OceanKamp project underway, but pool remains a mystery

When will we see Southern California’s first wave pool? Apart from the desert projects, including the Palm Springs Surf Club – scheduled to open mid-2023, the next tank could be in Oceanside. It’s a big ask, but dirt is moving at the project site, and while there have been no formal communications from developers, we dug around to find the latest info…

According to the San Diego Union Tribune, the city released a draft supplemental environmental impact report in August for Oceanside’s Ocean Kamp development, addressing traffic, noise, air quality and other issues. It said all would be within allowable limits. The city received 10 comment letters during the two-month comment period with concerns ranging from lack of affordable housing to building too close to an airport.

“The environmental consultant for the project is in the process of preparing responses to comments received,” Sergio Madera, the city’s principal planner, told the Union Tribune.

Hearing dates will commence this winter.

oceanside wave pool
Development plans for the Oceanside project show a rectangular wave pool at its center many speculate it will be Surf Loch technology.

The Ocean Kamp development in Oceanside has a long history. The former site of the Valley Drive-In theater and swap meet at Mission Avenue and Foussat Road filed its first environmental report in 2008. At that time there was no wave pool in the mix, just a shopping complex called The Pavilion – a dense cluster of big-box stores and retail with a Target at its core. Some reports site Target’s decision to pull out as the reason that the initial project dissolved.

Next up came plans for a “resort-spa-adventure” community by Zephyr Partners. Plans originally kicked off in 2018 and featured a wave pool of unspecified technology at the center. Since then, Zephyr has handed the plan over to N4FL, a company headed by former Senior VP at Zephyr Michael Grehl.

“Ocean Kamp remains as originally proposed and will create a fun destination for locals, families, health and fitness enthusiasts, foodies, surfers, and anyone who enjoys an experience centered around a state-of-the-art wave lagoon,” Grehl told The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Grehl added the company was moving forward and expected construction to start sometime in spring 2022. The Oceankamp website was offline at the time of this article and the project’s Facebook page has not been updated since 2019.

oceanside wave pool will go on the site of an old drive in movie theater
The Oceanside wave pool will go on the site of an old drive-in movie theater.

But according to area resident David Beardwood, construction has been in full swing at the site.

“The 92 acre project is busy with lots of dirt being brought in to raise the level above the San Luis Rey River flood plain,” said Beardwood. “There are lots of trucks and earth movers, but unfortunately there is no activity on the wave pool site.”

To construct permanent buildings, much of the 92 acres is being elevated with five-feet of fill dirt. By raising the ground, the development will mitigate certain floodplain restrictions.

The Ocean Kamp development will host a 300 room resort hotel, retail stores and 700 homes.

Oceanside wave pool will be at the site of an old drive in movie theatre
The Oceankamp development is going up on the site of an old drive in theater location. Image by Tim Mossholder


The big mystery is the type of technology that will be at the center of OceanKamp. The team has committed to a wave-generating technology but won’t disclose which one.

Grehl ran through a few options during his interview including, Kelly’s, PerfectSwell, Wavegarden, Surf Lakes and Surf Loch.

“Kelly’s is fun, it’s amazing – a total leg burner,” Grehl said. “BSR, the American Wave Machine, is fun and a totally different experience from Kelly’s. It’s a lot more commercially viable because of the number of people you can get through. At KS WaveCo you’re only getting six waves an hour and it’s such a big price tag that it’s not really available to most of us.”

All Grehl divulged is that they will be using tech that produces the waves through small chambers, either by air compression or water paddles – he didn’t confirm either. This leaves a few companies in the final draw, including Endless Surf, Wavegarden, American Wave Machines and Surf Loch.

Wavegarden Cove uses a series of small paddles inside chambers to push out water in sequence along their central pier to produce waves. Companies that use pneumatic air pressure chambers include Endless Surf, Surf Loch and PerfectSwell.

It’s also worth noting that upstart companies like WavePrizm, SwellSpot, Westlake, Olas, SwellMFG and others have developed their own systems. None have a full-scale proof of concept pool and it appears that OceanKamp has lined up with one of the majors. In fact, design sketches show a pool that looks very much like Surf Loch technology.

Within Oceanside’s funky mix of industrial parks, big retail outlets and high-end suburban developments several surfboard factories, including Pyzel and Chemistry Surfboards, call the place home.

You can check out the full Boardroom podcast with Mike Grehl and Scott Bass right here. For more from The San Diego reader follow this link.

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