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Culture, Experience Design

Surfing: The Next Big Thing in the Middle East Leisure Industry

Why Surf works as an Anchor Attraction

24 million people identify themselves as surfers. That number is set to grow when surfing makes its debut as an official Olympic sport at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021 and millions more people will appreciate the spectacle of man vs. wave. While it is already a mainstream consumer aspiration, and a multibillion-dollar industry, few have regular access to ocean waves. Enter inland surfing, which frees surfers from the whims of Mother Nature and proximity to the coast by providing man-made surf. However, as the demand to surf continues to surge, consistently reliable inland surf remains in short supply which is driving a development boom, with over 75 Surf Parks in planning globally.  Why are so many investors and developers looking at this newest from of aquatic entertainment venue and how long until surf becomes a staple attraction to lifestyle and leisure within the Middle East and beyond?

Part of the appeal to developers is that a surf pool offers great flexibility as an anchor attraction across many different development types.  From urban revitalization to becoming a luxury centerpiece, Endless Surf is being used differently in projects with a variety of developmental goals. More on that here.

The benefits of a surf park

All of our current projects are using Endless Surf differently, proving how flexible and valuable a surf experience can be as the ‘special sauce’ which elevates a number of other elements, a hotel stay, community lifestyle, family time, other activities, to offer a comprehensive leisure experience.

These developers appreciate that the addition of an authentic surf experience provides a desirable lifestyle vibe which differentiates their venue. The influence of surfing is undeniable, you see associations with the surf culture in movies, music and fashion. The sport itself is seen as exciting, thrilling and challenging, with a huge element of fun for all the family.

Aside from the pure entertainment value, adding a surf park to a community development or Leisure amenity offers many benefits. Surf parks tend to create a hub around which food and beverage outlets can be situated, increasing opportunity for secondary revenue. Dwell time is likely to be increased when families and groups have an activity on which they can spend a considerable amount of time, with repeatability a natural side effect as participants stay longer. All these benefits lead to increased revenue, attract residents as an anchor amenity and appeal to surfers of all levels.

Recreating the surf experience

Reliable man-made waves will revolutionize surfing, bringing it to all corners of the world. While early examples consumed too much energy or produced too few waves per hour to be economically sustainable, advances in technology and design now make the surf pool an attractive business option.

WhiteWater launched Endless Surf in June 2020 and its rapid adoption demonstrates a confidence in the new technology and the company’s reputation. Featuring powerful, efficient, and customizable waves, this inland surf pool technology is backed by WhiteWater’s four decades of expertise in aquatic engineering and experience design. Best known as the world’s largest designer and manufacturer of water parks, WhiteWater has made more waves than anyone else in the world. Consequently, the pneumatic technology upon which Endless Surf has developed is ultra-reliable and proven to last.

Our reliable pneumatic technology creates endless rolling sets, designed for operational success; being flexible, high capacity, and above all else, safe,” says Paul Chutter, Chief Business Development Officer of Whitewater. “Endless Surf is a surfer’s dream of on-demand waves. Patent protected proprietary programming, accessed through its Wave Doctor interface, gives the operator the control to change the wave pattern in real-time based on the session requirements and guests in the pool.”

WhiteWater’s experience building water parks for some of the world’s best brands, including Atlantis the Palm, Yas WaterWorld and Wild Wadi all within the UAE has taught us to focus on creating the best guest experience which has to provide a safe and trouble-free attraction for operators. With the most flexible wave programming on the market Endless Surf can run multiple wave types at one time so that beginners, intermediates, and experts can surf alongside each other, providing huge operational flexibility – because WhiteWater knows this will drive higher capacity for owners, a key metric in their venue’s success.

Surfing in the Middle East region

Evidence suggests many surf enthusiasts live and work in the Middle East; beachside communities boast many surf cafes and surf clubs. The demographic in the region is young, with active lifestyles the norm and an insatiable demand for high-octane, exciting sports and activities.

Despite beautiful weather much of the year, though, beaches in the region are not necessarily known for their surfing potential and waves rarely reach surfable heights. Enter the surf park, offering the ideal surf environment without the need to travel; with demand for surfing and the surf culture at an all-time high, now might well be the ideal time to consider a surf park…

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