After nearly 4 years of development, America’s first surf park, NLand Surf, in Austin, TX, is finally open. As with anything new and groundbreaking, the project has seen its share of challenges. First, a permitting issue with Travis County stalled the grand opening this Summer. Now, damage to the filtration system has forced the owners to drain the lagoon. In doing so, they inadvertently flooded the small neighborhood behind the property, angering residents. After draining the lagoon they noticed a number of small tears in the high-density polyurethane liner. Since these repairs will take a couple weeks, longer than their projected operations schedule through November, the park will most likely not re-open until the 2017 season. Despite these setbacks, NLand debut has been a huge success. The expert zone was nearly 100% booked for the 4 weeks they were open. Now that the public has seen the park, we’ve been eagerly awaiting people’s reaction.
We chose Austin as the site of this project because we felt the market and the culture of the city were perfect for what we envisioned. We wanted to create a place that offered a transformational experience for the whole family based on surfing and other skill-based recreation, education, and social interaction. In the end, much of our vision was left out of the masterplan, as the owners opted for more of a standard surf park that focuses mainly on the surfing experience. NLand is certainly a dream come true for Texas surfers.
During our year living in Austin while working on the project, we made some great friends that were able to visit NLand. We wanted to get a couple different perspectives on the experience and were able to hear thoughts from varied backgrounds: a visiting Hawaiian surfer, a local Austin Wakesurfer, and a local mother who doesn’t surf.
A Mother’s Take:
Katie, proud mother of a beautiful daughter took her family to see NLand on opening weekend.
Katie K, 29, San Antonio, TX:
“It was great to be on the pier and watch people surf-although I was a little nervous I would drop something in the water! The wave was fast and looked like a lot of fun. Haven taken my 4 year old daughter, we didn’t stick around too long because there wasn’t anything there for her to do. I would’ve loved to see her try it out but the employees were unsure of the minimum age limit to get a lesson. If you are not surfing, or interested in watching others surf, there’s not much else to do besides walk around.”
A Local Austin Wakesurfer’s take:
One of the reasons Austin appealed to us as a surf park destination was the large wakesurfing population on Lake Austin, just 20 minutes from the park. Austin is one of the hotbeds of the sport and the city was instrumental in the shift away from wakeboarding to wakesurfing that has been going on for the last decade. During our time there we tried wakesurfing a few times, and were blown away by the surf culture that had been created, and couldn’t wait to see how our new friends would transition into the wavegarden wave. Our friend Mike had this to say:
Mike L, 41, Austin, TX:
“The wave didn’t feel as fast as a traditional wake surfing wave but had more power and was bigger and had a bigger and more forgiving pocket. The transition was a no brainer. Very easy.”
“Over all impression of Nland was really positive. Great layout. Waves as advertised and expected. Need water access of some type for family. Especially in hot Texas summer temps. High pricing and no water access for family were only downsides. Maybe some more shade and shade over the center pier. I took my wife and son there and they both enjoyed the experience except for the lack of shade or water access. I’d like to go at least once a week but due to pricing and wave times booking up, realistically probably one or twice a month. I think it’s a big hit and everybody I have spoken to has been super psyched about the place.”
A Hawaiian Surfer’s take:
Hawaii is the birthplace of surfing and has been blessed with some of the best waves on earth, so we were very curious to hear how the wavegarden lagoon at NLand stacks up. For one thing, the wavegarden wave mimics a pointbreak, which is a much different type of wave to the reefbreaks you find in Hawaii. Our good friend Jeff was recently in Austin for a tech conference and told us he was going to give the wave a try.
Jeff K, 32, Honolulu, HI:
“I rode a softtop at first since they kept pushing me to ride a big board cause they said the wave was hard to catch. That was a waste of an hour. When I finally rented a shortboard for $20 it was way way more fun. Use a fast driving short board would be my advice. I bet a 4 fin would be the way to go but that wasn’t an option since I was renting. The wave was fairly similar to catch as an ocean wave. If you did a big turn you would pretty much lose the wave unless you were able to generate speed at the end of the turn. Normal surfing you look down the wave then decide where the speed is and what you are going to do on the wave. Not being able to see down the line made it a bit tricky but once you realize where to be on the wave it felt a lot like surfing.”
“I think one day there will be people who are going to be ripping off just surfing this wave. The repetition of the wave allows you to fine tune your turns. Most importantly I feel it forces you to make driving bottom turns which helps generate the speed necessary to keep up with the wave and do turns up the face.”
“I would 100% go back. $90 is a bit much if I were to surf it on my own at home but as a novelty in Austin it was cool.”
Overall, it seems that guests from all walks of life were very impressed with NLand and their Wavegarden lagoon. Now the park has a few months of off-time to not only fix their filtration system and liner, but to make improvements to the park surrounding the lagoon. Judging by the guest feedback, people would like to see more amenities for non-surfers: water access, shade, other activities, etc. Rumor has it that they are building a microbrewery on the property so they can serve beer, which is a great start.