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Surf industry hopes surf parks will expand sport

Published on NewsOK Modified: September 23, 2013 at 12:52 pm •  Published: September 23, 2013
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"The problem is, 'surf culture' is about so much more than just riding a wave. It is about having a genuine respect and connection with the ocean," said Zac Heisey, a surfer and freelance writer who addressed the debate on his blog, In The Name of Surfing.

Others are concerned that the energy required to power waves big enough for surf parks will contribute to global warming.

Momentum around surf parks has been growing since the 1960s, but fewer than a dozen serious parks currently exist in locations from Florida to Malaysia — and cost and wave technology have always been stumbling blocks.

That technology has now advanced enough to make parks economically viable, but operators will need to build near large population centers and make the pool the centerpiece of a larger development to make a profit, said Tom Lochtefeld, owner of Wave Loch, a wave technology company.

Some of the biggest and best-known include Disney's Typhoon Lagoon in Florida, Wadi Adventure in United Arab Emirates and Wavegarden, a private research and development site tucked away in Spain's Basque country.

A park that would attract serious surfers would run between $15 million and $25 million to build and need to be at least 2 acres in size to allow surfers to paddle in, Lochtefeld said. With current technology, the energy price tag for one hour of waves could be up to roughly $500, he said.

Other wave companies have said they can produce waves for $1 a wave, said Matt Reilly, director of operations and marketing at Surf Park Central, which put on the summit.

"It comes in as how you operate a park and that's a question that hasn't been answered by anybody," he said.

Despite the challenges, history is filled with examples of extreme, outdoor sports that have been tamed for the masses.

Before chair lifts, ski bums had to hike up mountains to ride down and rock gyms made rock-climbing possible miles from any mountain, said Dan Harmon, a development manager with Select Contracts, which builds and operates leisure and sport projects worldwide.

"They're places to train, they're safe, controlled environments that allow people that initial introduction and that is absolutely key," said Harmon, whose company operates Saudi Arabia's wave park. "If we can get them in, then we can get them hooked."

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Online:

http://www.surfparkcentral.com

http://www.surfparksummit.com

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Follow Gillian Flaccus on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/gflaccus


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