Watch Now: How to run a wave pool successfully through the different seasons

How do you keep your wave pool filled when it’s the stay-inside season and no longer the days of fun in the sun? Attracting customers beyond the core market becomes a big challenge for outdoor wave pools once the weather turns chilly. Die-hard surfers typically are not enough to cover the low-season operational expenses (OpEx). Is the answer as simple as creating more surfers in the area around your surf park? We spoke with Kathleen LaClair of Leisure Development Partners and Hazel Geary, CEO at The Wave, Bristol, about the many layers of seasonality in surf parks.

Discussion & Questions 

  • How does seasonality impact wave pools?
  • What unique challenges do different venues face?
  • Do some venues experience minor impacts while others close in the off-season?
  • What strategies attract visitors during colder months?
  • How do tactics vary in shoulder seasons?
  • What advantages do season-dependent markets offer?
  • What recommendations do you have for navigating seasonality?

Kathleen LaClair
How are you going to bring other people in during these off peak seasons or even off peak parts of the week or even off peak parts of the day? So figuring out who your core market is and who else you can tap into and programming can get very difficult and very lengthy with a lot of considerations, but you’re obviously going to have to have staff on at those times. You have to figure out the complexities of your summer staff versus your other staff, or how many people are going to be full-time all year versus how many are going to be variable.

Bryan Dickerson
For programming do you change your surf offerings at The Wave during the cold season?

Hazel Geary
I think probably our lake schedule is one of the most talked about elements of our business and it’s one thing that we are looking at week in, week out, learning and we’ve got four years behind us of looking at schedules and working out what is the most effective way of programming. So Big Wave Thursdays has been our winter offering throughout as we ramp down the year. But it’s also making sure that you are still offering for people who just want to come for a day out experience because the assumption can easily be that for us in the winter, it’s only those kind of hardcore surfers, but actually there are still lots of people who are outdoors enthusiasts, you know, keen to try new experiences and just cause it’s cold, that doesn’t stop them wanting to come to a wave pool. So that programming mix is really, really a challenge, but also a real opportunity.

Kathleen LaClair
Kathleen LaClair is a partner at Leisure Development Partners (LDP), leading the firm’s Americas practice. She has over 20 years of experience in the industry, evaluating the development potential and feasibility of attractions for clients like SeaWorld and Premier Parks. More recently, she has contributed to key ventures with American Wave Machines and Kelly Slater Surf Company.

Hazel joined The Wave in June 2023 to lead the team of Wavemakers at England’s first inland surfing destination and the world’s first Wavegarden cove. With international experience in the leisure, retail, and hospitality industries, she has spent over 9 years with David Lloyd Leisure, the UK’s largest health club chain.