Surf Park Summit: A place for wave pool dreamers and developers

Urbnsurf, The Wave, DSRTsurf, Surf Lakes, Palm Springs Surf Club and others will be sharing their experiences in La Jolla March 31 and April 1…

Organizer Jess Ponting’s accent is confusing. Born in Britain but brought up in Australia and aged in California. The result is a mashup of B-List actor royalspeak with flashes of ocker and the occasional SoCal bro-ism thrown in.

Jess is an academic. He loves long, open discussions and the furthering of ideas and information to drive solutions to today’s surfing challenges – environmental, cultural and waves as a resource. The man thrives on sharing knowledge. And this presents a challenge.

Open information isn’t something that jibs well in the top-secret world of patents and wave pool developments. As the director of the Center for Surf Research at San Diego State University, he’s in a unique position to alternately lift the lid on projects while simultaneously keeping choice details secret. Jess has signed stacks of Non-Disclosure Agreements. Consequently, he’s in the middle of a complicated dance.

But, once a year all this information sprawls out in a blistering two-day affair called Surf Park Summit. Along with business partner John Luff, Jess is organizing, running and pumping ideation into the annual event which will be held March 31 and April 1 in La Jolla, California.

Jess says the event is like hitting the fast-forward button with scores of matches between surf park developers and planning and management developers resulting from each event.

Jess Ponting shares the inside details about this year’s Surf Park Summit

Is it hard to sit on all this wave pool information when it’s your training as an academic is to just open up and share it all – how does work within the confines of Surf Park Summit?
I’ve been involved in close to a dozen deals, but can’t go into detail. I’m sure you’ve noticed and it’s a bit cagey and information if closely guarded. There are tens of millions of dollars at stake in these and I’m wading in NDAs for all of them. I’ve had my wrist slapped many times for divulging information. I’m an academic and I’m all about transparency. But the proof in the pudding is that those who initially said they could make it (in surf parks) are now coming. The deals and every new relationship is potentially a six or seven-figure deal. And each year Surf Park Summit increases in scope and magnitude.

How has Surf Park Summit grown over the years?
The first one was in 2013 in Costa Mesa and it pre-empted the modern incarnation of modern surf parks. The best surf park at the time was probably Wadi Adventure. Wavegarden had its facility in the Basque Country. The people who came were mostly just curious, the surf industry bros and a lot of others. The interest was from surfers and people within surfing. Wayne Rabbit Bartholomew, Peter Townend, Shaun Tomson – all those guys came out. But it was only American Wave Machines and Surf Loch who showed up on the technical side. The guys from the failed Ron Jons project came out and talked about their experience. But overall there wasn’t much representation from the financial investment part of the industry. But over time (the second one in Orlando in 2016 and the next in Europe in 2017) they have grown to include all the people who are actively doing something within the wave pool sphere or want to get involved. We curate the crowd, so it’s not too big. Everyone there is a stakeholder, from real estate developers to project developers and this year all the major wave technology companies will be represented.

What are some of the highlights in terms of guests?
Surf Loch is coming in a big way (Editor’s Note: Surf Loch have several wave pools in the works globally at the moment), American Wave Machines, KSWC, Surf Lakes, Webber Wave Pools and Wavegarden. As well as EPR Properties and STORE Capital whose REIT’s represent over $17 billion in investments collectively. The growth has been both in the audience and the technology side. Everyone who is a player in the field will be there. The diversity of input and the broad range of speakers is amazing. We have people talking about water safety, water filtration and a couple of panels on water regulations as well as a panel on insurance and risk management.

What interests you personally?
One of the highlights will be on sustainability, CEO of Surfrider and Executive Director of Save The Waves will be represented and this is a big part of why I’m interested in this space. How can we leverage surf parks and these new populations of surfers? And how can we engage them in ocean and coastal conservation? I believe there are links between the parks and conservation and ways to connect these new surfers. WSL Pure will be there as well as organizations for sustainability. There will be the launch of a new app that looks at 100-points of sustainability for new parks and assigns a sustainability score. We are also doing a surf therapy panel. These are all important things when it comes to winning the support of local communities. If you look at what Nick Hounsfield does at The Wave, it’s amazing and a great model for future developments.

Surf Park Summit will take place at the Scripps Seaside Forum in La Jolla California

At its core, who is Surf Park Summit for?
The room isn’t for a thousand people. It’s for people who are stakeholders and are interested in becoming stakeholders. The value proposition for a person coming is that you can meet all these speakers and attendees without the Summit, but it’d take you a million emails, three years and 70 flights to do it. What Surf Park Summit does is takes everyone and anyone who is serious about it and puts them in the same space for two days. There is s a ton of value in accessing information and making connections. Relationships are forged and deals get done. For those looking to establish a network and locate collaborators, it’s all there and made easy.

How about the lighter side- what’s on tap?
We’ll have a fleet of Firewire surfboards and the venue is steps from the Pacific Ocean. There are formal meetings and casual meetings and the conference itself and there will be, for the first time, an awards ceremony.

The list of speakers at this year’s event includes:

Fernando Aguerre, International Surfing Association, President

Anthony Brown, Ocean Sports Development, Founder and Chairman

Glenn Brummage, Surfing Heritage and Culture Center, President

Ian Cairns, Surf Legend, first Director of the Association of Surfing Professionals

Ian Calderon, California State Assembly Leader, Majority Leader

Allen Clawson, Cloward H2O, Principal

Chris Cote, Host & Producer, WSL Surf Breaks

Greg Cruse, USA Surfing, CEO

Mike Culpepper, Venture Realty Group & Atlantic Park, Managing Member

Nick Franklin, KS Wave Co, President

Fred Hemmings, 1968 World Surfing Champion, Founder of Professional Surfing

Ru Hill, Surf Simply, Founder & Owner

Nick Hounsfield – Founder, The Wave, Bristol

Jim Kempton, California Surf Museum, President

Carl Kish, STOKE, Co-Founder and CEO

Andrew Limbocker, EPR Properties, VP Recreation Investment Group

Tom Lochtefeld, Surfloch, Founder & CEO

Dave Likins, Beach Street Development, Partner

Mike Lopez, American Wave Machines, VP

John Luff, Surf Park Summit co-founder, Surf Park Central founder, Beach Street Development

Rob Machado, Pipeline Masters Champion, Environmental Activist, Surfboard Designer

Cheyne Magnusson, Former General Manager BSR Surf Resort

Shaw Mead (Managing Director) & Ed Atkin (Director), eCoast

Tasha Mentasti, Surf Therapist, Co-founder SurfX

Chad Nelson, CEO Surfrider Foundation

Fernando Odriozola, Wavegarden, Co-founder & Chief Commercial Officer

Wayne Olsen, City of Palm Desert

Reece Pacheco, WSL, VP Ocean Responsibility, ED WSL PURE

Patti Paniccia, Surfing Legend, Former Pro Surfer, Founder of Professional Surfing Tour (IPS)

Dev Pathik, Sports Facilities Advisory, Founder & CEO

Jess Ponting, Center for Surf Research, Director; Surf Park Summit & STOKE, Co-Founder

Kris Primacio, International Surf Therapy Organization, ED

Dave Prodan, World Surf League, SVP Global Brand Identity

Andrew Ross, URBNSURF Australia, Founder & Executive Director

Doug Sheres, DSRT Surf & Beach Street Development, Co-Founder & Partner

Sebastian Smith, STORE Capital, Managing Director

Shelby Stanger, Wild Ideas Worth Living Podcast creator and host

Sean Swentek, A Walk on Water Surf Therapy, ED

Izzy Thiyani, Surf Diva, Co-Founder

Peter ‘PT’ Townend, 1976 World Surfing Champion, Surfing Legend

Aaron Trevis, Surf Lakes, Founder & CEO

Greg Webber. Webber Wave Pools, Founder

Ron Williams, City of Virginia Beach, Deputy City manager

Sean Young, Wavegarden, Head of Development Projects

Top Image Courtesy of Surf Lakes