Endless Surf takes stock of the wave pool space

The year ahead in the surf park industry is already off to a roaring start. Recently named the fastest growing watersport, surf is truly taking the world by storm. It’s no surprise that there are hundreds of surf parks in planning – to capitalize on and satiate the massive desire for surf experiences that exists worldwide.

At Endless Surf will roll out their first waves in Munich this year, and also have several projects progressing at a rapid pace with multiple locations expected to break ground later this year. The company has their finger on the pulse of many different opportunities within this booming industry. Here, Endless Surf take a special look into the opportunities and challenges that are influencing many surf park trends.

Because ES team members are engrained in the innerworkings of this industry everyday, this piece asks them… “What key surf park trends are you seeing as we enter 2024?

Editor’s Note: WavePoolMag brings you this special partnership message with support from Endless Surf.

Endless Surf

Wave Technology: A Spotlight on Reliability and Sustainability

In the area of engineering and wave technology, Clement Ginestet, Chief Technology Officer, notes a bright spotlight on reliability and sustainability this year. Unfortunately, the last year has showed how disastrous poor reliability in wave tech and lagoon structure can be. In 2023 the industry saw the final closure of Surf Snowdonia and a premature winter shutdown of Alaia Bay. As developers take note of these unfortunate issues, all eyes are on reliability when it comes to wave tech, as experiencing unplanned closures have a serious impact on a venue’s bottom line.

In addition to reliability, Clement notes a growing sentiment toward sustainability. At the consumer end, Surf Park Central found that 91% of surfers are willing to pay more for demonstrably sustainable surf park experience. They also found that surf parks with a sustainability certification should be able to charge nearly 14% more than a competing park without (SPC Consumer Trends Report). Clement knows that this trend means that surf parks need to be choosing efficient products that can demonstrate progress toward minimizing impact to the end user.

“Although this isn’t a ‘new’ trend, it is one that is gaining steam going into 2024… and for good reason. With outside investors and the general public invested in the success of surf parks, these two areas are always under a watchful eye.They are trends that I predict will continue to grow as the industry does.”

Endless Surf wave pool on the gold coast
Endless Surf wave pool on the Gold Coast will be part of the re-imagined Parkside Club

Work, SURF, Sleep, Repeat: A Focus on Mixed-Use Developments

Andrew Thatcher, VP Business Development notes that many projects are focused on a offering a variety of amenities that are lifestyle focused.

A striking trend I am noticing is the integration of surf pools with residential, office space, retail, and hospitality. One thing we learned from COVID is that people are welcoming a combination work and play, and this growing trend is a response to this shift in urban development and lifestyle preferences. Leveraging surf specifically is an innovative development option that blends an aspirational experience, with various other amenities to create unique mixed-use spaces that serve a wide range of purposes.”

With the Surf as the anchor attraction, it certainly drives other revenue generators to create a healthy ROI for developers. Other than the surf lagoon, key aspects of the mixed-use development that Andrew is noticing are:

  • Lifestyle and Wellness Amenities: Surf fits into this area, in addition to other outdoor/active lifestyle offerings
  • Residential Emphasis: Homes or units integrated into a walkable community
  • Attraction for Businesses: Offices, co-working, brick-and-mortar-retail
  • Tourism / Entertainment Appeal: Hospitality, dining, shopping, and event potential

Overall, the integration of surf pools as part of a mixed-use development reflects a strategic response to evolving lifestyle preferences, urban development trends, and a desire to create dynamic and engaging spaces for communities and visitors. Plus, developers recognize the potential for attracting investment by creating mixed-use developments that capitalize on the rising popularity of surfing and the associated lifestyle. Surf ultimately leads to increased property values and economic growth in the area (more on that here).

Qiddiya in Saudi Arabia will feature an Endless Surf wave pool
Qiddiya in Saudi Arabia will feature an Endless Surf wave pool as well.

Shifts in South America and Growth in Asia

When looking beyond the surf-crazed regions like North America and Australia, two regions in particular stand out for their respective trends that are developing as we progress into 2024. Jesse Crawford, VP of Business Development notes that South America and Asia are two regions worth watching.

In South America, particularly in Brazil, public surf parks still do not exist. To date, all surf parks have been private, located within gated communities where only those that own or live on the property have access to surf. Although this business model isn’t disappearing, we are seeing projects move more toward a timeshare approach. Jesse notes “This allows the market to grow in size, appealing to a greater audience in a lower income bracket who can pool their money together.”

Across the Pacific Ocean, Jesse also notes the growing demand throughout Eastern Asia in particular.

Some surf parks in development are being built purely for competition, to train their local teams and host local competitions. Others are targeting beginners, knowing that building up a strong surf culture is critical in the first few years of operations. That said, safety is a key focus for these types of venues, along with operational flexibility and wave customization as skill levels build over-time.”

Looks Matter: Aesthetic Architecture and Design

Across the world, Anthony Marinakis, Landscape Architect, is witnessing surf parks take their masterplans and architectural design to the next level.

Especially within larger mixed-use, entertainment, and hospitality focused projects, I’m noticing an insanely high caliber of architectural planning. After all, surf parks are becoming world-class destinations… This makes it very fun to help design beautiful (often luxurious) venues centered around surfing.”

Not only is the architecture impressive, but design concepts are often including seamless integration of surf lagoons into the overall structure of the development. What do we mean? Well.. take our projects like Parkwood Village (Gold Coast, NSW) and Thermal Beach Club (Coachella Valley, CA) for example. Parkwood’s surf & golf resort is creating a seamless ‘surf village’ that surrounds the entire wave pool, with additional amenities and buildings that boast impeccable architecture. Thermal on the other hand, is creating a one-of-a-kind custom surf basin that is seamlessly integrated within a larger 20-acre lagoon. However, one thing that they have in common is the focus on maximizing useable space along the backwall of the Endless Surf lagoon – an area that offers incredible development potential with high action, views. In the year ahead, we anticipate that creative trends like these will only continue.

wave pool o2 SURFTOWN MUC_8
Munich is on its way to having a consistent ocean-quality surf spot.

Capitalizing on the Local Nuances of ‘Surf Park Culture’

There’s no doubting that surfing fosters a sense of community, and surf parks provide a space for like-minded individuals to connect and for newcomers to get hooked. As we bring surf far beyond the ocean to ‘unusual’ areas, inland surfing is starting to develop its own unique surf culture that surrounds local wave pools. To capitalize on community, The Endless Surf, Marketing Manager notes the rise of community-focused events, competitions, and marketing that highlights the local culture of surf parks.

“Part of the longstanding allure of surf travel is experiencing different cultures and finding community while scoring perfect waves. As surf parks pop-up around the world in land-locked locations, we’re seeing unique surf communities form their own ‘surf park’ cultures – mixing traditional and next-generation surf with local flare. Plus, what’s great about surf parks, that you don’t really get in the ocean, is how much easier friendships and community forms. This opens a world of possibilities when it comes to community engagement, events, and marketing.”

We’ve already seen instances where locally inspired events, competitions, and other projects have gained attention in the last year. In 2024, this is a trend we expect will be taken to new heights.

From tech innovations to development and community trends, you can tell that there’s a lot of constant evolution in this buzzing industry. And, with so many new entrants recognizing the business potential and benefits that surfing offers, the surf park industry is reaching a critical point of expansion. That said, at Endless Surf we are excited to be shaping the future of this industry and offering our next generation wave tech that helps surf parks create more viable, and sustainable businesses. The growth of inland surfing is great for everyone in our opinion, and we’re stoked to be at the forefront of innovation – creating a world-class wave for everyone.