Surfers Are Trading Natural Waves For Artificial Ones In Waco, Texas


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Texas surfer Jacob Williams catches big air in Waco, Texas, where artificial waves are generated by compressed air and a computer.

Rob Henson/BSR Surf Resort


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Dane Grochowski, 12, came with his family from Pacifica, Calif., to shred the waves in Waco.

Rob Henson/Rob Henson Surf Shots


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NPR’s Jon Hamilton caught a few waves at the BSR Surf Resort this summer, and found they rivaled the ones he surfed in Southern California growing up.

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But Slater’s wave, now controlled by the World Surf League, was never meant for the surfing masses. The machine produces about 15 waves an hour and riding just one costs hundreds of dollars. The Waco machine can make 120 waves an hour and costs surfers about $10 a ride.

That makes the wave pool commercially viable. Sessions in Waco are generally sold out weeks ahead of time. And the success is encouraging other resorts and water parks to add their own state-of-the-art surf pools.

A wave grows in Waco

Like many water parks, the one in Waco was built for a sport other than surfing.

«The dude that put it all together was a barefoot water skier and this whole place started based on barefoot water skiing,» Schwaab says.

It opened as the Barefoot Ski Ranch in 2012. Over time, the facility added a lazy river, an extreme water slide and a wakeboarding course built around an island that is home to a family of lemurs.

The BSR surf pool opened in 2018. Within weeks, a pro named Seth Moniz landed a back flip on the air section and the video went viral.

That attracted a lot of big-name surfers. But it also brought inexperienced surfers who wanted a good place to learn.

«When I started I was a beginner,» says Brian Fillmore, a Texas native who landed a job as the wave pool’s manager. «Now I’m able to get barreled, do airs, [and I’m] working on perfecting my turns just like every other surfer.»

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Ben Elliott gets barreled at the BSR Surf Resort, where artificial waves are attracting world-class talent.

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