The Housing Scene by Lew Sichelman

Inland Surfing: The Latest Amenity

First came Crystal Lagoons -- human-created bodies of water that can transform landlocked real estate into waterfront housing developments. Now comes Wavegarden: a water park that turns inland properties into surfing destinations. No sharks or other dangerous denizens of the deep; just hang 10.

Using artificial wave technology, the giant surfing pools are said to be world-class and commercially viable. Waves of practically any size can be created to accommodate anyone from beginning surfers to seasoned veterans. The noise-free machinery can generate from 300 to 1,000 waves per hour, and can run nonstop or produce sets of waves in almost any desired quantity.

To keep the water clear and hygienic, Wavegarden’s state-of-the-art system uses a series of sustainable treatments, including fine filtration, ozone and UV disinfection and low-chemical chlorination.

Based in northern Spain, the company opened its first commercial water park in Wales in 2015, and another in Austin, Texas, in 2016. Then in 2019, the first Wavegarden Cove -- featuring the company’s latest technology and a smaller footprint -- opened in Bristol, England. The second quickly followed in Melbourne, Australia.

Now, with projects in development on five continents, Wavegarden has signed on to build a surfing facility at Willow Lakes, a new 200-acre community of 800 homes, plus retail and office space, in Fort Pierce, Florida.

As part of the project’s initial phase, Surfworks Resorts will be large enough to hold about 100 surfers at a time. Although the property is several miles from the Atlantic, it is being designed as a “whole new coastal community,” land planner Geoff Fitzgerald told the local Treasure Coast News. “It’s planned around a Wavegarden.”

Another wave pool is planned as part of a surf resort in Palm Desert, California -- far inland from the Pacific. At DSRT SURF, oceanlike waves of clean, crystal-clear water will produce consistent rights and lefts, barrels, walls and turn sections for experienced surfers. Gentler inside sections will be suitable for cruising or for learning.

Besides the 5.5-acre pool, the project will feature an upscale hotel, 62 villas for sale and a broad offering of resort amenities.

Meanwhile, after inking deals with several housing developers throughout the country, Crystal Lagoons has gone public -- but it isn’t selling stock. Rather, the Miami-based outfit has turned its attention to building its new Public Access Lagoons wherever there is vacant land -- including public parks, shopping malls, golf courses, racetracks and just about anywhere else.

These PALs can be built to almost any size -- up to 14 acres, so far -- and transform any location into an entertainment hub that generates revenue from entrance and membership fees, water sports, cabana rentals, restaurants, special events and even naming rights.

To date, Crystal Lagoons have been the province of housing developers. The company’s 7.5-acre pool at the Epperson community in Wesley Chapel, Florida, was its first to open in the United States. The lagoons were initially intended as a private amenity, but demand has been so great that the outfit is converting to the PAL business model.

Now the company has signed its first PAL deal to develop an 11-acre pool, up to 10 feet deep, on government land in Glendale, Arizona. Branded as Crystal Lagoons Island Resort, the pool will be part of the Westgate Sports and Entertainment District and will include retail spaces, theaters, restaurants, amusement rides, office space and a 600-room hotel.

At 12 acres, its largest lagoon to date is at Lago Mar in Texas City, Texas, and is part of a 2,000-acre, 4,400-home property. The pool opened last summer during the pandemic. Tickets usually sell out a week in advance, even though occupancy is limited to 1,500 people -- just 30% of capacity.

Epperson and Lago Mar each generate tens of thousands of dollars in revenue from ticket sales, sponsorships, food and beverage sales and boat and equipment rentals, according to a company spokesman.

Crystal Lagoons is under contract or in negotiations to build pools in Texas, Florida, Arizona, Alabama, California, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. In Texas, 70 projects are either signed or in negotiation; in Florida, the number jumps to 100.