Meet URBNSURF, the legends trying to bring a surf park to Perth's metro area
And they need your help to do so.
As I enter the pre-mid life crisis phase of my life where I try to recapture my youth, I've lately found myself trying to go bodyboarding more regularly. And while it generally just results in heaps of pain, catching no waves, and gasping for air with my cigarette-addled lungs, splashing around in salt water for roughly an hour (that's about all I can manage at this point) semi-regularly has been good for the soul. It's also reminded me that a lot of people in Perth surf, even when the waves are shit, which they normally are. And all of this makes the idea of a surf park with consistent, good, fun waves all day and night sound really damn appealing.
Enter URBNSURF, a crew based in WA with the ambitious idea of launching a surf park right here in Perth, along with centres in central Melbourne and Sydney. They're very much in the development phase at the moment, and being such a large scale operation means there's a lot of red tape that needs to be crossed to make it happen. It also needs the support of the general public, and so I hit up the team at URBNSURF to find out more about it, and also how you and I can help a metropolitan surf park go from dream to reality:
First up, can you give us a little history about URBNSURF – how, when and why it formed?
URBNSURF was born after our Founder and Executive Chairman Andrew Ross visited Wavegarden’s R&D facility near San Sebastian, Spain a few years back. He was blown away by the perfect, consistent waves being produced among the mountains, miles from the coast. After surfing the lagoon with professional surfers (who were equally frothing), Andrew acquired the Australian rights to the technology in 2012 and has been working towards building Australia’s first urban surf parks (hence the name) ever since.
You’re planning on creating surf parks in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth – how did you decide on those cities and how is the planning going?
URBNSURF Melbourne is our first project, which is located at Melbourne Airport, adjacent to the Essendon Football Club. URBNSURF Sydney will come next, located at Sydney Olympic Park, and we hope our third will be URBNSURF Perth at Tompkins Park – right on the Swan River in Alfred Cove. Each of our sites was chosen after careful consideration and plenty of research, but they all share similar characteristics. They’re all high-exposure and located within 20km of the CBD, present no significant on or off site impacts, have access to power and water, are consistent with State Government Planning Objectives, and will feature Wavegarden’s next-generation ‘Cove’ technology.
We’ve got our eyes on other sites around the country too, so stay tuned for more announcements soon!
Wave pools aren’t necessarily a new concept, but this is the first time we’ll (hopefully) see them in Australia – what are some of the difficulties in getting something like this built in a metropolitan area?
Each of our sites has presented different challenges – so we’re fortunate to have an amazing, dynamic team who continue to work tirelessly to make our dream a reality. For URBNSURF Melbourne, we have a signed lease in place, the schematic design is completed, we’ve received planning consent for the development, and we’re in the final stages of closing out the capital raising for the project. The development application for the URBNSURF Sydney project is about to be submitted with the government for consideration also.
We know people of any experience can get in there, but our audience also consists of a lot of bodyboarders – will they be allowed?
Absolutely! Wavegarden’s latest wave generating technology, the ‘Cove’, creates high quality waves of between 0.75m and 2.0m at a frequency of up to every 4 seconds. Whether you ride a bodyboard, shortboard, mal, or a SUP, there’ll be plenty of waves for everyone to ride at URBNSURF. We had the chance to surf the new, full-scale ‘Cove’ in Spain late last year, and scored 65 waves in an hour with just a few other guys out. The right-hander we surfed started as a steep, elevator-drop barrel, followed by a clean face for a few turns. It was an awesome experience, and we can’t wait to bring it to Australia.
Artist's impression of the Tompkins Park URBNSURF Park.
How does the park work in terms of crowds? Perth’s already crowded when the waves are cack, we can’t even imagine what it’ll be like when it’s pumping all day every day.
You’ll be able to book your URBNSURF sessions online in one-hour blocks, and there’s a cap on how many surfers can be in the water at any one time. And with 1,000 surfable waves being pumped out every single hour, we’ll be able to guarantee you a minimum number of waves so you’ll always score.
What kind of environmental impact will such a large scale water park have, and will renewable energies be involved in powering it?
The intention is for URBNSURF to incorporate a combination of LEED engineering, sustainable design, water catchment systems, photovoltaic systems, recycling/re-use of materials and local sourcing to help minimise any environmental impacts. An example is the decision to use recycled, high density polyethylene plastic (HDPE) as the liner for the lagoon rather than a concrete shell. As keen surfers, conservationists and proud Western Australians, our whole team is committed to protecting our environment and natural resources every step of the way.
Mitch Crews at NLAND Surf Park in Austin, Texas.
You guys are based in WA right? We have such a wave-rich coastline, why do we need a surf park in the city?
As a Perth-based company, our proposal for URBNSURF Perth is dear to our heart. While we’re blessed with idyllic beaches and an incredible ocean lifestyle, the surf in Perth is usually small, the banks are always straight, overcrowding’s increasingly an issue, and the threat of shark attacks is ever present. While we’re accustomed to heading over to Rotto or driving three hours down south to chase waves on the weekend, we’re excited to provide a safe, authentic and convenient option for Perth residents, families, kids and visitors to #surfmore easily.
If people want to help you guys and get around URBNSURF, what can they do?
We’d love for everyone to show their support for URBNSURF by liking our Facebook page and following us on Instagram. There are also a couple of grassroots community pages (started by Perth surfers and locals) that’ve gotten behind us – Perth Surf Park Supporters and Perth Surf – so check them out on Facebook and get involved in the conversation! If you have any suggestions or feedback you can DM us anytime.