Wave pools for the inland masses spell a death-knell for coastal elitism

To live and breathe surfing and wave pools 24/7 takes its toll. Personally, I can’t look at a baseball diamond outline without thinking about a Wavegarden Cove. When I see a sign for donuts I see the Surf Lakes plunger. Valentine’s Day heart-shaped candies are just miniature Endless Surf pools. It’s not healthy, but it beats rollerblading or live streaming my search for a parking place at Whole Foods.

This permeation of all things wave generation into my psyche revealed itself in a dream I had this week. Wave pools became a crowd “draw” for businesses looking to attract customers, and parking lot surf spots dotted the retail landscape. Instead of a simple bouncy castle for the kids, large retailers built 8-chamber Surf Lochs to ensure warm bodies and credit cards were always in the vicinity of the merchandise. You know, like the way surf shops would put a mini-ramp in the back lot or have the Billabong team sign posters. But this wasn’t just for surfers. This was for everyone including non-surfers.

Further into the dream, there was such a proliferation of Main Street America and surf pools that a Google search for “wavepool” turned up a variety of business mutations. “Steve’s Wave Pool Palace and Sleep Center,” “Barrels, Barrels and (actual, physical) Barrels!” “The Target Tube Station,” and “Shredders Supply Hardware” were among them.

When the anxiety portion of the dream kicked in I was trapped against my will in the comments thread of both Stab and BeachGrit. The posts added nothing to the wave pool discourse and instead only informed readers about the commentator: “Ima lifelong surfer an Ponto local so youd never see me in a wave pool those waves are 2 soft!!! If you cant surf double-overhead than your not a REAL surfer” said Sharkbait420. Other posts followed suit, proclaiming surfing prowess and pissing on anyone who couldn’t rip. 

Which inland areas will become surf zones? Illustration by Tiger Hayes

Wave pools have taught me a wonderful thing. That for the first time in our history, it doesn’t matter how well you surf. Everyone is equal during a 55-minute session. 

This surfing egalitarianism is lost in the ocean. The better surfers and locals get the best waves. It’s a system embedded in surf culture. But in wave pools that lineup hierarchy disappears. And that threatens the coastal elite. Being a core surfer will no longer hold the same prestige. Surfing now belongs to everyone. And that bruises a lot of egos.

So in a few years when you read about “Nick’s Wave Pool Emporium and Discount Furniture” opening up next to the Springfield Home Depot, don’t cry “sell-out” or “kooks.” Don’t lash out at people enjoying surfing for the first time. Instead think of the ocean-less masses who will now get to experience the sheer joy of sliding down the face of a wave. 

Wave pools take nothing away from one’s personal relationship with surfing. It only takes away from one’s ego and their public face as a “core surfer.” Are surfers big enough to get over that?

Recent online interest on the Stab and Beachgrit platforms warranted a repost of this Op-Ed. This post originally appeared in October of 2020. WavePoolMag welcomes Op-Ed submissions. Please email editor @ WavePoolMag.com