Mike Goldys is on a mission to surf as many wave pools as possible
The WavePoolMag inbox is a bit like the Coconut Wireless. Messages run the gamut from clandestine iPhone clips of a secret project to investment opportunity requests to the occassional flat-earth manifesto. But at the end of the day, the majority of the enquiries are from individuals just super stoked with the wave pool space who want to work in the field or have a question about a technology for their own surf park.
Among the Pool Nerds we’ve come across in the last five years, Mike Goldys is perhaps at the top of the pyramid. He spends his limited vacation time and money searching out the world’s wave tanks. In the process he’s sessioned at Typhoon Lagoon, NLand (RIP), Waco Surf, SkudinSurfAD, Surf Snowdonia, The Wave, Surf Ranch, Alaia Bay, EpicSurf and a few others (full list below). We wanted to dig in and find out how this obsession started and why he thought it was a good idea to pursue a life of surfing wave pools.
You’re way obsessed. Would you call yourself a pool nerd?
Sure. I mean, I’m self-proclaimed as the surf park nerd because I just nerd out on all things surf parks, wave pools, surf pools. Where I think it stemmed from is growing up three hours from the nearest ocean as a wave-starved grom that had two older brothers who surfed.
How did this obsession begin?
I just remember dreaming about surfing every weekend and thinking, well, what if I had a wave pool around? And then I saw Typhoon Lagoon in the media and the print mags back then and was like, oh my gosh, that looks like a dream, but I probably will never be able to surf there myself. I thought it was exclusive for pros and Surf Expo. So I just obsessed on that for many years as a grom. Eventually someone invited me to join their group in Florida. I think that was 2009 and that experience was magical, being in that wave pool after hours with a group of friends: music playing over the intercom, crystal clear blue waves, and all that. In hindsight, it’s funny now, compared to the state-of-the-art wave tech, you got these mushy rights and lefts and split peaks in Orlando, Florida, in Disney. It just blew my mind, so I really liked it and it lived up to the expectation. I thought, this is like a real deal, but back then there weren’t Wavegardens,Surf Lakes or Endless Surf. It’s like that was kind of the standard. Time went on and I’d go to Typhoon Lagoon.
How was it when other wave pools started to pop up?
I was moving from California to Florida cross country, and I went out of my way to go surf the NLand wave pool. And again, probably not the best wave. But it was just that sense that, wow this wave pool thing is possible.
Does anyone hassle you for liking wave pools?
You know, people like my older brother are always like, “why are you going to spend that kind of money for a wave pool?” I just do it without any hesitation. The reality is I feel more confident when I’m surfing these artificial waves. I notice there’s not the self-consciousness of being in a crowded lineup. I know I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. That’s not a beach town. When I go roll up to the ocean, I’m pretty intimidated. I’m not the best surfer and it’s really hard to progress. So being in a wave pool with a variety of skill levels, we’re all frothing and we have to pay to be there. So everyone’s pretty understanding. We each get our turn, everyone gets a fair shot at surfing. You get that same consistent wave and you can keep trying the same trick until you get it right.. That just meant the world to me. And it’s kind of why I’m still on this journey today. I’m on a mission, really a personal mission to surf as many different wave pools across the country and around the world as I can.
Okay. Going on that, can you name all the wave pools?
Yeah. I mean, this is how much of a nerd I am:
- Typhoon Lagoon in Orlando, Florida
- NLand surf in Austin, Texas (no longer in operation)
- Waco Surf in Waco, Texas (formerly BSR when I surfed there back in 2020 during the pandemic)
- American Dream Mall in New Jersey
- Adventure Parc Snowdonia in Wales (closed as of September 2023)
- The Wave in Bristol, England
- Surf Ranch in Lemoore, California
- FlowRider in Hollywood, Florida
- Oana AG in Switzerland
- Alaia Bay in Switzerland
- EpicSurf in Albany, New York
- Oasis Surf in Montreal, Canada
- Southern Shores in Hurricane, Utah
And you’re starting a podcast? Tell us about the podcast, what is it about?
Through networking and LinkedIn, I met this bloke in Australia. He’s like, “I’ve never been to a wave pool. And I see you’ve been to all these different crazy looking surf parks. How would you feel about hopping on a podcast and letting me interrogate you about all these experiences?” So, why not? It’s kind of funny because the accents clash and there’s so much froth going on with these different surf parks out there. We cover what the experience is like for the average paying customer. We see a lot of great media out there on the more techie side,how these surf parks are built and what goes into them. But what about the experience for someone who has to go and pay? So that’s where I step in because I am the paying customer and every wave counts. And when I miss a wave, I get quite upset.
Okay, tell us, how is the vibe in a wave pool different from the ocean?
It’s a completely different vibe, especially now that I live in Florida and it’s pretty competitive when there’s waves. So when I step into a wave pool, I know I’m going to get a certain amount of waves, or at least a certain amount of opportunities to try and catch a wave. It’s a more welcoming vibe, you know, you get the perfect waves. I’m not a really great surfer. So when I go to a barrel session, I’m going to have a good shot of getting a barrel. And whereas when I go to the ocean, I’m lucky if I’m able to get out there on a bigger day and compete where the waves are breaking best.
Okay, so what if you could pull up and live near one wave wave pool and be a member and go there two times a week – Which wave pool would it be?
So out of 13 that I’ve visited so far, The Wave is a really fun experience. And it’s not only because of the quality of the wave, but it’s the overall experience. The vibe felt really welcoming The barrel session was amazing. They had one onsite photo program. I think in terms of training, self-reflection and posting to social media, you want to have a photographer or videographer capture you if possible. And they have that program built in there, whereas it’s not the same at many of these other different venues.
So you would pull up and move to Bristol?
I would and I could eat at Nando’s every day and then go surf The Wave.