New wave pool announced for California

Chris Gallardo, the man behind the plan for a Northern California wave pool, is a self-professed dreamer and do-er. “I haven’t had a large development team or group of investors behind me on my surf park development journey, I’m just a guy with a vision and the genuine desire to help make the world a better place through surfing and the long list of benefits the activity provides”, says Gallardo.

He quit his day job three years ago to build his vision and pursue this project. Chris readily admits it’s evolved quite a bit as he’s learned more about the surf park space, received input from mentors, and refined the vision. “I started thinking about pursuing a career in the surf park space in 2018 and left my day job at Apple in 2020 to go all in.”

Chris says he had a mid-life epiphany. With his kids now young adults and living independently, combined with an upcoming 50th birthday, he realised that time is limited. He decided to turn his life-long passion for board sports into purpose, so he could impact others and leave behind a legacy of stoke and inspiration for generations to come. 

Placer County lies within the Greater Sacramento Valley about two-hour’s drive inland from the San Francisco Bay Area. Hence the name of Gallardo’s business, Inland Surf Company. The county stretches roughly 65 miles through the historic Gold Country foothills all the way to the Nevada border and the shores of Lake Tahoe. Placer County is known for its diverse geography, activities and outdoor adventure, plus food and wine grown in Placer’s Mediterranean climate.

Chris Gallardo of Alchemy Surf Park
Chris Gallardo left Apple and has been travelling around to visit the world’s wave pools researching to start his own facility in Sacremento, California.

With 2.4 million people in the Greater Sacramento Area, Gallardo believes the region can easily support a surf park on its own. Factor in the nearly 8 million people in the neighboring San Francisco Bay Area and there’s the potential for a massive customer base. Gallardo points out that many people from the Bay regularly make the 3.5 to 4 hour drive to Lake Tahoe every weekend. With the surf park location being smack in the middle of their journey, it will make a perfect pit-stop and unlock the coveted California Double; surfing and snowboarding/skiing all on the same day. 

According to Gallardo, the project, now named Alchemy Surf Park, appears to have some real legs under it. “I’ve been able to secure some incredible land in our desired region, the initial surf lagoon feasibility looks favorable, and I’ve worked hard building community and stakeholder support,” he says. Gallardo also points out that Placer County has a history of being pro-development and the roads to entitlements, permits, and securing the natural resources required all look promising. 

“We’ve been fortunate to piggyback off an existing Master Planned Development project in the region called Placer One”, says Gallardo. The project covers 2,200 acres and will include 5,600 new homes at build-out, a planned Employment Center, Town Center, new University, parks, and natural open spaces. An extensive bikeway network will connect shopping, dining, and residential neighborhoods.

“The vision for this Master Planned project is impressive and provides many unique advantages to our surf project”, says Gallardo. “The future built-in customer base of Placer One and the new University combined with the proximity to existing residential catchments in the region allow us to put the local communities first. It’s my belief that for a surf park to provide real impact and truly be sustainable for years to come, it must be able to thrive off the local population – not just the surf tourism market”, reckons Gallardo.

Alchemy map
Alchemy Surf Park has piggybacked onto this development to bring waves to California’s Gold Country.

As for the actual size of the park and the tech involved, Gallardo has pegged Wavegarden as a clear front-runner. “It’s still a bit early to put anything in stone,” he admits, “but I can tell you I’m a big fan of Wavegarden’s tech. From the incredibly customizable surf experience for the user to the operational efficiency and business model – it just checks all the boxes for me.”

As for the pool size, again, nothing is confirmed, though Gallardo is leaning towards a 56-module build. This would make Alchemy Surf Park the same size, module-wise, as the largest Wavegarden pools, Wave Park in South Korea, and the planned Adventuur Perth surf park in Australia.

Gallardo has completed as much pre-development work as possible, building the project to a level that can attract interest from surf park development companies and investors.

“Through a lot of blood, sweat and tears…and help from my friends and family, I’ve built an exciting and impactful vision I’m proud of. I’ve presented the vision to the local municipality, planning commission, water agency, and stakeholders all leading to overwhelming support of the project.”

Additionally, Gallardo recently procured Matt Hyslop from Colliers to complete a Market and Financial Viability report for the project.

“Matt has extensive experience in the surf park space and has created similar reports for over 20 surf park projects across the Globe,” notes Gallardo. “I’m really excited to have Matt and his team helping with this critical component. Projects of this magnitude have to pencil out for investors and be in located in the right markets. I’m confident the Greater Sacramento Area is such a market and look forward to the official report”.

As for an opening date? Gallardo would ideally like to see waves ridden by guests by fall of 2025, though realistically, it’ll likely be sometime in 2026. We’ll keep you up to date.

Chris has checked out a few stationary wave pools, but says he plans on using Wavegarden tech for his surf park.