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What to expect when you’re expecting a trip to Waco

We went to Waco to bring you this user guide to the BSR Surf Resort . In the article below our reporter investigates, explores and surfs the famous Texas wave to bring you valuable information.

There is an imbalance on the interweb these days with surf celebs and influencers out shouting regular surfers when it comes to the wave pool experience. Let’s shift the paradigm. Instead of input from someone in the social media stratosphere we decided to dig into the details of a BSR Surf Resort visit as provided by an objective, capable everyday surfer. Although you wouldn’t know it scrolling through promoted Instagram content, regular surfers still exist.

Brad Smallwood is not an influencer or budding pro. He is a therapist with a blackbelt in Jiu-Jitsu and just like many of us he squeezes in as many surfs between work shifts and takes an annual surf trip. This year with COVID restrictions a lot of American surfers like Brad chose domestic surf travel to a wave pool rather than risking quarantine and possible lockdown overseas.

WavePoolMag offers this surf trip perspective from an everyday surfer – albeit a San Francisco guy whose daily surf ritual includes a 4/3 fullsuit and post-sesh artisan espresso. Here you’ll find up-tp-the-minute advice on flights, where to stay, where to eat, what boards to bring, surf prices and more for the BSR Surf Resort.

There are two airports within a couple of hours drive of Waco so flight options are plentiful. Photo by Johan van Wambeke

Flights

Dallas or Austin are closest to Waco and both are major international airports. If flying from outside of the US, Dallas will probably be an easier location to find an affordable flight. Both Dallas and Austin are about 2 hours away from BSR Surf Resort. You could also fly to Houston which is a little further away. Austin is a city worth visiting on its own so adding a day onto your trip would be well with it.

Where to stay

There are hotels for every budget. The Hilton in Waco is probably on the high end and is about $100/night. You can stay at Days Inn for around $49. You can also stay at BSR Surf Resort right at the pool for $249/night. There’s a good selection of AirBnB’s that would be good for a larger group. BSR Surf Resort is actually 20 minutes outside of the city of Waco so plan your drive to the surf accordingly each day.

The city of Waco

Waco closes down pretty early so if you get out of the pool at the 8pm closing time, don’t expect much to be open. For something to do in Waco if you’re with family or significant other, the Magnolia Silos have cool shops and food trucks. The people from Fixer Upper, Chip and Johanna Gaines, are from Waco and their Magnolia empire draws people from all over the country to their stores and restaurants. Baylor University is also near Waco.

About a 20-minute drive from BSR Surf Resort food options in the city of Waco are many

Waco and Covid 19

Coming from San Francisco I somewhat expected Waco to be mask-free or anti-mask which couldn’t be further from the truth. People were wearing masks at all times indoors and mostly outdoors. BSR Surf Resort is outdoor and socially distant by design but people still kept their masks nearby or around their necks. No issue to report here.

Car rental

Easy- all airports have all the major rental agencies. Parking at BSR is easy- it’s a big dirt lot.

Board rental-selection

BSR offers everything from soft tops to regular high-performance shortboards. Most were epoxy and they seemed to have some moderate wear on them. If you’re a board snob like me, bring your own board and a backup. The pool dings and breaks boards.

Equipment

Bring two boards if you can in the event of dings/break or to mix it up. I would suggest bringing a daily driver shortboard you feel confident on and maybe err on the shorter side. There is a debate between poly and epoxy in pools and I found both to be fine and not a huge difference. Bring wax, a ding kit and extra fins. Given the wave is the same each time it’s a good place to compare your fin setups. You need to wear a leash in the pool. There is no surf shop on site at the moment so bring everything you would need to surf on a trip. Bring your own towel and sunblock.

The repetition of BSR Surf Resort’s barrels draws surfers from all over the US to hone their tube-riding skills or perfect that board-mount camera shot: Surfer Rob Kelly

Around the pool

BSR is located on a big property outside of Waco with not much around except some houses and small farms. There are cabanas that line the pool that provide crucial shade and a free place to keep your stuff. It’s on a first-come, first-served basis so don’t sleep on snagging one of these!

The waves and pool set up

There are 3 wave settings for public sessions: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. If you can paddle for a wave, stand up, and go down the line in the ocean don’t bother with the beginner or intermediate wave settings. The sessions start like clockwork on the hour with 30 minutes of rights at first and then 30 minutes of lefts for the latter part of the hour. Waves come in sets of three each set and you’re in the pool with nine surfers in small pods of three people. Each set, three surfers paddle out and rotate in priority. There is zero hassling and you go on the number wave in the set you’re assigned. This takes about one set to figure out.

All waves are pretty uniform with the second and third drawing a little more water off the bottom so they are a little hollower. It hurts to hit the cement bottom and you will hit the bottom. The advanced wave, I believe, is called “Trestles” and you’ve got room for about 3-to-4 turns and there are some, small barrel sections on the end. The smaller sized 12-year-old surf prodigies were getting piped on the end section. You will get about 15 waves per hour and occasionally if you’re paddling back out along the wall someone will fall or miss the wave and you can go. The level of surfing was very high this trip so I didn’t poach a single wave. On a previous trip, I would get about 3-4 poached waves per hour. You see different wave settings on video clips with air sections and barrels but those are only available for private sessions which you can book after hours.

Brad Smallwood at BSR Surf Resort
The author trunking it. Even in October water temps at BSR are warm. But be prepared, temps can vary as much as 20 degrees in a 24-hour period during extreme weather events. Photo by Rob Henson

Water temps and timing

The water temperature can vary greatly so if you go during a transition season like March or October, bring a wetsuit as I’ve heard water can swing 20 degrees Fahrenheit (11 Celsius) day-to-day. In summer the water is very warm, in winter it can get very cold. You can check with the resort the water temp prior to arrival.

Show up at least 20-30 min before your surf time to get signed in. You wanna be sitting at the water’s edge, ready to go five minutes before your session. If you’re new to the wave, 10 minutes before your surf hour so you can be given the rundown of how to catch waves, how priority works, etc. It also gives you time to ask questions. There isn’t “coaching” in the water but people are helpful if you’re having a hard time figuring out how to catch the wave.

Food options

For BSR Surf Resort, bring your own food. It may have a bar and grill in peak season but that was closed both times I have been there. There is an Airstream trailer on site that serves juice and Acai but it is also inconsistent as to when it is open. You can get food delivered from Waco with Uber Eats and Door Dash or you can buy food in town at grocery stores like BEH. In the town of Waco, there’s tons of food options: Diamond Backs for steaks, Rudy’s for BBQ (it is open early and closes late), Torchy’s Tacos, and Magnolia Table. Magnolia Press opens up at 7am for great coffee. Whoever figures out food, drink, and a full coffee set up to sell to the guests at BSR on site is gonna make some serious cash.

Dr. Pepper in Austin
Soda is appealing after a strenuous day surfing in the Texas heat. Photo by Brad Smallwood

How many sessions to book

If you’re gonna travel to make the trip, I would say try to book a minimum of 3 hours per day. For first-timers, the first hour is trying to figure out how to catch and figure out the wave. The ideal would probably be 4 hours per day in two-hour blocks. You’ll want a break to rest and rehydrate between sessions. At 41 years old, I did 11 hours over two days which was a lot, but doable.

Photo and video

Rob Henson is the resort photo ace and you can hire him for your hour and/or get photos that he shot of your session afterward. He’s a really good photographer and a super friendly guy. He’ll know the best angles to shoot from and given the wave is so consistent, you’ll be able to bring home the goods or to post on your Instagram. He’s easy to track down once you get there but you can contact him in advance.

kelly slater in texas wave pool
The vibes in the water at BSR are different from anywhere else in the world. Kelly Slater and friend. Photo by Rob Henson

Vibe

The vibe at BSR is awesome. There is a warmth to Texans that we could all learn from. The guests are from all over the country and the world. Since it’s not a “surf spot” with a local hierarchy and puts control on how many surfers are in the water each hour with a priority system in place there is zero room for bad vibes. Everyone seems legitimately stoked to be surfing a man-made wave that is seriously fun.

The first time I visited in 2019, it was almost all pool first-timers. This trip, with travel being restricted due to covid 19, it appears to be to the surf destination for every up and coming under 17-year-old surf star in the making. These kids were absolutely ripping. Their parents and team managers line the edge of the pool with telephoto lenses and video cameras documenting each wave. That part of the experience has a little bit of a “lacrosse parent” feel but it’s cool seeing these kids chase their dreams and practice on such a consistent wave. One child that couldn’t have been older than 10 years old from San Clemente said he had been to BSR 15 times.

American Wave Machines Perfect Swell
The relatively easy tubes of the PerfectSwell system are a favorite for local surfers as well as visitors choosing a domestic wave pool instead of an overseas trip in the time of COVID.

Booking at BSR
They open their slots for a certain month about two months prior, and the time slots go very fast due to demand. If you get on their mailing list you get a heads up when they will be opening booking. If you don’t book right away when the dates open, it’s unlikely you’ll get a number of time slots.

BSR tidbits
There is barely coffee at BSR, the WiFi is inconsistent at best, and do bring your own food until they get that figured out.

Quick takeaways
The pool dings and breaks boards.
Bring wax, a ding kit and extra fins.
The food trucks of Magnolia Silos are a hit.
It hurts when you hit the bottom. You will hit the bottom.
The vibe at BSR is friendly and awesome with zero room for bad vibes.
Gourmet coffee, food and WiFi are spotty at BSR, so plan accordingly.

BSR overview shows length of ride along the wall. Photo by Brad Smallwood

Prices for BSR Surf Resort in Waco Texas
$90 – Expert session for one hour
$75 – Intermediate session for one hour
$60 – Beginner session for one hour
$20 – Beach Pass to hang out on the beach and watch the action
$10 – Beach Pass purchased by surf guest for non-surfing guest

Package Deals
$449 – 5 expert sessions
$849 – 10 expert sessions
$1,599 – 20 expert sessions – Includes Early access to booking sessions and an annual beach-access pass for surfer and guest.

$369 – 5 Intermediate sessions
$699 – 10 Intermediate sessions
$1,349 – 20 Intermediate sessions
Includes Early access to booking sessions and an annual beach-access pass for surfer and guest.

$299 – 5 Beginner sessions
$569 – 10 Beginner sessions
$999 – 20 Beginner sessions
Packages of 10 and 20 beginner sessions get one learn-to-surf lesson and board rental.

Hero 100 session pass is available. Enquire for prices

Brad Smallwood is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in San Francisco. He specializes in anger management and adolescents. Brad is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Ralph Gracie and a part-time instructor at their San Francisco flagship academy. He has been surfing for 30 years and has traveled all over the world.


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