Wave pools are all the rage these days: from the Olympic possibilities for countries without coastlines, to surf parks in midland malls; Kelly Slater’s Wave Co. to Occy’s Surf Lakes; the world is waking up to wave riding and all the fun to be had even when an ocean is nowhere in sight. Yet, it must feel different to surf a wave pool, right? Freesurfing versus scheduled and prepaid “wave time;” reef or sand ocean bottom versus man-made concrete floors; saltwater or chlorinated pool water… But hey! Who are we to damper the fun of someone in the heart of America, surfing smack-dab in the Wild West of Texas? Party on, partner.
“I love that place because you get to learn how to do whatever kind of surfing you want, really quickly. It’s also fun that you can surf until you can’t move your body anymore… I love those days.” – Mason Ho
The progress of aerial surfing when given a ramp of consistent size and shape is bound to push the sport to new heights. Most importantly, it sounds like most of the lucky surfers to visit wave pools often have raving reviews. So, we reached out to some of the top Hawai‘i surfers upon their return from Waco’s BSR Surf Resort to hear their professional opinions. Here’s what they had to say:
Waco wave pool first-timer, Kaiser Auberlen (14) gives a detailed description of his time surfing in Texas:
“It was my first time [surfing a wave pool]… Overall, I would consider myself a freesurfer who would rather travel in search of perfect waves than compete in contests. So, when I got the call up from the crew at Vans to see if I wanted to go to Texas, I knew exactly where we were going and I was super psyched. It would be my first time going to a wave pool!
“The wave pool in Waco is insane. It feels so similar to the ocean and really helps your surfing. Being able to surf the same wave over and over really allows you to work on your timing and creativity. It’s probably one of my favorite waves to surf.” – Eli Hanneman
We arrived at the Dallas Airport and you could tell by the people’s faces that they were surprised to see surfers in Texas. After a two-hour drive to Waco, we arrived at BSR Surf Resort. We ran out to check the waves and saw the last 3ft peeling left-hander of the day: it was perfect, light offshore, green and grinding all the way down the line. It was amazing to see perfect waves in the middle of nowhere… in a pool no less.
I was frothing to surf the next day. I woke up the next morning bright and early, ready to be the first one out at 7 am. The pool itself is not very big, maybe ¾ the size of a football field with a wall on one side and a man-made beach on the other. It’s pretty amazing how you can surf a right and then just go to the other end of the wall and surf a left. This can happen within a matter of minutes.
There are about ten different combinations of waves you can create at BSR. The four main waves are: Lowers, The Wedge, Double Barrel, and The Air Wave. “Lowers” is the main wave most people surf. It comes in sets of three and offers rippable sections for nice turns and some little barrels. “The Wedge” is a single wave set were you take off behind the peak and backdoor a sick wedging barrel. “Double Barrel”—also known as “The Indo Wave”—has a fast barrel on takeoff and then a deeper barrel in the second section. If you go for the barrel on the first section, it’s hard to make the second barrel. “The Air Wave” comes in two-wave sets. It has an easy approach into a hefty oncoming section which pops up really fast and takes a bit to get used to, as it’s very different than the ocean.
The park also has what they say is “the world’s longest lazy river”, an hour long! It has some crazy, gnarly slides that look like Olympic ski jumping ramps and send you sky-high. The lazy river seems to attract a lot of large people that drink a lot of alcohol.
The first day at BSR was awesome! I surfed for countless hours and caught too many waves to count. I surfed all the different types of waves, but my favorites were the Wedge left and the Air Wave left. Remember to take off close to the wall and use the numbers as a reference. Don’t worry about missing waves, as you will get plenty. That’s the beauty of the wave pool: you can catch so many different types of waves in a single session! They can change the wave type during your session in a matter of seconds.
The second day was meant to be a down day, so I was given three options: check in every hour to try and get in on a public session; ride in the lazy river with all the big, drunk Texans; or launch off the slides like a human cannonball. I couldn’t believe it, but after checking in for five hours and not getting a session, I was fortunate to get a call from Eli Hanneman just as we were leaving. He had tweaked his knee and gave me his spot in the public session he had reserved. I was so stoked (thanks Eli, you are a legend)! After surfing, we topped off our day with some classic Texas barbecue at Rudy’s. The grindz were all so good but my favorite had to be the smoked turkey.
“It’s the dream beach day, like a skatepark on water.” – Balaram Stack
It was great to be there in Waco surfing with the Vans team, including: Joel and Tosh Tudor, Alex Knost, Harry Bryant, Tanner Gudauskas, Jett Schilling, Nathan Florence, and Nathan Fletcher. I got some good tips from Harry Bryant and Nathan Fletcher on how to approach The Air Wave: wait until you see the splash on the wall, draw out to the bottom, and send it towards the beach. We also got to surf a night session. I’ve never surfed at night before. It was so sick!
I was also lucky enough to be there for the Stab High event. It was by far the best contest I have ever seen. Watching everyone push the limits of aerial surfing was crazy! All the surfers were incredible, but the judo straight airs from Eithan Osborne, the corrupt flips from Kevin Schulz, and the board control of Chippa Wilson stood out above all. The guys were all really supportive of each other when they rode out of an air. It felt like there was no pressure and everyone was just having fun, as it should be.
“For the first time in surfing history, we can get the same exact wave over and over again, and try new tricks until we have them on lock. The place is insane, and I love the pool and the vibe! I really hope they make more like it [and] hopefully a bit bigger!” – Matt Meola
When the event was over, a massive Texas storm rolled in on Waco. Tents went flying into the pool and people were bailing out of the resort really quick! We decided to chill for a bit before adventuring out into the lightning and thunder of Texas. We drove through the rough rain storms and finally made it to our hotel. It was one of the most amazing—yet frightening—things I’ve ever seen.
I’m super thankful to Vans for the invitation. It was one of the most fun surf trips I’ve ever had, and I was certainly surfed out afterwards! It’s amazing to be able to travel around the world for surfing and have the most surreal experiences, even in the middle of America!” – Kaiser Auberlen (14)