How Alaia Bay made their smaller footprint work

Alaia Bay is a game changer. Yes it’s a wave pool in the middle of the Swiss Alps but it’s also unique because it refined the concept of a successful smaller footprint surf tank.

Typically for a surf park to stay profitable, it needs to get as many butts into the pool as possible. Simply put, the more paying customers you have, the better your likelihood of meeting and exceeding your expenses. But this requirement is not mandatory in cases where a wave pool turns a larger profit from food, beverage, lodging, concerts or whatever (you can get pretty creative these days.) For a Wavegarden Cove, the Bay section of the pool is where the learner set experience surfing, often for the first time. For most pools this where many of the butts and profitability come in.

There is no “Bay” at Alaia Bay. However, quite a few factors are at work to contribute to its success. Being smack-dab in the middle of one of the best socio-economic situations a surf park could hope for is helpful. The Swiss tend to embrace a healthy outdoor lifestyle. One recent poll says 80% of Swiss residents now practice a sport and revenue for the country’s sports and outdoors segment is predicted to hit the $333millionUS mark in 2022 with a 15% annual growth rate.

For Alaia Bay this would all be a moot point without a customized approach from the technology company making the waves. We spoke to inventor Josema Odriozola to find out how Alaia Bay overcame a limited footprint to make it all work to their benefit.

Wavegarden founder Josema Odriozola explains the different factors at work for Alaia Bay’s smaller footprint design. Image Wavegarden

Can you explain how Alaia Bay is a bit different from other Cove facilities?
This Cove design has no Bay which is the area where we reform the wave for beginners. One of the main things to take into account, by not having a Bay, is that the number of waves that you can run each hour drops. You can run at 100% but the wave quality would be less. When you compare waves per hour you need to compare by quality. In a raw figure, you lose about 20% of the waves run each hour. With a smaller footprint like this, the same thing would happen across all technologies.

Is that a drawback for some developers who, say, have a prime location but it’s small?
Other clients have asked for smaller footprints in prime areas. We can’t say it’s better or worse with or without a Bay. A Bay typically means more users and more profit, but if you need a larger area farther away from the city, it might cancel out other benefits. So we need to analyze case-by-case to see and then we’ll choose the right way. Right now the way we are working is to give developers figures for their business plan or they can do it on their own. Location is a huge consideration for a surf park, but so many other things come up when you talk to developers, like food and beverage, a good surf academy, live music – these ideas are always big considerations too. And these concepts make the overall experience better. These are things Alaia Bay does very well.

Alaïa Bay
Alaïa Bay overview showing the shallows. Normally the “bay” section of the pool would extend into where the building structures are. Image by Alaïa SA – Scott Visuals

Why is Alaia Bay so successful?
This area in Switzerland has a lot of outdoor sports lovers. All skiers are potential surfers even if they don’t know it. Boardsports are big here and people are looking for new sports and they dream of being surfers and trying it and that’s a contributing factor to Alaia Bay’s success. Also, Alaia has been done at a level of very high quality. This initial investment has a faster return because so many factors are working in its favor even though the Wavegarden Cove doesn’t have a Bay area for beginners.

How does location shape a development?
Surf parks are always a destination. The best is to be located in a big city. Some surf parks will be high-performance and others will be like a waterpark. Everybody has a different dream of what a wave pool will be, so you won’t have one single business model across all of them. But now, after several wave pools have opened up across the world, it’s more clear which ones are successful. Our facility in Brazil (private resort) is very different from Switzerland, but both are successful and give a concept of what one needs to do to make a wave pool successful.