Full update on Oceanside’s wave pool…

The once a gritty Southern California beach town of Oceanside, sandwiched between the open expanse of the Camp Pendleton military base and bustling North San Diego, is hoping to reinvent part of itself. The old drive-in at Foussat Road and Route 76 will, if all goes according to plan, be re-developed into a mixed-use space that will include a state-of-the-art wave pool.

The pool will be part of the OceanKamp development by Zephyr, a 92-acre property billed as a “California Lifestyle Community” focused around activities like yoga, mountain biking and of course, surfing. The project will include a 300-room hotel, as well as 126,000 square feet of space for stores, restaurants and commercial space.

Talk of a wave pool in San Diego County has been bandied about for a few years now by several developers. One early plan called for a surf stadium situated within San Diego harbor. But for now, it looks like Oceanside will be the first location.

oceanside wave pool plan by OceanKamp

“We looked at another location in San Diego and asked, ‘where’s the sizzle?'” Senior Vice President of OceanKamp Mike Grehl told journalist Scott Bass in a podcast. “Then BSR had some success and it became an obvious choice to do something amazing in Oceanside.”

“It’s crazy; You go to Waco and it’s booked all the time and 90 percent of those bookings are from Southern California,” said Grehl. “Every time I go there Shane Dorian’s there with his kid and all the groms from Hawaii are out there practicing. If you think about that logically, I’m guessing that we’ll be pretty well occupied too.”

OceanKamp said they that while the pool will be open to both residents and visitors, they haven’t nailed down specifics for access. The cost for jumping into the surf is still undetermined as well, but Grehl added that the price structure will be determined by marketplace value.

The central tower for Surf Lakes would exceed Oceanside City building height limits, thus it’s a no-go for O-Side


The big mystery is the type of technology that will be at the center of OceanKamp. The team has committed to a wave-generating technology but won’t disclose which one.

Grehl ran through a few options during his interview including, Kelly’s, PerfectSwell, Wavegarden, Surf Lakes and Surf Loch.

“Kelly’s is fun, it’s amazing – a total leg burner,” Grehl said. “BSR, the American Wave Machine, is fun and a totally different experience from Kelly’s. It’s a lot more commercially viable because of the number of people you can get through. At KS WaveCo you’re only getting six waves an hour and it’s such a big price tag that it’s not really available to most of us.”

The wave pool tech also has to meet local building standards. Grehl added that technology like Surf Lakes, with its giant central plunger, would exceed building height restrictions in Oceanside.

Surf loch for Oceanside
It’s speculated that San Diego’s SurfLoch technology (or Wavegarden or PerfectSwell) could be the choice for OceanKamp’s wave pool.

What type of wave pool?

All Grehl divulged is that they will be using tech that produces the waves through small chambers, either by air compression or water paddles. This leaves a few companies in the final draw, including Wavegarden, American Wave Machines and Surf Loch.

Wavegarden Cove is rumored to use a series of small paddles inside chambers to push out water in sequence along their central pier to produce the famous waves we see in The Basque Country, Melbourne and Bristol. Companies that use pneumatic air pressure chambers include Surf Loch and PerfectSwell by American Wave Machines.

It’s also worth noting that upstart companies like WavePrizm, SwellSpot and SwellMFG have developed their own systems. None have a full-scale proof of concept pool and it appears that OceanKamp has lined up with one of the majors.

American Wave Machines Perfect Swell
BSR’s success with SoCal surfers drew Zephyr’s attention to the wave pool potential for OceanKamp

Challenges for the development

Zephyr still faces several challenges in bringing OceanKamp to life on the site of the former drive-in and flea market. The space was originally going to be a big-box store development a decade ago, but when retail giant Target pulled out, the deal fell through.

For Zephyr to construct permanent buildings, much of the 92 acres is being elevated with five-feet of fill dirt. By raising the ground, the development will mitigate certain floodplain restrictions.

The project will use seven million gallons of water to fill the wave pool for the first time, with an additional 18,000 gallons per year to replace water lost to evaporation.

“The wave basin will require far less water annually than a golf course requires in one month,” Grehl told the San Diego Reader recently.

Wavegarden’s Cove is the most visible system on the market

Unique Oceanside Vibes

Within Oceanside’s funky mix of industrial parks, big retail outlets and high-end suburban developments several surfboard factories, including Pyzel and Chemistry Surfboards, call the place home.

While OceanKamp’s website promotes the development as “a resort community where locals, visitors and residents alike are immersed in an unrivaled hospitality experience centered on living life to the fullest,” not all locals are stoked on the plan.

Will Smith of Chemistry Surfboards, the makers of Cheyne Magnusson’s Pool Toy model, expressed concerns about the development in the San Diego Reader article. “They call it a surf lagoon,” Smith was quoted as saying. “I call it a land grab for people who want to gobble up that land and create sellable real estate.”

You can check out the full Boardroom podcast with Mike Grehl and Scott Bass right here. For more from The San Diego reader follow this link.