Making Sense of a Wave Pool in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Making Sense of a Wave Pool in Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Source> Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The main attraction of the upcoming $10 Million Water Kingdom Aquatic Park in Guanacaste, Costa Rica is named after a legendary surfing spot in the island of Oahu in Hawaii. The Waikiki artificial wave pool is bound to attract many visitors, both foreign and domestic, and thus it is ready to accommodate up to 1,000 swimmers and inland surfers. The pool’s mechanism will displace enough water to produce 1.2 meter waves, and all this will take place about 30 minutes away from some of the world’s finest breaks.

Surfers and beach lovers around the world know that Guanacaste is one of Costa Rica’s best regions in terms of swells. As previously reported by the Costa Rica Star:

Costa Rica’s waves vary but the region is best known for [her] abundant beach breaks, rivermouths and sandy or cobblestone pointbreaks. Standout spots in the north Guanacaste region include Witches Rock, Ollie’s Point, Playa Grande, Playa Negra, Mal Pais/ Santa Teresa and a slew of others [Playas del Coco comes to mind with a mellower break.]

Further south in the province of Puntarenas we know about Pavones and even Jaco, which for all its commercialization and seediness still delivers exhilarating and challenging sessions that will leave even seasoned surfers with wobbly legs and arms feeling like spaghetti. Let’s not forget about Salsa Brava in the Caribbean. With all these prime surfing spots in Costa Rica, what is a wave pool doing in Guanacaste, a region known for potable water shortages?

It turns out that the billion-dollar surfing industry is actually ready to embrace artificial wave pools everywhere. Here’s an excerpt from a recent article on USA Today:

This month, dozens of industry leaders, surfers and investors met in Laguna Beach in Southern California for the first annual Surf Park Summit to spark interest in a business proposition that could breathe life into a sport that struggled during the recession.

Enter the dream surf park, a 2-acre wave pool capable of generating anything from tiny beginner ripples to 10-foot barrels every minute, with every wave the same. Customers would pay by the number of waves to learn the sport or refine their technique and learn new tricks.

The above is but one example; this recent editorial opinion from Surfer magazine (!) expands on the matter:

Is a person riding a manmade wave still considered a surfer? Well, are people skiing manmade snow still considered skiers? By the technical definition, riding a wave is surfing no matter where the wave comes from. Yet there are those that believe wavepools will eliminate the very essence of surfing by taking randomness out of the equation and making waves uniform. They presume that riding the same perfect, clean, barreling wave over and over would make surfing feeling stale. Really?

Even if it’s manmade, it’s still a wave, it’s still addicting, and it’s still more fun than our day jobs. It’s still surfing.

Bringing even more legitimacy to the burgeoning wave pool industry is surfing legend Kelly Slater, whose support for Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been previously reported by the Costa Rica Star. Mr. Slater’s involvement in the wave pool industry was recently profiled by online media site Examiner; his Kelly Slater Wave Company is working on a prototype competition wave pool he hopes to test in Los Angeles in the near future.

So now that we have established that wave pools have the support of the surfing industry, what are we to make of developing this aquatic concoctions in surfing towns where potable water is often scarce? It turns out that Costa Rica and Guanacaste are not alone in this regard. Enter San Clemente in Southern California, a community that enjoys a strong surfing legacy and that has also had water conservation issues dating back to 1989. As recently reported in the Orange County Register:

One-of-a-kind wave pool planned for San Clemente

First surfing version of a skateboard half-pipe is part of Surf N Turf, a miniature golf course, restaurant and 75,000-gallon wave pool that will be built at the upcoming Vista Hermosa Sports Park.

“It’ll be the first real water half-pipe,” said Aaron McIntosh, a partner in the $2 million-plus project.

“It’s the only one in the world,” said Jourdan Groves, vice president of The Financial Corp., backer of the project. “We want to showcase it here in San Clemente.

We have to understand that San Clemente is also home to a number of media companies that can be credited for the worldwide appeal of surfing and the influx of wave seekers to Costa Rica. Still, a 75,000 gallon wave pool in a town that has considered water rationing as part of a nature conservation strategy is paradoxical to say the least.

In the end, however, it can be assumed that if a wave pool in San Clemente becomes a hit, the Water Kingdom Aquatic Park in Guanacaste certainly will, and water management officials in Costa Rica are going to be very busy in this regard.



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