WACO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – One of the most talked about surf spots in the world right now isn’t in California or Hawaii. It’s 90 miles down I-35, past some strip malls, a couple goat ranches and down a dirt road — in Waco.
The small, rounded rectangle of a lake doesn’t look like it could produce more than a good day of fishing.
Then a sound like a jet engine spinning comes from behind the lake’s long concrete wall on one side. The level of the green water suddenly drops, then without warning rises up again — this time five to six feet above the surface. A swell forms, then quickly starts to break over itself, peeling lengthwise down the pond until the energy dissipates.
“I’m either one of the smartest or one of the dumbest surfers on the planet,” said Cheyne Magnussen, who left his house five blocks from the beach in California to live next to this one in Texas. “So I’m pretty glad the wave is good.”
Magnussen is managing the development of the wave at the Barefoot Ski Ranch. Since the first video was released May 5, the park has been inundated with calls. Surf media has flown in to see it first-hand.
On Saturday, it will open to the surfing public. All 200 miles from the nearest ocean.
“I just had to stick my neck out there, be the maverick, and get it built,” said park owner Stuart Parsons.
As a former champion barefoot water skier, he started the park with that sport in mind. He added wakeboarding, and found athletes would travel from all over the region. Then came a lazy river and water slides that fire you off a jump at the end.
Surfing was just the answer to the question of “what’s next?”
“The biggest draw is going to be people that just want to go to the beach,” said Parsons. “Get in the water, watch surfers. We’ll have cabanas, swim up bar, same thing you go to a resort, in Mexico.”
Nland Surf Park outside Austin was the first to bring man-made waves to Texas two years ago, using a foil to push water and create waves that last for 30-seconds or more down a long lake.
BSR uses a technology from American Wave Machines. Air chambers suck water in, and push it back out in a sequence to create the wave. An operator in a tower across the lake can create different sequences for different waves from fast tubing sections to easier sloped intermediate waves to wedges and ramps that allow aerial maneuvers.
“I’m an ocean surfer,” said James Bertram, who drove up from south of Houston to try the wave. “This is the hype and this is the one that kind of got me excited about trying to surf a wave pool for the first time.”
Estimates put the number of surfers nationally at just under three million. Of course, you always had to live by the beach.
Magnussen is quick to say he doesn’t see inland waves as ever replacing what nature already offers.
“But this is such a rad platform for professional surfing, and competitions, and offers so much more than just from a realistic standpoint than the ocean can offer on those platforms. So I believe in it,” he said.