The Definitive List of (Operational) Surfing Wave Pools

Kelly Slater surfing the wave pool he made for himself.
Kelly Slater surfing the wave pool he made for himself. Photo: Aaron Hughes // WSL
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.


It seems like every day there’s a new wave pool announcement. Then, with every announcement comes the beginning of a years-long long hype train. It starts with sweeping statements of the advancement and power of the technology that will be used, backed up by computer-generated renderings. If the pool ever manages to go beyond the planning phase and actually gets built, then a handful of pros are invited to test out the wave at its absolute peak settings and stack a few incredible looking clips. Only after all of that do you stand a chance of actually setting foot in some chlorinated water.

But what pools can you actually surf right now? To answer that question, here’s a handy-dandy list of surfing wave pools that are currently operational and open to the public, which we’ll keep updated as more become available (or suddenly disappear, as is also often the case).

Wave Pool Technologies

Broadly speaking, there’s only a handful of ways to make man-made waves. All of them employ some sort of method to displace a large amount of water, which then ripples over a man-made reef that shapes the water into an actual, surfable wave – much like in the ocean. The methods currently in use are: pneumatic (moving water with air pressure), hydraulic (moving water with other water), or mechanical (moving water with a paddle or plow). Here are some of the specific iterations of those technologies that you’ll see throughout the list:

PerfectSwell

The PerfectSwell system is the flagship technology of American Wave Machines. These pools generate waves using air pressure, via a series of caissons built into the walls of the pool. These watertight chambers fire in sequence to create waves – the size and shape of which can be customized via a digital control. Since the pneumatic system has no moving parts in the water, this allowed AWM to make pools that were more mechanically reliable than older machines. PerfectSwell systems can generate about ten large waves per minute (a wave every six seconds).

Wavegarden Cove

The Cove is the second iteration of Wavegarden’s wave pool technology, with the Lagoon being the first. Where the Lagoon used a large hydrofoil, cove pools use a series of interchangeable modules with smaller mechanized paddles that activate in sequence to push water into the correct shape. The number of modules affects how large and how long the wave can get. Smaller facilities can make 15-second waves, while facilities with more modules can exceed 30 seconds. Wavegarden Cove systems also have a high level of customization, from sloping, beginner waves to dedicated air sections.

Barr + Wray SurfKing

These pools use hydraulic systems to create waves. It’s a strategy that has been used since the beginning: Large tanks are pumped full of water, which is then released into the main pool by opening a series of valves in sequence.

While they certainly have enough juice to create sizable swell, they aren’t as precise as newer technologies. Parks using water tanks typically don’t feature the type of sophisticated fine-tuning required for barrel or air sections. On the other hand, while many Barr + Wray pools are starting to get a little long in the tooth, they’ve also proven their longevity. Some of their creations have been in operation for over 30 years.

Murphys Waves

Like Barr + Wray, Murphys waves use the older hydraulic method to create waves. In fact, Douglas Murphy, the founder of Murphys waves, was an engineer for Barr + Wray before striking out on his own.

Other/Proprietary

Of course, these are far from the only brands making wave pools today. There are a number of other companies looking to make an entry into the world of man-made waves. Most of them use variations on the same technologies seen above. On the other hand, there’s more unique creations, like Kelly Slater’s famous train-powered monstrosity.

Standing Waves

There are a plethora of standing-wave features in rivers across North America. Often called “whitewater parks,” these features basically come in two varieties: in-river features where the river bottom has been manipulated to create a wave, and controllable features that can adjust panels to match water levels and form a wave. Companies like McLaughlin Whitewater Design have created features all over the country. City Wave is another brand focused on standing wave technology and has built waves around the world including Lake Chelan, Washington and on Oahu’s West Side. For this particular feature, though, we’re focusing on wave pools that create standard waves that the surfer has to paddle into position, and pop up.

Wave Pools We Didn’t Include

This list only includes facilities that are currently operating and open to the public. There are a handful of pools that have been completed and are in fact operational (you may have even seen clips of pros riding them), but if you can’t make a public reservation, it won’t go on this list. We also haven’t included pools that will in fact never be open to the public, such as the private facilities that are attached to luxury residential developments.

We’ve also only included pools that produce waves similar to those seen in the ocean. Again, there are many open and operational facilities that create “standing waves” by propelling water across a ramp. However, the experience of surfing these is more similar to a river wave than to the ocean, and thus the pools were omitted.

Operational, But Not Open to Public

Boa Vista Village (Sao Paulo, Brazil), Praia Da Grama (Sao Paulo, Brazil), Surf Abu Dhabi (Abu Dhabi, UAE), URBNSURF Sydney (Sydney, Australia), Surf Lakes Yeppoon (Mulara, Australia)

Open to Public, But Not Operational

Palm Springs Surf Club (Palm Springs, USA)

Standing Waves

The Lineup at Wai Kai (Oahu, USA), Lakeside Surf (Lake Chelan, Washington)

Every Open Wave Pool (By Region)

Americas

Waco Surf
City: Waco, Texas
Technology: PerfectSwell
Cost: $149-$179 for a one-hour session
Website

Formerly known as BSR Surf Resort, Waco surf is an American Wave Machines-designed wave pool that can cater to a variety of abilities. The pneumatic PerfectSwell technology allows the facility to generate a range of wave types, from waist-high peelers to barrels. It also has a dedicated air wave with a section designed for punting.

Skudin Surf American Dream
City: East Rutherford, New Jersey, United States
Technology: PerfectSwell
Price: $99-$250 for a two-hour session
Website

Inside a New Jersey mall is one of the last places you’d think to look for a surfable wave. On the other hand, New Jersey in general isn’t first to mind when it comes to surfing, even though the place is a barrel-riding Mecca in the fall and winter. The wave pool is housed in a labyrinthine complex that also includes not only your typical retail stores, but also an indoor snow park, mini golf, and a full-on rollercoaster. Once there, you can surf a variety of waves, thanks to the facility’s pneumatically powered PerfectSwell wave pool.

Typhoon Lagoon
City: Orlando, Florida
Technology: Barr + Wray SurfKing
Price: $229-$310 for three-hour “open surf” session with other park-goers. $1,200-$1,500 for private “closed surf” session with a group of up to 40.
Website

Though it’s not necessarily a selling point in the bleeding-edge world of wave pools, Typhoon Lagoon has the dubious distinction of being over three decades old. As it’s located in Walt Disney World, the wave pool caters to swimmers and children during regular hours. To actually surf the Lagoon, you’ll have to book a special session before or after regular business hours. Even then, the waves you find will be a tad slower and mushier than what you’d expect at a more modern attraction. On the other hand, you can get a picture with Donald Duck afterwards, so there’s that.

The Surf Ranch
City: Lemoore, California, United States
Technology: Kelly Slater Wave Co.
Price:
Website

This one probably doesn’t even need an introduction. It’s Kelly Slater’s wave pool. The Ranch uses a train to push a large snow plow-like foil through the water and produce its famously perfect wave. It’s the only wave that has been a stop on the Championship Tour, and the fast, tricky advanced wave is worthy of the professionals. Of course, there are also more user-friendly offerings on tap, and the legendary Raimana Van Bastolaerwill be there there to coach even the newest neophyte into their first barrel, in his characteristically hands-on fashion. The only problem is that to book it, you need to buy out the whole thing, which can cost upwards of $70,000.

West Edmonton Mall Surf Club
City: Edmonton, Canada
Technology: Proprietary
Price: $60 for a 1.5-hour session (includes board rental)
Website

If your visit to American Dream ignited in your heart a desire to go on an all-mall surfing tour of the Americas, then World Waterpark in the West Edmonton Mall is a must-visit. As with most waterpark waves, this one is primarily designed for swimmers, with surfing as somewhat of an afterthought. Furthermore, the pool uses a proprietary water drop system from the ’80s, which means that the waves on tap are one to three-foot ripples better suited for the Wavestorm set than anyone looking to practice serious maneuvers. On the other hand, it’s your best and only shot if you’re hell-bent on surfing in Alberta. Maybe ride Lake Louise on your snowboard first, though.

ASIA

Shizunami Surf Stadium
City: Shizouka, Japan
Technology: PerfectSwell
Price: $60-$85 for a one-hour session
Website

Shizunami first opened in 2021, just in time to provide a training venue for the belated 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The facility is admirable in its dedication to surf – there’s no lazy river to be found here. Though it’s a sort of sister-pool to Waco, Shizunami uses a newer version of American Wave Machines’ PerfectSwell system. As a result, Shizunami can produce a wider variety of bigger, and more dynamic, waves.

Kobe-Reyes
City: Kobe, Japan
Technology: Proprietary
Price: $73 for a 1.5-hour session
Website

There’s not a ton of info out there on the Kobe-Reyes facility, other than an enigmatic website and a few clips floating around the internet. Located about 20 minutes from Kobe, the facility was Japan’s only surfing wave pool for a while. However, since then it has been outclassed by more modern offerings like Shizunami. Still, the facility’s proprietary system can produce modest 2-3-foot, beginner-friendly waves, if that’s what you’re into.

WavePark
City: Siheung, Korea
Technology: Wavegarden Cove
Price: $60 for a one-hour session
Website

The Wave Park in Siheung, Korea is Wavegarden’s largest effort to date. Sporting 56 modules (the modular electro-mehcanical systems that produce waves in a Wavegarden pool), the facility can create over 20 different wave profiles, suiting surfers from beginner to advanced level. Wavegarden says this facility has the longest ride times and most “premium” surf experience of their offerings. What’s more, all of it is just an hour outside of Seoul.

Sunway Theme Park
City: (Bandar Sunway, Malaysia)
Technology: Barr + Wray SurfKing
Price:

In the Sam Macintosh edit “Fair Bits,” Taj Burro, Parko and Trent Munro used a jet ski to get enough speed to launch some airs. However, without the aid or a personal watercraft, the experience at Sunway may be a little less spectacular, compared to more recent creations. On the other hand, the proprietors of thee Barr + Wray creation, claim that Sunway can produce eight-foot waves that can be tailored to surfers’ abilities. To ride it, you’ll have to book a special session after normal hours.

EUROPE

Alaïa Bay
City: Sion, Switzerland
Technology: Wavegarden Cove
Price: $121 for a one-hour session
Website

While Switzerland evokes mental images of skiing, chocolate and political neutrality more than it does surf, Alaïa Bay could change that. The facility was the first wave pool in continental Europe, and definitely the only wave you can surf with the Swiss Alps in the background. With the aforementioned ski slopes only 20 minutes away, you could also manage to cram in a surf and snow session in the same day, if you were so inclined.


Siam Park
City: Tenerife, Spain
Technology: Murphy’s Waves
Price: $760 for a one-hour session (For up to ten people)

Lanzarote is known as the surfing hot spot in the Canary Islands, but Tenerife isn’t far behind it. If you grow tired of one of the islands many saltwater breaks, Siam Park is your best bet. The wave pool is located in a full-fledged water park. The Thailand-themed attraction also has your water park staples – water slides, lazy rivers and the like. However, among them is the Wave Palace, a Murphy’s Waves-powered machine that can produce waves up to 12 feet tall, according to park officials. However, the pool is primarily designed for bathers, so surfers will have to book a special after-hours session to unlock its full potential.

The Wave
City: Bristol, England
Technology: Wavegarden Cove
Price: $50-$75 for a one-hour session
Website

The Wave was Europe’s first full-size surf wave pool, and remains Wavegarden’s flagship location. Though Cornwall is the surfing hot-spot in the UK, you’ll have to make a two-hour drive north to test out the country’s freshwater barrels. Like most pools, the facility offers a variety of wave-shapes, from beginner slopes to advanced barrels, as well as lessons.

AFRICA

Valley of the Waves
City: Sun City, South Africa
Technology: Barr + Wray

Sun City is an expansive resort located in the northwest province of South Africa. Inside that resort is the Valley of the Waves, a water park with your typical family fare – slides and the like. Inside that is the Roaring Lagoon, a wave pool primarily designed for swimmers, with surfing as a side-attraction. The facility was built in the ‘90s, using an older technology from Barr + Wray, so don’t expect any fireworks. However, if you book a special session, you can surf some fairly rippable two to four-foot faces.

AUSTRALIA

Urbnsurf
City: Melbourne, Australia
Technology: Wavegarden Cove
Price:

True to its name, Australia’s first surf wave pool really is right in the thick of the city, located just three miles outside of the Melbourne airport and 15 minutes away from the city center. The pool has the requisite range of wave settings, including a top-end wave with enough oomph for competitive surfing. As such, Urbnsurf has become a regular host for WSL events. Though the CT has yet to stop there, it has hosted the BYD Pro QS 3,000 event and the Rip Curl Pro UBNSURF QS 1,000 competitions.

MIDDLE EAST

Al Ain Adventure
Technology: Barr + Wray
Price: $18 park entry, plus $48 for a one-hour session.
Website

Al Ain Adventure is best known as the place where Dion Agius tore it up in Electric Blue Heaven, back when it was still called Wadi Adventure. Since then, the facility has rebranded, but the Barr + Wray wave machine remains. It’s over a decade old at this point, which in the world of wave pools is ancient, so there are shoulder-high waves and a few ramps on tap, but don’t expect any barrels. For that matter, don’t expect any Lamborghinis or models jogging around in slow-motion when you visit, either. Those are reserved for Dion.

The post The Definitive List of (Operational) Surfing Wave Pools first appeared on The Inertia.