Update: Hawaii wave pool count continues to grow

Wave pool surfing in Hawaii could become a thing as four projects, Wai Kai, Honokea, Surf Lakes and The Endless Summer Resort eye a range of development possibilities. The wave pools, while mostly focused on Oahu near Ewa Beach, are also planned for the outer Islands.

The birthplace of surfing could be known as the home of modern wave pool surfing due to several factors including two Westside projects planned, a new licensing deal that could see the Island chain peppered with plunger technology, and a dormant design waking up. Despite all the activity, Hawaii is a very challenging environment in which to build a surf tub. Obstacles include environmental concerns, cost of materials and labor, and expensive energy. It’s a land where a kWh can cost up to 33 cents while many places on the mainland charge as low as 7 cents per kWh. Another issue is that the ocean and surf are abundant – it’s the reason many people travel to Hawaii.

Main Image: Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki with human-made lagoon. Two new projects will call home west of Waikiki near White Plains Beach. Photo by Andrew Ruiz.

The Endless Summer Resort

Planned wave pool for Oahu that was never built
Artist rendering of the Endless Summer resort from a few years ago.

Does anyone remember the Endless Summer development, a four-acre spot with a resort hotel circling a very Greg Webber-looking wave pool? In 2014 news reports stated that Surf City Hui LLC was teaming up with American Wave Machines. At the time AWM was experimenting with a circular design, but shortly after went full throttle with their PerfectSwell concept, the one you see at Waco and now in Japan.

“At The Endless Summer Resort, we will be able to create a surfing experience that removes the fear for beginners and in some cases, exceeds the real thing for expert surfers,” said Chad Waters, co-founder of Surf City Hui LLC.

At the time of the report, the 400-unit resort was negotiating with a landowner for a site on Oahu. The development said they would also build restaurants, a spa, a surf shop, and a surfing museum. No word of late from this ambitious project.

Hawaii Surf Lakes LLC

wave pool oahu
The Surf Lakes facility in Yeppoon, Queensland Australia as seen without its landmark plunger.

Surf Lakes announced an Exclusive Territory Agreement (ETA) for Hawaii with Peter Savio, the owner of Hawaii Surf Lakes LLC. Of interest is that Savio was behind the Endless Summer Resort seven years ago (see above). The Savio real estate company is one of the largest in the Islands working both residential and commercial real estate through three offices. Savio’s experience as a developer and history of projects will help the company plan a Surf Lakes in the near future. In keeping with the surfing ethos, Savio said in a press statement that he would work with the community and keep operations green.

“I intend to utilize only sustainable options in every aspect of design and will join with a native Hawaiian Cultural Center,” said Savio. “I have been working with native cultural practitioners.”

Bryan Gile, Surf Lakes Director of Sales North America said the new agreement signals a rapid expansion for Surf Lakes. 

“This deal is par for the course with what we’re seeing across North America presently,” said Gile. “The Hawaiian Islands territory purchase represents a landmark achievement for Surf Lakes. We’ve signed our largest project deal to date, in the birthplace of surfing.”

But right now the epicenter of pools in the Islands is near Ewa Beach where two projects are within just five miles of each other.


Aritz aranburu at the cove
Artiz Aranburu at Wavegarden HQ. Honokea plans to use a Cove design.

Like Savio, Honokea has been kicking around renderings and concepts for a few years.

Their first design hit the newswire in 2016, but we also found a forward-looking Facebook post from way back in 2013 which read, “Really interesting read on the current state and future of wave pools. We are proud partners of Wavegarden and can’t wait to see what we build in 2014!”

The group then set sights on the Coachella Valley with a development using the Wavegarden Cove design. DSRT Surf has since locked in Cove licensing for the area and it’s unknown if Honokea is still pursuing a SoCal desert pool. In a Desert Sun article, the paper said Honokea had land under contract in Indio for a facility that would include a wave pool, skate park, BMX track, and SUP circuit.

What we do know about Honokea is that the 5-acre surf lagoon will be at the center of $72million development and surrounded by bungalows, SUP area, and lazy river.

Hawaiian surf rescue legend Brian Keaulana, son of Buffalo and brother to Rusty Keaulana, is behind Honokea. The waterman is promoting the development as both a community resource steeped in Aloha and as a training facility for Hawaiian surfers and Olympic hopefuls.

surf park hawaii location
The proposed location of the Honokea wave pool. The lagoon area to the right is where Wai Kai broke ground this year.

Kenan “Keno” Knieriem Jr is Honokea’s co-founder and CEO. Both surfers described the project as a world-class facility that will celebrate Hawaiian culture.

The state legislature recently approved the group’s appropriation bill. Governor Ige signed bill SB1412 into law, a measure that significantly reduces the equity requirements for the project.

“The Honokea Surf Village Special Purpose Revenue Bond Bill authorizes State of Hawaii tax-free revenue bond authority as a financing tool for the project,” Honokea said in a statement. “The bonds require no capital from the State as this is private capital and poses no financial risk to taxpayers (the returns are guaranteed by the project).”

The development group said the $95M in bond authorization demonstrates the State of Hawaii’s commitment from the highest level.  

“The project will create over 200+ local jobs, help the surf and film industries, support local retailers,  promote Hawaiian culture, ocean safety, ohana, wellness, and environmental awareness,” the group said in a statement. 

Honokea still has to negotiate a long-term lease for the parcel located on the former Barbers Point Naval Air Station. The surf park development would be expected to generate revenue in an area often overlooked by Hawaii’s booming tourist industry.


Wai Kai standing wave pool
Once completed, Wai Kai’s citywave stationary wave will be the world’s largest rapid wave pool.

Wai Kai is the only project mentioned in this article that has actually borken ground. It’s a development owned by Haseko and will host a surf-focused area called The LineUp which will have the world’s largest deep-water citywave rapid wave pool (100ft wide).

“Construction for Wai Kai began in October and the pool is now built and the buildings are going up,” said Skip Taylor of Surf Park Management. “It’s on track for a 2022 opening and is a very real, fully funded surf park project that is part of an overall $100M development that will launch commercial activities around the 52-acre Wai Kai Lagoon.”

Taylor added that the lagoon is a great amenity for the project and will include SUP, OC, Kayak paddle activities open to the public. Other amenities are restaurants, event space, and a boardwalk called the “Wai Kai Experience.”

Haseko’s subsidiary, Wai Kai Commercial Development LLC group, is also considering future commercial and hospitality developments beyond the current development zone and envision a very robust commercial and hospitality hub to service the west side community and visitors to Oahu.

We will keep you posted as these projects evolve.

Main Image Hilton Hawaiian Village by Andrew Ruiz