Why you won’t find microwaved burritos at the world’s best wave pools

Everyone has their favorite post-surf meal. From a double-double burger at In-N-Out to a vegan saffron-nasturtium lentil salad, options for eating after a surf are as varied as fin choices for your surfboard. As more wave pools open their doors, it’s apparent that a $20 pizza slice isn’t going to cut it. Park attendees will just feel ripped off and hungry.

“Surf Parks need to create the setting people want to hang out at even when not surfing and participate in the social scene, building community,” says Skip Taylor of Surf Park Management. “We all love to go down to the beach to have a meal, hang out and socialize while watching the surf.”

Urbnsurf Melbourne is moving in this “hang-out” direction with the announcement this week that Three Blue Ducks, an Aussie outfit focusing on locally sustainable fare, will open a restaurant on-premises. The dining establishment will include inside and outside seating and will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with impressive views of the surf park.

Urbnsurf founder Andrew Ross said the Ducks’ ethos aligns perfectly with the company’s aim to inspire in a way that is authentically Australian, respectful of surfing’s origins, and protective of the environment.

Will Urbnsurf’s partnership with Three Blue Ducks mesh with Melbourne’s super-hip, culture-forward vibe?

The Ducks’ restaurants are known for a menu centered around traditional beach cook methods like a charcoal pit. Melbourne ranks as one of Australia’s most culturally forward cities, fed with fresh ideas from resident artists and university students. Three Blue Ducks should fit in nicely with the urban landscape.

Which puts Urbnsurf in line with wave pool projects gearing their dining options to fit their surroundings.

Adventure Parc Snowdonia has a Surf Side Diner featuring burgers, pasta and platters and insists on using local ingredients. Nothing too fancy, just working-class Welsh fare.

Surf scribe and wave pool convert Scott Bass raved about the fish tacos and food options at the now-defunct N-Land Surf Park. The wave pool went beyond Austin Texas’ fiery Tex Mex cuisine to complete their menu.

NLand Surf Park capitalized on the area’s famous Tex Mex cuisine

“At NLand the food was very good,” said Bass during a review of NLand last year. “Two flavorful Mahi Mahi tacos with cabbage, pico de gallo, and chile lime cream sauce. $12 seemed fair, especially considering how tasty the tacos were. The menu contains plenty of health-conscious options (Quinoa & Avo Bowl, Poke, Edamame) and frankly, I’d eat at this restaurant again  — with or without the wave pool.”

Part of the attraction for Bass was that diners can sit inside with air-conditioning or outside with a better view of the machine-made waves as they peel off.

As NLand transitions into a Kelly Slater Wave Company, they will most likely adopt a new menu and guest service, similar to what you’d find at Kelly’s. At roughly $400 a wave, they really have no other choice.

Surf Ranch guest Ian ‘Big Dog’ Glover raved about how the staff are experts in the hospitality industry. He mentioned how they go out of their way to make the guests feel comfortable.

Urbnsurf is banking on customers wanting above ordinary post-surf grinds at their new Melbourne wave pool.

“It really felt like a 5-star trip, like a Tavarua trip,” says Ian. “The hosts are really hospitable. They cater to you and make you feel very special. Everything from generous amounts of high-quality food and snacks to bringing you a beer in the hot tub. It’s really 5 star.”

The above examples fall in line with what Skip Taylor calls thinking “Beyond the Wave.” After dropping millions on a wave pool, stressing the engineering challenges, price structure and too many tiny headaches to mention, surf parks can’t afford to half-ass their dining options.

“Connecting modern food trends, creating energetic lifestyle settings and building a facility with retail, hospitality and also residential in many cases is all part of the future,” added Taylor. “It is a model that has happened in both snow and golf but we feel that Surf Park owners have a great opportunity to take those learnings and do it right for what works for surfers.”

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