Kelly Slater wave pool will open in Abu Dhabi late this year

Promises of “the world’s largest wave pool” and “world’s largest artificial wave machine” hit the news channels this week. Superlatives and clickbait aside, the new mega surf facility in Abu Dhabi is part of the Hudayriyat Island development. The project will span more than 51 million square meters or roughly half of Abu Dhabi Island.

Touted by the Crown Prince’s news organization as “the biggest and most advanced artificial wave facility in the world,” the surf park will open at the end of 2023.

“Surf Abu Dhabi will be the biggest and most advanced artificial wave facility in the world,” the company said in a statement. “Designed in partnership with Kelly Slater Wave Co., the landmark destination will offer a high-performance surfing experience, featuring the world’s longest ride, biggest barrel, and largest man-made wave pool.”

As part of Abu Dhabi’s sporting and leisure push the surf park seeks to attract those living in the development on Abu Dhabi Island as well as international visitors. The release said the wave pool will play a major role in developing the surfing community locally and regionally. Something that Kelly Slater is touting as a major reason for building here.

kelly slater wave pool in middle east
An artist rendering shows an eclectic crew of onlookers enjoying the sight of a reeling left at Surf Abu Dhabi

“Surfing reaches people in all corners of the globe and I’m always surprised with who gravitates towards this world,” said Kelly Slater. “Having a KSWC wave in Abu Dhabi is something I’ve never dreamt would happen but here it is. Unbelievable. While not many would have predicted the location for the project there are great synergies with Abu Dhabi and like KSWC they are always innovating and ahead of the curve. This is gonna be a lot of fun for so many people.”

In the last few years the Kelly Slater Wave Co. has announced projects in Japan, Austin, the Coachella Valley, Queensland and Florida. All of those have met their share of problems. The most well publicised was the defeat of the Coral Mountain project in the California desert by a local neighborhood group. While the Lemoore facility is well-known and hosts an annual WSL CT event, very little is known about the progress of the other proposed wave pools.

Critics say the technology’s low waves-per-hour rate and long, rectangular footprint make it a tough ask for profitable customer throughput. Proponents say it’s simply the best artificial wave on the planet and people will pay any price to surf it. The latter is supported by the Lemoore facility’s ability to charge roughly $500 per wave (depending on season and group buyout.)

The KSWCo pool looks like it’s already been built and filled with water. To thicken the plot, this Google Earth image was timestamped as being taken in 2021.

Jeff Fleeher, President of Kelly Slater Wave Company, added that Abu Dhabi is the perfect place to showcase KSWC’s wave technology and surf experience.

“We’re fortunate to work with Modon and join Hudayriyat Island’s incredible ecosystem of sport and recreation to foster new participation and enthusiasm for surfing in the Middle East,” said Fleeher

Hudayriyat Island development will also include high-end residential communities with panoramic 360-degree views of Abu Dhabi city from man-made hills. The masterplan will add 53.5 kilometers of coastline to the city’s landscape, including 16 kilometers of new beaches.

kelly slater wave pool in middle east
Images show what the massive Hudayriyat Island development will look like from space.

It’s all part of Abu Dhabi’s urban expansion vision. Developers say it will provide a highly desirable living environment by following an evolving global model of sustainable living. it’s just one crest of an expansive Modon masterplan for Hudayriyat Island which also includes a regional first velodrome, and the biggest urban park in Abu Dhabi. Bill O’Regan, CEO of Modon said the new wave tank will host surf competitions as well.

“As the world’s premier man-made surf experience, Surf Abu Dhabi is specified to host major international surf competitions,” said O’Regan. “It is a high-performance destination that will offer world-class surfers the perfect conditions to train or compete, while also growing the region’s surfing community, and inspiring wider society to embrace a healthy new activity.”

The surf park joins other popular attractions in the country including Ferrari World amusement park, Marina Mall, Etihad Tower and Yas Waterworld.

Construction of Surf Abu Dhabi is expected to be fully completed by December 2023.

The Lowdown: Surf Abu Dhabi will be the first Kelly Slater Wave Co system beyond Lemoore and is likely to be completed by 2023 as part of a massive 51 million square meter project on Abu Dhabi Island. The country is building this massive development that will create 16 kilometers of new coastline and several new neighborhoods and attractions. The massive project is part of the Modon masterplan for Hudayriyat Island which also includes a velodrome, and the biggest urban park in Abu Dhabi.

Type of wave(s): Lefts and Rights, hollow with no interrupting sections

Wave Generating Technology: Kelly Slater Wave Co. Systems

Wave’s Technical Information: Wave height: 2-6 ft, Both Left and Right Breaks, Length of Wave: over 100 yards/meters, Hollow performance-oriented

Hours of operation/Seasonal Hours: Unknown, but given Abu Dhabi’s weather, it should be year round.

Pool Structure: Manmade lake

Waves per hour: 12-25 waves per hour

Apparel: Burkinis, Boardshorts