Wave pool: What’s the deal?

When I was a kid I swam in a wave pool in Maryland. It was in a water park around one hundred miles from the ocean, so it made sense. The waves were small and no one was trying to surf them, but it was fun to jump around and do a little body surfing amongst the crowds.

Although the first ever wave pool was built in 1927 in a hotel in Budapest, Hungary, the first modern wave pool (at least in the US) was either in Tempe, Arizona or Decatur, Alabama – both locations nowhere near any real waves. I mean, why would anyone build a wave pool when a beach with real waves is just a hop, skip and a jump away? One can only assume the entire idea was to let wave-deprived; land-locked kids pretend they were having fun in the California sun.

Since then wave pools have progressed and the entire idea of the wave pool has changed, or at least expanded. The world’s largest wave pool, located at Sunway Lagoon in Malaysia, is only around 20km from the nearest beach, but it’s in the bustling megalopolis of greater Kuala Lumpur and therefore part of an urban oasis. I get that.

But why do places with real surf build wave pools? The most famous surfing pool is probably the one at Wild Wadi Water Park in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It even made CNN’s list for the World’s 50 Best Surf Spots. OK, a great surfing wave pool sounds par for the course in Dubai. It’s a desert right? Yes, but it also has a beach with real surfing. See for yourself.

But does Peniche, Portugal need a wave pool? I mean it’s the home of supertubos (supertubes) for God’s sake.

From Surfer Today:

The artificial wave project set for Peniche wants to reduce the impact of seasonality in local tourism and to further increase the revenues per visitor, in the European capital of surfing. The theme park will feature artificial surfing waves, all year round, as well as many outdoor sporting activities and eco-tourism offers. The Wavegarden surf pool concept is a strong possibility for this spot.

Ah, so it’s about money. They want people to surf there in the winter. However, last time I checked, winter in Portugal is pretty good for surfing. All I can say is good luck then.

wave pool

A wave pool at Laguna Beach. Pic: Tim Whelan (Flickr CC)

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