Even those of us who live in the most idyllic of locations aren’t always able to surf whenever we’d like. Daily life and its obligations get in the way; we have to allow time for rest and injury rehabilitation; and―the least manageable of variables―the weather doesn’t always cooperate.
What are we to do during long spells of rain, snow, or the threat of hurricanes? Yes, there are fitness classes that mimic the moves and physical feel of surfing, but the environmental feel of the stoke and euphoria of being out on the water is noticeably absent from these offerings. While our bodies feel the benefits, our hearts and minds aren’t tricked so easily. Luckily, in the last few years, a formidable and frothy alternative is gaining in popularity: indoor surfing.
The advent of wave machines and artificial waves is allowing indoor surfing to scratch that itch, while reducing the role weather plays in our decision making. Effortlessly simulating the swells we spend so long chasing out in the ocean, indoor surfing is an efficient way to get out on the water, without actually getting out on the water.
How It Works
Indoor surfing locations are typically powered by SurfStream technology, a standing wave machine designed to vary the types and intensity of waves available, making it easy for surfers of multiple degrees of experience to participate safely.
SkyVenture, a New Hampshire-based indoor adventure park, is one user of the SurfStream system, marketing it to prospective consumers as an experience that lets you use a real board while learning skills that are transferable to the real-life waves when the time comes. In fact, the waves they produce are so realistic, they are able to host indoor surfing competitions using this equipment.
Selecting a Location
As with any indoor adventure location, you should seek out locations that not only have exciting offerings, but which also have strong safety protocols and procedures demonstrated through their marketing and informational efforts. Do they list for whom these activities are safe or unsafe? If you have questions or concerns, is contact information readily available?
Consider, also, restrictions that these facilities may have in place for age (do you have especially young surfers with you?), size, or time. Are the facilities you’re considering able to accommodate you? Look for locations that have staff who are willing to answer these questions with a smile and the information you’re looking for.
How Does It Feel?
It can be hard to believe that an indoor surfing experience could be anything like the real thing. Lenny Nichols of the Eastern Surfing Association of Northern New England has said as much after trying these machines, remarking that indoor surfing “isn’t meant to replace outdoor surfing; it’s a complement.” However, for many years the same was true of indoor skydiving experiences, and now the popularity of those excursions rivals that of its outdoor predecessor. And, indeed, the same could gradually be coming true for indoor surfing. Using real boards, and waves real enough to facilitate competitive surfing, we may be getting close to an all-season alternative to open water that satisfies even the most discerning of surfers.
At an April 2016 indoor surfing competition held in Quebec (an area not typically known for its fostering of surf culture), Cheyne Magnusson seemed impressed. “The performances from amateurs of all ages and the top pros who traveled north of the border were totally epic and the atmosphere was electric all day long,” he shared. He went on to say, “It was rad to see how surf culture can thrive in a freezing, landlocked, area of the world!”
It is that added benefit―that of accessibility―which may be where indoor surfing facilities and technology will provide the most benefit. Those that live on the coast near high-quality waves and frequent access may not exercise this option unless their standard options are taken offline by environmental concerns.
For frequently cold, landlocked, or otherwise surf-challenged areas, the availability of indoor surfing locations could open up access to the sport for those otherwise “closed off” to the opportunity. And, who knows? In years to come, we could see surf champions who got their start, or maintain world-class skill, through training at these facilities. For now, we urge you to give them a try and see what the increasing hype is all about.