It’s a problem affecting countless Americans every year: you’re jonesing for some wake surfing, but your speedboat is dry-docked and the weather won’t cooperate.
As it turns out, surf’s up in New Hampshire.
On Saturday, Surf’s Up New Hampshire in Nashua hosted its first-ever indoor wake surfing competition, and they fired up their one-of-a-kind indoor wave machine to do it.
“It’s kind of like a water treadmill,” said Laurie Greer, co-owner of SkyVenture New Hampshire, where the surf pool is located. Where conventional wake surfing involves a brave soul following a boat to do aerial tricks off the waves it makes, Surf’s Up packs the whole affair into a 32-foot-wide pool that generates the waves, boat-free.
In that way, the 2016 Surf’s Up Tropical Wave Shred Competition, as the spectacle was dubbed, makes for a more intimate affair, with judges and spectators no longer confined to the boat or the beach. It’s more controlled, too, leaving competitors only at the mercy of their own abilities.
“It totally comes down to the skill set of the rider,” Greer said. “When they’re out on the lake, they can have winds that’ll affect their run, they’ll have the boat that’ll affect their run. Inside, there’s nothing like that, it’s just the skills of the rider.”
The competition even had the blessing of the sport’s governing body, the Competitive Wake Surfing Association. Competing in the top-level Pro class (as opposed to Amateur and the intermediate Outlaw classes) Texas pro Parker Payne won the first prize of $3,000.
The accessibility of the facility, which opened the pool in 2013, doesn’t just help pros out. The pool, developed by California-based company American Wave Machines, is said to be the largest of its kind in the world. True, for business owners, that’s a multimillion dollar investment, but for up-and-comers with dreams of wake surfing glory, the cost of a ticket — $45 for a 15-minute group surf — definitely beats the cost of a boat, and you can’t put a price on making aquatic dreams come true.
“You get families that can’t afford a $150,000 wake surfing boat, but they can ride on the machine and gain the skill set they need to compete in the wake-surfing world,” Greer said. “A teenager could ride here and actually do fairly well in a wake surfing competition using a boat.”
Not that they’d really need a boat. Venues like Surf’s Up are popping up around the country. One in Orlando is planning a record-breaking 40-foot-wide pool. As such indoor wave pools proliferate, competitions like Tropical Wave Shred will only boost attention for wake surfing, turning the tide on a pretty swell sport.Joe Incollingo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jk_inco.