The future of surfing: No ocean required

Fri Nov 22, 2013 9:04am EST
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By Richard Valdmanis

NASHUA, New Hampshire (Reuters) - A surfer drops down the face of a crashing swell, crouches low and stalls his board into the tube, achieving the sport's ultimate goal of a ride inside the barrel.

But instead of being on a sunlit beach in Hawaii or southern California, this surfer is inside a glass-and-concrete building in New Hampshire - at America's newest surf park, an hour's drive from the Atlantic.

"Part of our mission is to bring surfing everywhere, including where there isn't an ocean," said Bruce McFarland, president of American Wave Machines.

The company's SurfStream wave system is being used at the Surfs Up New Hampshire park in Nashua, which is set to open in December.

Surf parks have been around for decades, but a surge in the sport's appeal and rapid advances in wave-making technology have triggered new construction in unlikely places such as South Dakota, Quebec, Sweden and Russia.

Using proprietary designs meant to emulate waves formed in nature, companies like American Wave Machines, Weber Wave Pools, Waveloch and others are racing to bring the ocean sport to the landlocked masses.

Fernando Aguerre, head of the International Surfing Association (ISA), said their efforts could be a big boost for surfing and businesses built around it.

"Surf parks will give the opportunity to learn to ride waves in a safe way to millions of people around the world," he explained, adding it could also help ISA to make surfing part of the Olympic Games.   Continued...

Todd Holland, former professional surfer on the world tour, tests the waves on a surfboard at the still under-construction Surf's Up indoor water and surf park in Nashua, New Hampshire November 15, 2013. REUTERS/Brian Snyder