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5 surf park design tips

We are in a privileged position to know about surf parks in development ahead of their public announcement, and we can say with confidence that we see inland surf venues expanding into different markets globally. Why? The demand for the surf experience is undoubtedly growing stronger amongst consumers who are driving these projects. These “new” surf development types, whether mixed-use, hotel & resort, or entertainment (among many others), all require unique approaches when it comes to surf park design. But no matter how different the extra amenities surrounding the pool are, the goal often remains the same: to provide an exceptionally authentic surf environment for both surfers and guests.

Although it may sound simple enough, there is a lot of nuance that goes into surf park design. So, to offer some insight into the art of surf venue design, we sat down with Endless Surf Architectural Creative Director, Anthony Marinakis. He usually doesn’t seek the spotlight or toot his own horn, but to sum it up, he holds nearly 30 years of experience in this area and has worked with some of the world’s most recognizable brands during his time at WhiteWater and Endless Surf. So here’s 5 tips from the expert himself:

1. Stay true to the vibe of your venue

hardcore surf vibe
Beyond luxury design and the urban entertainment vibe, the hardcore surf vibe holds a solid position in surf park design.

This starting tip sounds simple, but it can make or break a surf venue from my experience. Depending on factors like the location, target demographic, development type, and surroundings, creating the right atmosphere for your venue takes some thought. In my role helping design venues around our products at WhiteWater, and now surrounding Endless Surf, this is often step #1 as it helps our clients figure out what can make their venue special. It’s no secret that surfers are after a good vibe, so staying true to your uniqueness is important. I will say that having good waves is the most important for surfers, so make sure to put the surf in the center of these discussions. But, if you want them to stay after their session you also need to create the vibe.

2. Focus on surf pool placement to make the most of master planning

Pool placement is everything. All other components are built in relation to where the surf is.

Often overlooked, proper surf pool placement is crucial for understanding how guests will circulate through the venue. Developers should first consider how big the venue space is and how much of it will be taken by the surf pool itself. Then we can sit down and dive into the placement, additional amenities, and the guest flow through the venue. Plus, (just like how I mentioned that surf should always be the center of your design discussions) with Endless Surf we can literally place the lagoon in the center of the venue. From my venue design perspective, I love that the technology is non-invasive, doesn’t have to be backed into a corner, and has a more naturalistic and open feel. It offers 360 degrees of development potential surrounding the pool, which allows us to optimize the guest flow and circulation while maintaining stellar views.

3. Take full advantage of waterfront spaces surrounding the lagoon

The Club at Parkwood Village taking full advantage of waterfront real estate
The Club at Parkwood Village taking full advantage of waterfront real estate.

Waterfront is sought-after space and it is the main draw to why people are coming to your venue – to surf. Depending on the development, it can boost real estate values immensely – think about the ROI potential with waterfront residential units overlooking a world-class surf break.  Or, at the very least it offers a place for guests for hangout and increase their length of stay. In my role at Endless Surf, I have a lot of fun designing around our waterfront. This is mainly because of the maximized beachfront area, the potential to build on the backwall of the pool, and the “U” shape spot between both peaks that offers epic views of the left and the right. Whether its as classic as beachfront cabanas, or as high-end as infinity edge hot tubs along the backwall, I just love the creativity that goes into these discussions and plans.

4. Understand the “Three Tiers of ROI”

To really maximize revenue potential and how surf park design plays into it, I recommend looking at three tiers (The Pool, The Beach & Boardwalk, and The Additional Amenities) and how they correspond to your surf venue in particular. Staying true to the surf, the wave pool is obviously the crucial piece to the puzzle and serves as the heart of the action. Also critical to the surf experience, the beach & boardwalk acts as the next tier, bringing waterfront development potential with it. Being in the immediate vicinity of the break, surfers and other guests will be spending a lot of time here post-session so it is important to make this authentic and capitalize on the potential that it offers. The last tier, The Additional Amenities, is really where the ROI can be unlimited, and this ultimately depends on the development type, your goals, budget, and how much space you are working with. You can keep the surf park simple, or really reach for the stars on this one. But do remember tip #1 – stay true to the vibe of your venue.

5. Walk through the full guest experience from the gate to the break with surf park operators

And, yes, it all starts out like so many daydreams and notebook sketches.

This should ultimately be an ongoing approach not only to surf park design, but within all your decisions in the development process. It’s likely that we are all after the same goal… offering exceptional surf experiences. My advice is to imagine the guest journey throughout its entirety, from entering at the gate to paddling out and surfing at your break to the post-session hangout and departure. In addition, it is important to picture the experience of those that are not surfing like kids, spouses, and other guests. A well-rounded yet special experience is a good way to not only capture a wider demographic but also encourage repeat visitation on multiple occasions. To help visualize this journey and ensure that operating efficiencies are met, it’s important to include the surf park operators in this discussion. Having the additional input on the guest experience and the operating processes, is crucial in understanding projections on efficiencies and return. 

If you’re in the surf park design phase, keeping these tips and core principals in mind when it comes to venue design can be a great way to stay true to your goal of offering unforgettable experiences for surfers and guests.

This article originally appeared on the Endless Surf website August 2022.


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