When you think of wave pools and the places that “need” them, you don’t often think of Hawaii. After all, we have one of the best swell windows on the planet, and enjoy consistent, large swells from the north all winter and waves ranging from surfable to epic from the south all summer. Considering how much surf we get naturally, it wouldn’t make any sense to build wave pools here, right?
Not so fast.
As it turns out, there are four (yes, four!) potential wave pool projects currently in development for Oahu. Some of these have been in the works for years, while others are relatively recent developments. The longest-running project started around 2014, when investors started the ball rolling to get permits and land on which to build The Endless Summer Resort. This resort would be built around a circular wave pool that was originally intended to have a Greg Webber-inspired wave that did laps around the island in the middle of the pool. The design was then changed to use a different type of wave pool technology called PerfectSwell, which is the concept that is currently used at the pools in Waco and Japan. We haven’t heard a lot about The Endless Summer Resort in the past few years, but that doesn’t mean it’s been completely written off.
Photo Credit to: Surf City Hui
In the meantime, the same guy who was originally behind The Endless Summer Resort has acquired permits and licenses to run a Surf Lakes wave pool, which uses the plunger technology that creates concentric waves moving out in all directions and impacting a number of different lineups/setups. The first Surf Lakes pool was built in Yeppoon, Australia, but the concept has now been licensed in numerous locations around the world, including Oahu. A company called Hawaii Surf Lakes, LLC, owns the license and intends to build a pool in Ewa Beach, a short distance from the other planned surf resort.
As if two wave pools weren’t enough, there’s also a project in motion to build a pool that uses the Wavegarden Cove technology. Honokea, the company behind this project, has been laying the foundation for Cove wave pools in the US since 2016. It has been looking at sites in Coachella Valley, California, but also plans to build a pool on Oahu, and has acquired a lease for a tract of land near Barbers Point.
Finally, WaiKai is the only company that has already broken ground on a wave pool facility on Oahu, although technically this facility will be a standing wave (similar to Waimea River) instead of wave pools such as the Surf Ranch and Waco. This surf park is on track to open in 2022, and will feature the world’s largest deep-water, citywave rapid wave pool.
So what does all of this mean for Hawaii? While it could still be a few years before we see any of these pools in operation, by the time the next generation of surfers is in the water, there should be multiple options for flat-day surf sessions, which is pretty convenient, especially when the forecast looks as small as it does for Oahu right now. More importantly, these pools will likely serve as the training ground for Hawaii’s best competitive surfers, who will be able to hone their skills in a controlled environment where they can practice specific tricks over and over.
Of course, there’s no substitute for real waves in a real ocean, and once the north swells start pouring in, it will quickly become clear who has been putting in their time in the saltwater and who has only been surfing in the pool. You definitely don’t want to be like Rick Kane in North Shore, who was the best surfer in his Arizona wave pool but got his butt handed to him when he came to Hawaii! But that being said, there are definitely some exciting prospects for wave pools in the near future. It will be interesting to see what happens!