When the world emerges from this virus threat, will we still be talking about the ‘experience economy’ or will consumers be cautious of travel and frugal with their money?
Either way, we see nothing stopping the surf park development train.
If people staycation more in the years ahead, having a surf club to feel at home in will be a new must have membership—and when we say ‘surf club’ we aren’t thinking preppy golf clubs but places where likeminded wave addicts can indulge together. If people do travel, we can see a future where these venues each have their own identity and people talk about having surfed them like they collect famous ocean breaks now—with the one difference being you can be guaranteed the weather gods can’t disrupt your plans.
See this great looking bar below that Marsh travelled thousands of miles to to lean against, waiting for the waves to show for a week, sure, it doesn’t look uncomfortable, but that’s still an expensive bar bill with travel all in.
What will make a surf park worth traveling for?
For venues to have that kind of pull they will need more than slick marketing, they’ll need to feel authentic. We think the surf parks people will travel for will have the following features:
- Amazing Endless Surf waves – come on, we want the world to love our waves like we do! But seriously not all man-made waves are equal, and the technology advances all the time so watch this space closely. Waves will become more precise, more customized, and more responsive to who is in the pool, which leads me to point 2.
- Seamless operations – running a venue is like keeping one hundred plates simultaneously spinning and smiling while you do! Even the best waves badly run will not create the guest experience that generates that magic word of mouth needed to create a world class surf park. Most importantly, waves need to be safe, entertaining people in water needs careful monitoring of the pool and its water quality.
- A vibe which doesn’t feel fake or manufactured. We are not talking about theming here, but it would be naive not to think that experience designers aren’t going to be involved creating more of a wholistic look and feel for future venues. An urban surf park is going to feel odd with a tropical air and the world already has enough stereotypical VW bus and tie-dye surf shacks IMHO. Authenticity is about people, and that is about creating a mix of locals and guests who identify with the culture you create in all sorts of little ways, from no plastic to the play list.
- Frictionless guest experiences – how easy was the whole journey from booking to catching the wave? Imagine if your wave operator could tell who was in the pool (surfing abilities) from their RFID wrist bands and could change the wave in real-time to make it just the right challenge level. Yes, we can do this. That is what a personalized experience means now, not that you got to choose your wrist band colour.
- It isn’t only about out the wave – surfers will come with non-surfing partners, parents, and friends and if they are bored you can bet that whole group leaves soon after the session. Experiences worth posting are about people finding their space to play, relax, and indulge, with a little encouragement to stay. The beach and boardwalk are as big a deal for revenue and reviews as the break.
What is clear from all the conversations we are having with serious developers is that the next generation of surf pools will be much more than pools—which is why we tend to call them surf parks. Future surf venues will think bigger and be even better than those which put surf pools on the map as an attractive investment opportunity. Better still, they will make surfing a reality, not an aspiration for millions.