Your perfect COVID-era surf trip is to a wave pool

Planning a surf trip is difficult. Do you go big and cross the equator or do you stay domestic? To find that rare sweet spot between raw adventure and a sure thing is daunting. Of course, after all that research and planning the waves can go completely flat during your visit. Compound that with a global pandemic and the search for the perfect surf trip becomes nearly impossible. So, why not a wave pool as the best place to go on a surf trip? Yes, you lose the peripheral magic of learning some phrases in a new language, but you are guaranteed to score waves. WavePoolMag asked the world’s surf parks if their facilities are becoming legit surf trip destinations in these times of COVID.

“Since we reopened our doors on August 1st we have been super busy, with surfers of all levels booking in to enjoy our waves,” said Abby Richardson of The Wave. “Without a doubt, many advanced surfers have chosen to spend time with us getting their surfing fix, rather than travel abroad and risk facing quarantine on their return.”

To avoid international travel in these times of COVID many American surfers who would normally chase waves in the far corners of the globe sighted on domestic trips to places like BSR Surf Resort.

Last month WavePoolMag correspondent Brad Smallwood shunned international travel to hit up BSR Surf Resort in Texas. The San Francisco-to-Austin trip was much easier than, say, a 27-hour haul to Minangkabau International Airport on Sumatra. But Brad said he chose a domestic surf trip to a wave pool not only because it was a sure bet to find surf, but because the lineups are friendly.

“The vibe at BSR is awesome,” said Brad. “There is a warmth to Texans that we could all learn from. The guests are from all over the country and the world. It’s not a “surf spot” with a local hierarchy and they put 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 human-made wave that is seriously fun.”

BSR in Texas has remained open more than the other wave pools in the world. The Lone Star State has few mandatory health protocols (Texas leads the USA in confirmed COVID cases) despite this, the mood at BSR is cautious.

“Coming from San Francisco I somewhat expected Waco to be mask-free or anti-mask which couldn’t be further from the truth,” added Brad. “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.”

A rare sight. 2020 was full of empty airports as people stayed home.

As most wave pools are openair, outdoor affairs and COVID infection tends to flourish indoors, it’s not so much fear of the virus that deters overseas surf travel, but fear of restrictions and changing quarantine regulations. This is something Euna Kim of Wave Park, South Korea’s new giant wave pool, understands.

“In many cases people are not allowed to travel abroad or even if they do, they need to do two weeks of quarantine after coming back from the other country,” said Euna. “If you have to get back to work after taking time off to travel, two weeks of quarantine makes a trip nearly impossible.”

While Typhoon Lagoon in Florida and Adventure Parc Snowdonia in Wales shut down for the entire year, Urbnsurf Melbourne and others have played cat and mouse with the rolling COVID restrictions. One unexpected side effect has been a surge in local surfers spending more time at their nearby wave pool – if they’re lucky enough to have one.

Urbnsurf melbourne to reopen
Melbourne was ground zero for a second outbreak of COVID, forcing all area fixtures to shut down including Urbnsurf. The company, now open for business, says they expect to see a boost in visits from domestic travelers as Australia lifts restrictions over the summer.

After an extended lockdown (with a brief three-week opening in June) Urbnsurf roared back to life for members and those guests who live within 25 kilometers of the park.

“For almost four months, our locals haven’t been permitted to surf or visit the coast, so they’ve been beyond stoked to get back in the lagoon, shake off the cobwebs, score perfect waves and reconnect over the past two weeks,” said Rupert Partridge of Urbnsurf. “Our reopening has also coincided with warm Spring weather and a few public holidays, which has created an incredibly positive atmosphere in the water.”

Rupert added that with international travel restrictions extending into 2021 they anticipate more domestic guests traveling to Melbourne from all around Australia.

The Wave in Bristol had a hugely successful summer when travel bans lifted, but was dogged by rolling quarantine measures between European countries. Despite entering a second shutdown in the face of the current COVID spike, The Wave expects a busy winter once things stabilize.

The surf park as a sure-bet surf destination is now on the radar of surf travel companies and specialized camps (check our latest Podcast about an exclusive coaching resort and wave pools) as well. Europe-based Puresurfcamps offers destinations for the learner-to-advanced set at ocean surf spots throughout the world. Their bread and butter customers are German surfers making the relatively short trek to France or Portugal. With the restructuring of surf travel, the company is actively exploring wave pools as legit trip targets.

“For someone interested in experiencing the sensations of riding waves, then wave pools are an incredible tool,” said Darren Broadbridge of Puresurfcamps. “The quality of waves on offer in wave pools is astonishing and Puresurfcamps are passionate for all forms of surfing. We see a huge future in this market and are currently planning our long term strategy to include them in our portfolio. If not with Puresurfcamps directly then with one of the new developments we have in progress.”

As more wave pools open up globally the surf trip of the future could be one where you’re ultimately guaranteed a friendly lineup and surf that pumps like clockwork.