Desert communities form surf clubs in anticipation of wave pools

The speculation that four, possibly five wave pools are set to open in the desert east of Los Angeles has inspired a mini-boom in surf clubs. Longtime surfer and club supporter Dave Hilts created the Coachella Valley Surf Club recently in anticipation of the coming surf spots.

Hilts splits his time between Palm Desert and Oceanside and admits it’s a bit early in the game. But the affable creator of PaddleAir, Inc is optimistic, saying they expect a surf-able pool to be open by next year.

Coachella Valley Surf Club is joined by the East Valley Boardriders, a few miles away in Mecca, and both hope to be holding events at the Palm Springs Surf Club when it opens late 2020.

While the let’s-form-a-club-effort sounds like a good plan to square away bulk-discount sessions at upcoming wave pools both groups explain their motives are to get area youth involved in desert surfing.

Coastal surfer David Hilts is a surf club veteran looking to get desert kids involved in wave pool surfing

What is the history of your club and how did it come about?
I guess before I answer that I need to speak to my experience with surf clubs. I joined the Huntington Beach Surfing Association in 1969. Back then HB was a hotbed of the top surfers of the time and still is. Many years later I joined the Oceanside Longboard Surfing Club, one of the best-run organizations in the Coalition of Surf Clubs that hold contests up and down the coast. Being in OLSC I learned how a well-run club operates and using that knowledge learned, made the decision easier to start a club in the Coachella valley. But the “Ah-Ha” moment came when my wife Denice, a special education teacher, mentioned that many of her students in her low-income district had never even been to the beach let alone gone surfing. It all came to me – start a club, get a body of like-minded surfers together and work with pool owners to make that experience happen for them.      

How many members does the Coachella Valley Surf Club have?
Our website has been up for less than two months and we are approaching 25 members and getting new members daily. Interestingly, most are from outside the Palm Desert valley but love the desert and wanted to be a part of what we want to accomplish.   

DSRT surf plan
The Cove design at DSRT Surf should open in 2021 and become host to several area club events

What is your mission statement?
Our non-profit condensed mission statement is to promote the sport of surfing as a healthy lifestyle sport to people of all ages and abilities. Our website statement also includes, ‘to utilize and be a part of the next, cutting-edge wave pool technology.’ To give a voice to Coachella Valley surfers as they work with facility owners to make the experience of riding waves available to local schools and organizations.

Why do you think these projects have chosen Palm Desert?
Palm Desert is the perfect location. It is centrally located in the middle of the valley near Palm Springs and the Coachella music events. The city also has many amenities such as high-end shopping on El Paseo Blvd, The McCallum Theater, great hiking and biking trails, and amazing mid-century homes and buildings. The property the DSRT surf selected is right next door to the city golf course Desert Willow Country Club, a beautiful 18 holes with amazing views and great access.   

Predicted to be the first of the desert wave pools opening, the Palm Springs Surf Club will most likely be the setting for the first Coachella Valley Surf Club meet

How do you see your club utilizing the upcoming wave pools?
First, I would really like to see local students to adapt it as a P.E. sport and eventually a team sport like most coastal schools have. I have spoken with DSRT Surf’s Doug Sheres and he is totally dedicated to making this a reality. Beyond that I want CVSC to become a member of the Coalition of Surf Clubs and add an event to the contest schedule.  

Run us through a (future) typical club event at one of these pools.
Wow, so many possibilities. A club meeting in one of the restaurants on-site followed by a session after. A monthly club contest, a kids day with prizes, Easter, 4th of July and Christmas events. Then there is the Coalition event where clubs from all over the state come and compete, a killer dinner night, music and awards.

The wave pool footage in the opening of The North Shore was shot in Palm Springs

We saw you were donating surfing equipment – what is that about?
Yes, so when I went to the first Planning Commission meeting on the DSRT project I met Krysten Gonda, a teacher at the Desert Mirage High School in Thermal. She spoke at the meeting and said she had started a surf club and already had 40 members. These kids come from a low-income area with high unemployment and I thought what a great opportunity to get some equipment for these kids. So our club members and my company Paddleair Products purchased boards and wetsuits for them. We are planning to give the equipment to the students as soon as I can get around to all the members and people that wanted to contribute. That will happen in the next week or so as Thanksgiving is approaching.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Our city is so fortunate to have this amazing project come to Palm Desert. It will make a great impact on young people of the Coachella Valley and I think it will change many lives for the better. Surfing can become a lifelong experience for many as it has for me. I can only say, as many did at the DSRT meeting when the project was approved, hurry up and build it, please!