Editor’s Note: This feature is part of The Inertia‘s Money Spotlight, an initiative that explores the powerful influence of money on surf and outdoor culture. We’ll be releasing a feature each day this week with money on our minds, so check back daily.
Let me pose this question: When has a week gone by recently when you haven’t heard about a wave park? A new, can’t-miss technology in a random locale? Or a new air section? Social media loves wave parks for the oddity and viral flavor (enter the plunger). The media can’t help but fawn over them, annoyingly so. But in reality, the talk right now is much bigger than the walk. For all the hype, there are only two open to the public in the United States, a third across the pond in the UK and another in the Middle Eastern desert.
Now, with that said, I, like you, would surf one at the drop of a rashie. But they aren’t cheap. In fact, at this point, the technology is still rather expensive. So in the interest of our hard-earned cash, I made some calls, sent some emails and perused the web to find out exactly what you get for your dollar at wave parks around the globe–and compared the prices to other things you could purchase for the same amount. Not saying you should. But you could.
BSR Cable Park, Waco, Texas
Now the only park open to the public in Texas after Nland sold (and really, the only modern park open in the States), BSR has made big strides to fix the bacteria problem it had last year (you may recall) and has also tweaked the wave configuration (which was always solid). But all that tinkering hasn’t brought the price down. According to BSR surf shop workers, things are still pretty slow in this, the early spring, but they’re sure to pick up, and when they do know this: Expert surfers will pay $90 an hour, with nine other people in the pool at a time. BSR spits out three wave sets and 150 waves per 60 minutes. They guarantee you’ll have a chance at 10 waves (intermediates pay $75 with 12 other people in the pool while beginners cop $60 to float with 20 other newbies). Board rentals are not included ($35 bucks an hour if you don’t bring your own).
Similar Comp: A one-way ticket from anywhere in the U.S. to any coastal locale (in the U.S.).
Typhoon Lagoon, Orlando, Florida
This isn’t a lie: every time you get off the phone with someone at Disney World, they bid adieu with, “have a magical day.” I’m not sure if it’s creepy or cute (it’s a fine line) but this much is certain–one of America’s oldest running wave parks is arguably the best value in the artificial surf world. Although the wave doesn’t change much and top-to-bottom surfing isn’t really a thing in Mickey’s world. At $69 bucks for adults, $63 for kids, you get an all-access pass to two waterparks, Blizzard Beach and the like, all damn day. Board rentals aren’t included (if you know what you’re doing, not sure you’d want to rent one anyway) but, and this is a big “but,” if you pay $190 for the Cocoa Beach Surf School’s two and a half hour course you do get access to a foamy, and to every waterslide in the park. All. Damn. Day.
But wait! Apparently our sources at Disney are ill-informed when it comes to surfing (or we didn’t dig deep enough). Thanks to a local reader, we now know the only way to score surf at Typhoon Lagoon (the pool is a madhouse during normal hours) is to rent the entire place for a morning or evening session. That starts at about $1,200 with around 100 waves (25 people allowed per session). So say you rent it with 24 of your closest pals for an evening, that’s $48 each. You could obviously cut the number in the lineup considerably, depending on how much you want to fork over.
Similar Comp: A trip your favorite ding repairman so he can do a nose and tail rebuild, and general fiberglass tune-up to water seal your most trusted stick. Or, for less than half a session at the Magic Kingdom, you could get yourself a new custom ride from your preferred shaper.
Surf Snowdonia, Dolgarrog, Wales
While I’ve yet to try Snowdonia, from the outside, it does appear to be the most buttoned-up of the wave parks. Using Wave Garden tech since its opening in 2015, Snowdonia (and its operators) have stayed the course, keeping the wave pretty much as is while building an adventure park around it that includes mountain biking, ropes courses and other outdoorsy things like hipster-ish living spaces called pods and even van hookups.
Snowdonia is priced a bit like a ski resort, with peak pricing and off-peak pricing (peak being weekends and “bank holidays”). You can see the full rundown, here, but peak pricing is £50.00 (that’s pounds) or about $63 bucks Yankee (£45.00 intermediate). For that you get 60 minutes of surfing, no board rental, use of showers and locker. Snowdonia told me the park kicks out 36 waves an hour, which breaks down to 18 waves for the beginner/intermediate set and 12 waves for the advanced crowd. Also, that won’t give you access to the mountain biking, which is a bit of a bummer as the UK peeps generally know what they’re doing in the world of single track. The park opens again at Easter.
Similar Comp: For the price it takes to get to Wales and pay for 18 waves, you could definitely get to Nicaragua and back.
Wadi Adventure Park, Abu Dhabi, UAE
It could be argued that the Wadi Adventure Park got the whole wave park froth started with its gin-clear water and hot, sunny vid clips kicked out by countless visiting pros. And Wadi certainly is a tribute to humanity’s ability to build almost anything–the park features ropes courses, climbing walls and a whitewater park for rafting and kayaking that looks like a river spilling from the Alps. The wave’s not too bad either and the prices, compared to the other parks, are doable: for one hour, the visiting wave slayer must fork over 200 AED ($54 USD) for 30 minutes of head-high lefts and 30 minutes of rights. A “semi-private” session is 800 AED ($218) with up to six people. A full-on private sess is 1,500 AED ($400) and accommodates up to ten people. You can see the full price breakdown, here.
Similar Comp: Plane tickets from Los Angeles, or any New York airport, to Abu Dhabi are currently running about $1,000. LAX to Denpasar is about $800. You make the call.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated to reflect the fact that Typhoon Lagoon’s pricing is much more complicated than we originally fathomed.