2020 in the Rearview: Here are the stories that mattered for one reason or another

In a year ruled by a pandemic, a common theme was finding escape. With our usual social and work outlets twisted and restricted, many of us searched for a new happy place. We learned to cook. We Zoomed. We binge-watched Tiger King. Many of us simply curled up and cried in the corner while out in the world wave parks opened, closed and opened again through rolling COVID black-outs.

Despite the world hitting a big, red pause button, there were points between waves in the pandemic when life seemed almost normal. Mason Ho sessions hit Instagram, surf parks launched, construction on new parks continued and we were there to cover it, speaking with the artists, photographers, instructors, developers, staff and others who hold a unique insider perspective.

Here we present our Stories That Mattered, hand-selected by our staff as the most interesting of 2020. “For your curiosity and stoke” is our motto, and hopefully you find some of that here as we rewind on 2020 and gaze optimistically toward 2021.

Your perfect COVID-era surf trip is to a wave pool

covid surf trip to a wave pool

To avoid international travel in these times of COVID many surfers who would normally chase waves in the far corners of the globe sighted on domestic trips. Victoria’s Urbnsurf told us they expected an influx of surfers from neighboring New South Wales once restrictions relaxed. The Wave in Bristol went on record to say “Without a doubt, many advanced surfers have chosen to spend time with us getting their surfing fix, rather than travel abroad and risk facing quarantine on their return.” WavePoolMag correspondent Brad Smallwood hit up BSR Surf Resort in Texas instead of Indo because it was a sure bet to find surf in a friendly lineup. “The vibe at BSR is awesome,” said Brad. “The guests are from all over the country and the world, and with a priority system in place, there is zero room for bad vibes. Everyone seems legitimately stoked to be surfing a human-made wave.” Full Story Here.

Mark ‘Mono’ Stewart: Why wave pools will change everything in adaptive surfing

Mark Mono Stewart is the Kelly Slater of adaptive surfing. Despite being dad-age to many of his peers, he keeps claiming event wins and championship titles. In September 2015, at the age of 53, he won the inaugural ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship in California. He went on to repeat the following year. In this feature, Mark shares the how and the why when it comes to wave pools shaping the future of adaptive surfing. Full Story Here.

Tom Lochtefeld – The Godfather of modern surf parks

Tom Lochtefeld

Tom Lochtefeld is the OG wave pool geek. Plus, he’s a core surfer. For the past 30 odd years, he’s found ways to have fun and surf outside of the ocean. He fixed a cable to the rear-wheel-drive system of a Dodge truck to make a foil wave (a concept that began in 1987!) For this and many other reasons, we like Tom. But for a long time, he wouldn’t talk to us. We were shattered. But he later told us via email that he didn’t want to promote “vapor waves” – that is, planned wave pools that are just artists’ renderings. This year he’s in full deployment of his SurfLoch system in Palm Springs (and elsewhere the world.) He agreed to chat. Full Story Here.

How do they work? Every wave pool tech explained

This year more technologies debuted. To get the lowdown on the different human-made wave companies out there, we spoke with geek-in-the-know Mark “Skip” Taylor of Surf Park Management. It’s his team’s job is to factor in all the little wave technology details then recommend (among other things) the right wave pool for the client. “The reality is that public surf parks have to rely on beginner and intermediate surfers to make business models work,” Skip told us. “But you wouldn’t know this from looking at all the videos of pros.” Here are his insights into each significant wave pool technology, along with their strengths and weaknesses. Full Story Here.

How wave pools play into the pop culture art of Derek West

image of turtle and Rick Kane

Derek West was born too early. Maybe. He grew up in a town just half an hour (but decades away) from Kelly’s Wave in Lemoore. Landlocked and surf-less, his Central Valley upbringing forced him to find stoke elsewhere. “We surfed in the canals around if we couldn’t get to the beach,” recalls West. Surfless and frustrated he focused on the pop-culture side of surfing, applying his art skills on the cinematic kitsch of “Point Break” and “North Shore” among other things. Full Story Here.

How Big Surf in Tempe cut the modern wave pool template

Big surf arizona

Big Surf in Arizona was way ahead of its time and the world is just now catching up some 50 years later. Go ahead and make fun of Rick Kane and the cult classic “The North Shore,” but as more wave pool projects emerge each month we’re finding that the surf park song remains the same: Build a wave pool and you will, intentionally or not, create a surf scene. Full Story Here.

Surf club finds chlorinated home in Edmonton wave pool

Edmonton Mall wave pool

Edmonton is Canada’s “Festival City” and is home to North America’s largest mall (3.77 million sq ft.). The mall receives about 32 million visitors per year and up to 200,000 shoppers daily. It’s also the biosphere for the World Waterpark, a wave pool designed to undulate swimmers while the snow piles up outside. The pool has also spawned a legitimate surf scene. While the surf would never be confused with Kelly’s lines rolling out in Lemoore, in this piece we discover that home is wherever the surf is. Full Story Here.

How to build a wave pool: Urbnsurf creator Andrew Ross’ new venture can help

Andrew Ross of Aventuur
Andrew Ross of Urbnsurf who is now at Aventuur to increase the world’s wave pool population.

We chose this story for our “Top of 2020” list because seeing a wave pool through from concept-to-completion requires a multi-tiered platform of knowledge. Real estate development skills, attorney chops, deep investment and banking background are all necessary to build a wave pool. It also helps to be a skilled surfer. Mr. Ross is all of the above. With the launch of Aventuur, a one-stop company to see surf parks from dream-to-done, the wave pool industry just opened up a big can of “legit” as done by the man behind Urbnsurf. Full Story Here.

Firsthand: What’s it like to ride the biggest wave pool surf ever?

Measuring wave height is very subjective. Estimations vary on whether you look at the face or the back of the wave and whether you come from Hawaii or Florida. How brave you are feeling that day also comes into play. This year Surf Lakes, home to the big, steampunk plunger named Bob, went oh-so-extra and pushed out what we’re calling the heaviest wave pool wave to date. Full Story Here.

Webber Wave Pools’ US licensee plans surf spot for Coral Springs Florida

webber wave pool design

Coral Springs Florida unveiled plans for a new wave pool this year. Normally an announcement like this isn’t worth of Top Ten list for the year, but this project is unique because it will be done by one of wave-making’s most enigmatic characters, Greg Webber. If all goes according to plan, it will be the world’s first Webber Wave Pool. Full Story Here.

Rob Henson’s artistic take on the stale wave pool point-and-shoot format

BSR Surf Resort tube ride

We chose this story because there are only a handful of professional wave pool photographers in the world. And Rob Henson, the staff photographer at the BSR Surf Resort, is becoming an artist in his own right. But he’d never call it that. Between 16-hour days shooting and his no-frills Texas sensibilities, he has little room to embrace the fancy stuff. We tried to out him as an artist by using terms like “composition” and “texture” regarding this latest batch of photos. He didn’t bite. Full Story Here.

Why wave pool construction is a difficult, moody beast

In the creation of dream waves, it’s the engineers who get all the glory. These creative minds tethering their stardust visions via slide rules and math are the rock stars of the wave pool movement. But Aaron Trevis, Josema Ordriozola, Clément Ginestet, Adam Finchman and others need a solid backing band to bring these dreams to life. In this feature we get a rare peek into just how involved, complicated and multi-faceted building a wave pool really is. Full Story Here.

Wave pool project hopes to revitalize a Parisian neighborhood

First launched a few years ago, a redevelopment project in the Sevran quarter of Paris is taking aim at issues unique to under-represented neighborhoods. Urban renewal (charged terminology that it is) has grown rather stagnant. It follows a pattern: build a few soccer pitches, condos, and storefronts and then call it a day. This blueprint doesn’t always work, as communities have multi-tiered needs. Thirty-six percent of the population here lives below the poverty line with 75 percent living in subsidized housing. The development, La Vague Grande Paris, seeks to bring change with an Endless Surf wave pool and other amenities. Full Story Here.

How to get a great POV tube shot with Rob Kelly

You might not know it but the best creations in surfing often come from PVC piping, some bits of wire and duct tape. Thanks to surfing MacGyvers like Rob Kelly, DIY chutzpah is alive and well in the wave pool world. The New Jersey surfer had been after a particular POV tube perspective from a tail-mounted pole but kept getting skunked. Here he explains how to get the shot. Full Story Here.

How many wave pools are there in the world?

We did our best research earlier this year to answer the one question we get asked all the time: “How many wave pools are there in the world?” Well, we have to qualify that by firing back – do you mean “open,” “planned,” “under construction” or “sketched-on-a-school-folder?” The results are mixed. A brief takeaway would look something like the below:

15 wave pools open with surfing access
8-15 Under construction right now (some are secret)
50 Planning to break ground and transform the surf sphere
10,000,000+ floating inside surfers’ heads waiting for discovery.

But there’s more to it than the brief list above. The wave pool landscape is peppered with under-the-radar-developments in America and scattered across the globe. Some are ready to stoke the future with new super-legit ground-breaking technology. Others are really just pyramid schemes decorated with half-assed designs in Sketchup seeking deep investor cash. Full Story Here.