Fort Pierce project aims to break the Florida wave pool curse

This week a 200-acre community development received unanimous approval from the Fort Pierce City Commission. At the center of the new Willow Lakes project will be a massive 56-module Wavegarden Cove facility as large as the one in South Korea.

If all goes according to plan, the American Surf Parks development will be the first next-generation wave pool to open in the stoked-but-often-surf-starved state. Several projects have tried to get a footing in Florida and failed including the Sky Surfpark in Orlando, a Ron Jons in 2008 and Disneyland’s paddle-powered pool in 1972. Most recently the WSL pulled the plug on the Kelly Slater Wave Co facility after sinking $6million into the purchase of land. Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, with limited surfing hours, is currently the only surf-able wave pool in The Sunshine State.

American Surf Parks also has an ongoing development in Myrtle Beach South Carolina. Phil Dixon, founder of the company said the Fort Pierce Cove will be one of the largest yet.

“We are planning for the larger Wavegarden Cove system with 56 Modules,” said Dixon. “The lagoon will be approximately 8.0 acres versus the 5.4-acre lagoon we have planned for Myrtle Beach South Carolina.”

Artist rendering of Fort Pierce wave pool project within the larger development
Artist rendering of the 56-module Wavegarden Cove set within the new development at Fort Pierce, Florida

The $40 million wave pool with food and beverage amenities is the first phase of a larger $500 million project. Builders will surround the surf spot with a 600-room hotel, some 800 residences, 400,000 square feet of retail space and roughly 125,000 square feet of office space.

“Beyond the Wavegarden Cove, the Village will be comprised of several distinct neighborhoods, knit together by a network of walkable, pedestrian-oriented streets, and navigable flow-ways designed for maximum environmental and recreational purposes,” American Surf Parks stated on their website.

Artist conception sketch of Fort Pierce wave pool
The surf park will be the first installation of a larger half billion dollar development

The project is not unique. More and more local councils are seeing the value of wave pools as an economic driver for their area. A St. Lucie County Economic Development Council report estimated that the Surfworks Resort in Fort Pierce will create more than 100 jobs and bring $15.6 million to the area each year.

The council’s president Pete Tesch said developers have been eyeing a project at this location since 2004. He told local news outlet TCPalm that making the area a destination will bring in much-needed jobs and cash.

“Willow Lakes and the surf park project in our view is a catalytic economic development event which has the ability to ‘move the needle’ on our collective efforts to enhance Fort Pierce’s reputation as a premier tourist destination and further diversify our growing economy,” said Tesch. “As we enter the ‘new normal’ and the post-COVID-19 environment, this important project will have a historically significant impact on our community.”

Olympus wave pool near orlando
Not The Same Development: Two hours away from the Surfworks development, the city of Clermont near Orlando had released images in 2019 of a 250-acre Olympus sports complex that included a Wavegarden Cove. Subsequent plans submitted to Clermont do not include a surf park.

And when can we session America’s largest-and-only (at the moment) Wavegarden Cove? “We expect to begin digging in Quarter3 of 2021, but it’s possible we could be underway sooner,” added Dixon.

Here’s a look at some other Coves in the world according to module size. The modules are the components that house the levers that propel the water in sequence to create waves. The more modules a wave pool has, the longer the wave can travel. This clip shows Urbnsurf with 46 modules, The Wave with 40 modules and finally the Wavegarden R&D facility.

Cove sizes for comparison

Standard Cove commercial facility size: 2 hectares (1 hectare is 100×100 meters)

Waves generated per hour: 300-1000

South Korea Modules: 56

Praia da Grama Brazil: 52

Urbnsurf Modules: 46

Alaia Bay Switzerland: 46

The Wave Bristol: 40

Cove R&D Modules: 28