major Disney World attraction. in Florida and the first pool truly suitable for surfing. Murphy remained the leader in artificial wave technology until 2010, when new technologies began to appear.
Today, several wave pool technologies exist. Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch has the surfing world excited about the potential for large, competition-caliber artificial waves, while new technologies from Wavegarden, Surfloch, American Wave Machines, Whitewater and Surf Lakes have proven that it is possible to produce thousands of waves per barrel. hour in a small lagoon.
The biggest advantage of these technologies has been the ability to develop inland or urban surf parks. Modern technologies and design allow the operator to target multiple skill levels during the same surf session. Operators can scale up or down the waves to target different user groups.
Surfing is more than just surfing the waves and skill. It is a culture that promotes an outdoor lifestyle and draws people to the oceans. Artificial surfing has the potential to bring this same culture to virtually everyone in the world. The fact that surfing made its debut this year as an Olympic sport has been a catalyst for many developments and is viewed favorably by many developers, sports organizations and government entities.
The development of a new surf park comes with challenges and stakes. For example, developers and investors need to assess whether such a venture is financially feasible. As the technology is relatively new, developers and operators are tweaking a variety of models to maximize the potential. We have identified two key operating models, which in some ways resemble those of water parks.
Autonomous : This type involves the development of the only surf park, with limited retail operations or on-site catering. It is mainly aimed at helping clients to train and develop their skills. During competitions and events, participation is limited to participants and spectators.
Such a place can also function as a private club for members only. Much like a stand-alone water park, this surf park model would suit developers who have smaller sites and access to limited capital. In addition to private developers, this type would also be suitable for cities, park districts and schools. They can offer surfing as a sport option or develop surf clubs. Park districts may offer surf lessons, clinics or camps for residents and visitors. The surf lagoon can be transformed into a giant wave pool during the summer days for the recreation of the residents.
A public-private partnership could allow the city to subsidize the development of the surf park while offering a unique new development to residents.
Resort complex or mixed-use development: In this model, the surf park is part of a larger mixed-use entertainment, retail and / or resort development.
This type allows for more flexibility and a higher earning potential. The surf park is part of a larger destination development that would offer on-site accommodation, retail, dining and / or other leisure and entertainment facilities such as a concert area, a park aquatic, adventure park, hiking, biking or golf. This model attracts more surfing and non-surfing visitors, including friends, family, and curious visitors.
In addition to attracting residents of the local population, it could also serve as a tourist destination. This would require the surf park to be near or within a large population base.
Surf parks will never replace the experience of surfing an ocean wave. Instead, they are a way to introduce surfing to a wider population. An example of something similar has changed the way people participate in golf. By focusing on the social aspect, the TopGolf company has broadened the base of the sports market. He focused not only on existing golfers, but also on those who had never played seriously but were curious to try, with new technology and in a more relaxed setting.
Likewise, today’s surf parks can capitalize on the social appeal of surfing while teaching it to a new generation, thus expanding its appeal.
Key success factors
Several factors will determine the viability of a surf park:
â¢ Community membership: The success of any business that depends on the local people for attendance must have the support of the community. Residents must feel invested in the project.
â¢ Programming: Meeting the needs of the community and visitors to the area requires a comprehensive and thoughtful range of programs.
â¢ Price : Surf Parks need a pricing strategy. Operators must decide not only how much to charge for sessions, but also assess how customers will react to price fluctuations, and when to increase or decrease fees.
â¢ Flexibility: Modern technologies make it possible to tailor waves to a specific target audience, making it possible to cater for all skill levels. This flexibility is essential, as it makes the venue accessible to a wider audience, rather than just targeting existing surfers.
â¢ Social aspect: To capture and retain a diverse clientele, surf parks should include amenities suitable for families, as well as an active nightlife that involves concerts and music.
â¢ The experience reinvented: A surf park should offer the full package without needing to travel to the ocean. It should offer something new for consumers looking for the next exciting experience.
â¢ Competetion: High-tech features like customizable waves allow venues to transform into competition venues and host or create their own events for local surfers.
To look forward
As technology catches up with opportunities, surf parks find their happiness in the sun.
In just a few years, these properties have reinvented the sport of surfing. People who might not consider sport now will be more likely to do so, thanks to these sites that are safe, convenient, non-intimidating and accessible.
With development costs ranging from $ 20 million to $ 50 million and multiple operating models, developers and investors need to analyze usage, pricing, and other revenue-generating onsite outlets for determine the total income potential. A thorough market feasibility study and financial analysis must be carried out to justify that the project is financially viable.