Lost? Found! The sunken treasures recovered from the bottom of the world’s wave pools

We’ve all done it; misplaced keys, phones, and lost coins down the back of the couch. But as for very expensive bling and body parts, we manage to keep track of those. Well, most of the time. Things can go awry when you’re fully focused on the warm fuzzy glow of wave pool euphoria.

Coastlines worldwide have had everything from container loads of Lego to cars and kilos of cocaine washed up on their shorelines. And while wave pools take up somewhat less space, and haven’t been around all that long, there have still been some oddities found under their waves.

Here’s what we found at the bottom of the pool.

First and foremost are fins. The surf parks we polled unanimously said this is what most often ends up at the bottom of the pool. So are we just not screwing/bashing them in enough? Or are we all slicing buckets, pulling Mick Fanning and JJF power carves every session? Surely the latter, yes? Regardless, after some no-doubt moments of glory, fins have forlornly ended up on the pool bottom.

“During our closure for pool maintenance from late January to mid-March 2023, we found various items at the bottom of the pool, including fins, pool admission tickets, and a watch,” said Shunichi Matsuuchi, Surf Stadium Japan’s Assistant General Manager. “In total, there were about 10 fins that we discovered. I honestly didn’t expect to find lost fins to this extent. It’s important to check that your fins are tight in the box.”

Surfboard fins represent the most common item found at the bottom of a wave pool. So make sure yours are screwed in tight before your session.

Seeing a similar pattern of items, and one-upping the finds in Japan, is New York’s SkudinsurfAD Pool, which also doubles as a daytime waterpark.

The most common recovered items are surfboard fins and “hundreds of pairs of goggles,” according to Paul an operator at the indoor wave tank.

“The most notably expensive piece was probably a $4,000 Breitling watch lost from a visiting influencer,” said Paul. “The guy that lost it forgot about it and called us a few days later asking if we found anything. Luckily we were able to get it back to him!”

Paul also mentioned they’ve had a woman lose a Cartier bracelet in the pool, in addition to hauling up numerous GoPros, two wedding rings, and several diamond earrings. There’s clearly a classier kind of lost property in NYC.

Some items, like this diamond ring, are more difficult to find at the bottom of a 5-acre wave pool.

Sometimes the recovery of valuable, and emotionally important, items call for dedicated dives – as has been the case at Switzerland’s Alaia Bay. Surf Operations Coordinator, Giovanni Piro, was born and raised in Sardinia and has spent countless hours diving and spearfishing with his dad, long before stepping onto a board.

“At Alaia Bay, I’ve been diving for lost objects since the very beginning, and I have now a clear understanding of where the majority of objects sit when dropped in the pool,” said Gio. “We find fins and head ties daily, along with action cameras, watches, and occasionally prescription glasses.”

The most valuable by far was a diamond earring, with “a fair-sized diamond”, Giovanni said. The lady it came off was understandably distressed, offering a CHF1000 (US$1120) reward for its recovery. At 10 pm, post-shift, Gio dives in and starts combing the bottom of the pool.

“Needless to say this was the ultimate diving challenge for me; imagine having to find a tiny earring in a 13.000m3 surf pool,” he said.

After 30 minutes, the lights were about to be turned off, and everything was shutting down for the day.

“I decided to go for one last dive and right when I was about to give up (I was running out of air), like in the movies, I see this shiny little diamond sitting there,” he said.

“I decided to go for one last dive and right when I was about to give up (I was running out of air), like in the movies, I see this shiny little diamond sitting there.”- Alaia Bay Surf Operations Coordinator Giovanni Piro.

As well as reuniting a panicked client with their missing diamond, Gio ended the day a little richer – and being the true surfer that he is, he bought a surfboard straight away.

Slightly less glamorous, but of more importance, Gio is keen to raise awareness about the amount of surf wax that sits on the bottom of the pool.

“We’re talking about kilograms, every day! Imagine the same thing but in the ocean, not ideal right?”

To minimize the amount of wax used at Alaia Bay, Gio says they equip the majority of their hire boards with rear and front pads.

“I also try to recycle any used wax that we remove from old boards; I melt it, clean it and filter it and add some essential oils. It works great as a base coat or warm water wax and it’s free of charge for all our customers.”

prosthetic leg found in the Waco wave pool
“Yeah, we found a prosthetic leg in the filtration system after draining the lagoon in 2021.” – Amy Hunt of Waco Surf.

While shiny rocks and over-engineered watches are indeed valuable, they’re not one of life’s necessities. Bodily limbs however are a whole other story.

“Yeah, we found a prosthetic leg in the filtration system after draining the lagoon in 2021”, says Amy Hunt, Director of Sales and Marketing for Waco Surf.

It turns out the limb belongs to a passionate surfer and US Army veteran Carter Hess, – who also has the apt Instagram handle of @a_swellpirate. Brian Fillmore, Waco Surf’s Director of Surf, recounted the session when the leg decided to go for a solo dive.

“I’m collecting myself in the white water when Carter looks over at me and says ‘I lost my leg!'” said Brian. “I asked him if he wanted me to look for it and he said ‘Naw I got plenty of them.’ He just hopped back on his board, paddled in, and grabbed his extra leg that was on standby.”

At the end of the season, the pool was drained and the leg recovered.

“It was still in good shape,” said Brian. “Carter came back for another session and we returned it to him. Good R&D for the company who made his prosthetic leg!”

Swell pirate lost his prosthetic surfing limb in the wave pool
The Waco Surf incident wasn’t the first time Swell Pirate lost his prosthetic leg surfing.

It’s also worth noting that this wasn’t the first time Carter had lost one of his quiver of prosthetic legs in the surf. He’s done it before in Florida, where a 13-year-old boy found it and returned it to him. Though there’s no word on how traumatized the young teenager may have been on bumping into a leg while surfing.

Skip Taylor of Surf Park Management has surfed a lot of wave pools. And notes that most businesses are very consciencious to help out a client who has lost something of value.

“I did though once loose my WHOOP biometric tracking devise that I wear 24/7 while I was at Lakeside Surf in Chelan doing some R&D for our Hawaii wave,” said Skip. “On a “Hail Mary” sent to them I let them know about it and when they went to clear the pump filters the next day, sure enough it was in the filter and they put it in a envelope to me!”

So what have we learned from all this? Probably best not to wear a $4000 watch or diamond earings when you go for a surf. Oh, and please check all prosthetics before leaving the pool.

Endless Surf 2023A