Surf club finds chlorinated home in Edmonton wave pool

Edmonton is Canada’s “Festival City” and is home to North America’s largest mall (3.77 million sq ft.). The mall receives about 32 million visitors per year and up to 200,000 shoppers daily. It’s also the biosphere for the World Waterpark, a wave pool designed to undulate swimmers while the snow piles up outside. The pool has also spawned a legitimate surf club.

Seven years ago a group of lifeguards began surfing on emergency rescue boards. That launched the club. From there, like with all things surf-related, it grew and can now hold up to 30 surfers during “surf nights.” Leading the charge at the club is Daniel Macyk who shares the how’s and why’s to Edmonton’s favorite surf spot.

wave pool collage
Clockwise from top left: One of the original surf club members Derk who grew up part time on Oahu and lives in Edmonton now. Club regulars celebrating Edmonton’s best wave. Core club member Daniel Macyk chose surfing in a land where hockey reigns supreme. All manner of craft can be found during the surf sessions at the Blue Thunder Wave Pool. Photos courtesy of Daniel Macyk. Top image of Noah Cohen by Dawson Wildemann courtesy of Daniel Macyk.

Tell us about the wave pool. It’s not a Wavegarden Cove, but the waves look surf-able.
Our wave pool was built in the ’80s and is situated inside West Edmonton Mall. I believe it’s still the largest indoor waterpark globally, which makes it a great place to go year-round. The wave pool uses a system that pushes and pulls large panels propelling the water forward. The waves come in quick succession. Waves are approximately 4-5 seconds apart and come in sets of five. Waves 3, 4, and 5 are the waves we generally surf (wave two is surfable for kids and a large longboard), and we get a new set about every 40 seconds. It definitely means that you can catch lots of waves in a night. It’s a small A-frame wave that provides a mini barrel and one good turn. On a longboard, you can ride the wave into shore but generally not as long as you ride on a shortboard. Since it’s an indoor pool, the water is usually 25-28 (78-85F) degrees depending on how much sun shines through the large glass dome and time of year. Air temperature is typically set to 31C (90F) I think.

Noah Cohen by Dawson Wildemann courtesy of Daniel Macyk.

Do you surf in the ocean?
I try to get to the ocean as much as possible! Usually, five or six ocean surf trips a year (pre-COVID). Being in Western Canada, the most popular spots are all on the pacific. For myself, I head down to Mexico most often. But Hawaii, SoCal, Vancouver Island, and more exotic trips are all destinations! Nothing beats being in warm tropical surf, especially when it’s going off.

How did the club start?
The club started about seven years ago. My friends Jono and Kris were lifeguards at the mall and started getting involved with the life-saving society, which meant paddling and using rescue boards. As that evolved, they eventually started to offer surfing on the rescue boards to the public. Which is when I started coming out and the official start of surf club about seven years ago. From there, the mall slowly allowed us to order new soft top surfboards. We eventually got better and better equipment until they finally allowed us to order our boards as long as they are soft tops. My far-and-away favorite is my 5’4 Hypto Krypto soft top. I also enjoy my Mick Fanning soft top and Catch Surf. For the general public who don’t have boards, the club has everything from beater boards and shortboards starting at 5’8 to 10-foot longboards. At the moment, Catch Surf and Liquid shredders make up most of what we have. But everyone has a choice of what they would like to ride if they don’t have a board.

When can you surf, and can anyone surf the wave pool?
Anyone can come out to surf after taking a lesson/orientation. They are usually offered once a week and capped at 10 people. After the lesson/orientation, anyone is welcome to come out to the surf club. We typically get 2-4 sessions a week offered. It’s almost always an evening thing. During the day, the wave pool is open to the general public. We get our chance to surf once the park closes. We usually get 90 min sessions. And depending on the day and time, it seems a typical session consists of 10-30 people. On quiet nights you can catch up to 50 plus waves. On busy nights it’s more in the 20-25 range.

Is there a dedicated crew at the wave pool who surf it regularly?
There is a dedicated crew. We have a bunch of regulars like myself that will come for almost every session. Guys who will come once or twice a week. Semi regulars who periodically come when life allows it and even the once-in-a-while or out-of-towners who come infrequently. It’s nice having a great group of guys and girls. Lots of us go on trips together in small groups, sometimes as many as eight of us have rented a house in Hawaii or SoCal.

Endless Surf 2023A