Endless Surf says that arriving late to the surf party has its benefits

Water park pioneer White Water West has been around for a long time. Longer, in fact, than any of today’s elite tour surfers have even been alive. But Endless Surf, its dynamic-wave-making subsidiary, is a relatively new kid on the wave-pool block. 

The company, which has its first project underway in Munich, broke onto the scene in 2020, smack in the middle of the global pandemic’s first phase. In light of the industry’s growth spurt, Endless Surf was late to the surf-park party, says Andrew Thatcher, VP of Business Development. But that fashionably tardy arrival has been essential to how the company has differentiated itself since and to its success so far.

“It’s given us a huge advantage because we’ve been able to look at the landscape and look at what the needs are,” says Thatcher. “We were able to come up with design criteria that meets what needs to be done: higher capacity, more flexibility. The ability to create a lot of different kinds of waves. Having a system that has a lot of redundancy built in so you don’t have down days; a system that it is easy to maintain. 

“All of these were on our checklist because we knew, coming in a little bit later, this is what people need and want. Ultimately, it’s our clients who really benefit.” 

Baptiste Caulonque and Andrew Thatcher
Andrew Thatcher (right) pictured with Endless Surf COO Baptiste Caulonque (left) explained the system during a WavePoolMag Podcast. You can listen to the episode here

For Endless Surf, it’s not so much the wave itself that’s different—it’s a pneumatic system, based on existing technology—but the degrees to which the company can customize its waves for every session. As Wavepool Mag has previously reported, they’ve developed a digital Surf Concierge that works like a hotel’s white-glove service. But instead of just pre-booking meals, locker space and other amenities (do I hear deep-tissue massage?), it also creates waves specific to that surfer, wherever they are in the pool. Lefts, rights. Barrels, beginners. 

In practice, that means that a mother and daughter, for example, or groups of friends with mixed levels of surf ability can shred together, with personalized sets. Or that, on a day with a 60-40 split of guests who are goofyfooter and regular, the Concierge can accommodate. “It’s so much more curated,” says Thatcher. “It’s such a better overall experience.”

That level of customization also extends to operating costs, particularly as it pertains to wave intervals. Because Endless Surf can adjust the frequency of its waves based on guest flow at any given venue (say, eight seconds on a busy summer Saturday and 12 on a quieter March Monday) operators can keep costs down during slower periods. 

For the record, says Thatcher, the company prefers a 12-second interval, as it most closely resembles wave intervals in the ocean. But if a venue needs more waves, faster? Done. Fewer waves, for fewer people? No problem. 

Endless surf swell studio
The wave tank in Port Douglas will use an Endless Surf system. The software that controls the wave settings and frequency is named Swell Studio

Another contrast between Endless Surf and some of its peers is its wider lens beyond just its technology. Yes, the wave matters. But so does the guest experience beyond the pool. In this dual-focus, it has the benefit of insights as both industry latecomer and water-park old guard. White Water West has been in the field for more than four decades.

“As a company, we’ve always been focused on the whole experience,” says Thatcher. “We ask questions like, is there a beach? What is it like? Should we have play structures for little kids? Should we have day spas?

“We really try to take more of a holistic approach to the venue, versus really just trying to sell just waves.”

Thatcher and his colleagues are well aware of the auspicious moment in which they’ve launched their enterprise. The wave pool industry, he says, is still “embryonic,” but conditions for growth are, perhaps, more fertile than at any other time in history. That’s partly because the business models have finally caught up with technology, and partly because other companies have established proofs of concept. 

Endless Surf wave system for Surftown in Munich
The Endless Surf wave system is the centerpiece for the Surftown project in Munich

“Creatively speaking, it’s about getting to understand the business model,” he says. “That it’s not only about ticket sales, but also food and beverage and retail and hospitality and residential developments and great amenities and all these things. And that’s really where we started to see more of that institutional money flowing in, more traditional financing.”

Plus, it turns out, people really like wave pools. The demand from Texas to Madrid and Melbourne to Lemoore has also been instrumental in turning white-knuckle presentations into multi-million-dollar deals. These small steps toward maturity—or, at least, pre-adolescence—are meaningful. They spur entrepreneurship innovation, and the growth of the industry overall. They attract the kind of financing that can take a concept born in San Diego and turn it into an entire surf-centric town in Bavaria. 

None of this, of course, is a surprise to Thatcher.

“For a long time it’s just been a bunch of surfers trying to use their passion to make a living. But when the rubber meets the road it needs to translate into revenue. Otherwise, you can’t pay your mortgage with a dream.”

Endless Surf 2023A