But, "the surf doesn’t offer the perfection of Lemoore or the pop of Waco. And they’re only running at twenty-percent capacity for the general public, nowhere near the two-meter plus surf that was advertised in advance…"
You start the walk to The Wave from a kilometer away. There’s a shuttle bus that will take you, but it’s cold, you can see your breath, and you’d rather walk because it will warm you up.
You’re surrounded by grassy fields, a herd of sheep, then a row of signs with VAL-friendly messages like, “Where falling over isn’t failure, but how we learn and improve, this is that place.”
The main building of The Wave is in front of you, but you see no signs of what you came here for until you check in. You show a pair of young people at the door the barcode of your ticket and they direct you a row of hard and soft surfboards inside, and a rack filled with thick wetsuits and booties on the deck.
That’s when you finally see it.
You can barely hear the hum of the engine that pumps out the surf via a network of small paddles. The machine lies at the end of a pier-like walkway. It creates a left on the left of it and a right on the right.
You choose which one you want to ride when you book online.
I’ve surfed at Waco and Lemoore and Bristol honestly feels the most like the ocean. You paddle next to the wall like you do at any pier or jetty wave and angle away from it down the line. It breaks in the same spot every single time.
The take off is easy. It’s not as buttery as the one at the Surf Ranch, but it gives you plenty of time to stumble to your feet. The first section is soft and slow, but it steepens, quickens and grows as it goes. It reminded of a gentle two-foot day at Snapper or New Pier in Durban.
After you kick out or fall, you paddle back to the end of the line.
Right now, they’re putting fifteen people per hour each “advanced” wave and they run twenty waves in the set. If you miss a wave, they’ll give you another one. They do a ninety-second break in between sets.
If you sprint paddle back to the line after a wave, you can sometimes get two in a set. I think I caught ten waves in my hour-long session which cost me $52.50 USD and included the use of a wetsuit and a new six-two thruster.
If I paddled faster between waves I probably could have caught five more. I started to see waves going unridden towards the end of the session.
It’s early days for The Wave, but a few issues have popped up.
The surf clearly doesn’t offer the perfection of Lemoore or the pop of Waco. The “Coach” for my session admitted that they’re only running at twenty-percent capacity at the moment for the general public, nowhere near the two-meter plus surf that was advertised in advance.
The Wave’s power got turned up a notch for a Red Bull crew a couple weeks ago but even those peelers looked head-high at best. The problem, according to The Wave’s Founder Nick Hounsfield, isn’t the technology, it’s the surfing level of some its customers.
“What were finding is quite of few people are struggling to be honest what their ability might be,” he said.
My session was marred by a handful of beginners who struggled to make the drop every time and didn’t get out of way of the surfer behind them quickly enough. It seems like a pretty easy solution to this would be to require surfers to prove they can handle a mellow setting before graduating to one that’s more advanced.
Hounsfield said they’re considering this approach, but are looking at a few other options as well.
He’s an interesting guy. He’s a youngish osteopath who had a dream five years ago to build a wave pool in his hometown. His initial investment was only £500. He somehow raised enough money to make it happen and has a vision of making the place a center for health, fitness and wellness.
With beginners on the inside included, he can get scores of people in the water every hour and the place was booked solid the day I was there despite and water and air temps that were only 11 degrees °C (52 °F).
If he can get the power of The Wave cranked up to around fifty-percent a few sessions a day for skilled surfers, and let everyone else have at it for the rest of the time, I think he’s got a business that could be profitable.
Even in its current state The Wave is still more fun and less crowded that eighty-percent of my surfs within an hour of my house in LA.
I’d probably go a couple times a month at if I lived near enough to one.
Speaking of which, when do those Palm Springs pools open again?