Desert Neighbor: One person’s relationship with the Palm Springs pool

The highly anticipated Palm Springs Surf Club has finally opened its doors. As a Coachella Valley resident and a lifelong surfer who has been landlocked, I had the privilege of observing the entire development process. Nearly every week for almost four years, I visited the site, watching this engineering marvel take shape. The builders have indeed created a remarkable resort. Nestled in Palm Springs and offering stunning views of the San Jacinto Mountains, the Palm Springs Surf Club is a resort-style property complete with three restaurants, two bars, and private cabanas flanking the pool. It’s a place where families can relax and appreciate the scenery. Later in the year, the lazy river will open, and the water slides will begin operating once the water temperature rises. Even non-surfers can enjoy a visit to this exquisite property.

The official opening was on January 1, but there was a New Year’s Eve party the night before. Unfortunately, I missed the opening day as the surf sessions sold out within hours. However, I was fortunate to book four sessions. At the time of writing, I have surfed the wave twice. Initially, I signed up for the “rights and lefts” session, but at the last minute, I was informed of a pump issue, which limited the session to “A-Frames.” The Left and Rights sessions accommodate nine surfers, while the A-frame hosts 12. On my first outing, several surfers were absent, so it was just six of us.

I must mention that I am 70 years old and ride a high-performance carbon fiber longboard crafted by my good friend Guy Takayama, specifically for the pool. Weighing 12 pounds, this rocket is perfect for the pool environment. Guy even made the trip from Vista to see me ride it. The majority of surfers use shortboards, and the wave’s ledgey takeoff isn’t particularly longboard-friendly, but this board suits me well.

David Hilts has kept WavePoolMag abreast of this surf park’s opening throughout the storied 5-year endavor. David, along with Kristen Gonda run the Coachella Valley Surf Club which supports community surfing events either at the coast or in one of the area’s upcoming wave pools. He and his partner Denice also provide area updates for WavePoolMag. Photos by Denice Hilts.

When my hour arrived, the excitement was palpable as we entered the water. The attendant opened the glass door, and we jumped in one by one. The wave emerges from a wall, with surfers positioned about 20 feet away. As the pumps revved up, the anticipation was heart-pounding. You have to keep an eye on the wall and time your paddle as the wave appears. The first few attempts were challenging, and I wiped out on my initial try. But soon, I got the hang of it and had an incredible time, catching 12 waves in an hour—a feat I’ve never achieved in the ocean.

A word of advice to surfers: the pool water is cold, much colder than the ocean. The temperature depends on the ambient air, and here in the desert, it can drop to the high 30s at night and reach the low 60s during the day. So, pack your 4/3 wetsuit.

As I write, I’ve been informed that my last session and all sessions for the rest of January have been canceled to address the technical issues. I’m confident that PSSC will resolve these matters and return even stronger. My thanks go to my wife, Denice, who captured many photos, and to Guy Takayama, who not only crafted a special board for me but also supported me throughout this experience.

Endless Surf 2023A