Latest wave pool project opts for America’s beer barrel

If all goes according to plan Yakima Washington, two hours from Seattle and three hours from Portland will break ground on a Wavegarden Cove this year. Yakima Valley is closer to Canada than it is to Trestles and while most surfers will envision either Bigfoot country or cold, windswept plains of wheat, in reality, the valley here resembles that other wave pool Mecca, Lemoore.

With more than 300 days of sunshine per year, the mercury in the high desert climate reaches into the 80s and 90s during the easy seasons, even tipping triple digits mid-summer. Lows in February hover around freezing. The rural farming community is known as the Hop Capital of the U.S.A., with three-quarters of America’s crop produced there. Hops of course, those small bulbs that resemble tiny green pinecones, produce beer.

“The name of our park, Barreled, is as much an ode to the local craft beverage industry as it is to the surfing maneuver we all dream to achieve,” says project partner Joey Lawrence. “The main reason for our site selection is evidenced by Yakima’s less popular nickname among locals, “The Palm Springs of Washington”. 

The Barreled surf park project is gaining momentum and hopes to build its future home near Moxee on an 80-acre parcel and kit it out with 25 cabins, an RV park, dog park and more.

The Yakima Valley resembles California’s Central Valley, home to the Kelly Slater Surf Ranch

Lawrence says their goal is to create an environment where people from all over the Pacific Northwest will be able to surf in boardshorts during summer and light wetsuits in the transition seasons of late spring and early fall.

WaveGarden has come out and looked at the site in preparation for building.   

“WaveGarden is conducting their own feasibility analysis,” says Lawrence. “We are nearing the final steps on that – just need a final local cost analysis, which is waiting on our engineering firm to layout the final campground and RV park site up to County standards.”

A traffic study, geotech study, and a site visit from the local utility have all been completed. 

Initial plans for the Barreled Surf Park

But as we’ve learned with so many other surf projects globally, there’s rarely a “sure thing.”

In Saint-Père-en-Retz, France a proposed surf park met stiff opposition from both locals and those living on the other side of the country alike. Surfrider Europe, Headquartered 400 miles away in Biarritz, made a public statement condemning the development of wave pools. Around the same time a group dedicated to keeping agricultural land free of buildings set up a makeshift protest camp near the proposed surf park site. Central to the argument against building wave pools, in the France case and elsewhere, is water use.

“The park’s total use will be the equivalent of about 20 acres of orchard,” said Lawrence in a Facebook post. “If our proposal is rejected, Roy Farms (the site of the proposed development) will continue to use the water, so the same amount of water will come out of the ground if a surf park is built, or if it isn’t.”

Wavegarden Cove technology at Bristol’s The Wave surf park

Like many next-generation wave pools, this one says it will need less water than a golf course. Lawrence adds that the pool, including evaporation, will use the equivalent of a 16-acre orchard or 1/8th the amount of a golf course.

“We plan to capture the 20-25 acre-feet (about 5 acres worth of orchard-water) at the end of the year leftover in our pool to be used at the beginning of the following growing season.”

He also says that the 20-acre plot of land will create eight year-round and 80 seasonal jobs which will function on the opposite schedule of local ski resorts, ultimately offering the possibility for year-round work in Central Washington.

The area’s hops crop in unrivaled in the U.S. accounting for 77 % of America’s production. The “Palm Springs of Washington” is also home to several wineries and breweries

So what needs to happen before we see surf in Yakima Valley?

“As to where we are currently – we have finalized plans and are working to put a final price-tag on the project. On a parallel course, we are working through the permitting phases. The first permit is for changing the water use from agricultural use to recreation.”

Lawrence says they expect a favorable ruling on February 4th. From there it will need final approval from the overseeing State body that grants power to the local water board.

“Once finalized, we can submit our application to change the land use – expected to be a 4-month decision process.”

Yakima is a couple of hours south of Chelan, where the Slidewaters park just installed a 50-foot-wide Citywave rapid wave facility, thus inching the area ever closer to becoming a microbrew and surf park utopia.

More Surf Barreled information can be found on their Facebook Page here.