Texas Living

How Waco Surf Became a Texas Paradise

By Peter Simek 5.5.23

A few years ago, professional surfers Nathan Florence, Mason Ho, Cruz Dinofa, and Mia McLeish set off on a trip that promised scoring some of the smoothest, most perfect waves any of the four had ever surfed. When they arrived at the secret spot, they discovered the rumors they had heard were true. The wave was silky and smooth, a long ride that broke perfectly, with flat faces ideal for carving and a curling barrel ripe for getting “pitted”—when a surfer positions themselves inside a breaking wave. 

What made this wave particularly unique, however, wasn’t its shape but its location. It was the kind of wave you might expect to find in Hawaii, the South Pacific, Indonesia, or some other ionic destination where pro surfers flock to score the perfect photos of the most perfect waves. But, nope: This wave was in Waco.

Specifically, it was at Waco Surf, one of the most renowned artificial wave pools on the planet. Here’s how Waco became one of surfing’s hot spots.

How Did a Wave Land in Waco?

The Waco wave pool was developed by American Wave Machines, a manufacturer of new wave-creating technologies that put the old lazy river-style wave pools of the past to shame. Since first developing early versions of the technology back in 2004, American Wave Machines has gone on to open more than a dozen wave parks, including the one in Waco, which was the first complete application of their advanced technology.

Is It Really a Good Wave?

American Wave Machines tapped two surfing stars, Jamie O’Brien and Cheyne Magnusson, to help refine the wave. Unlike the most famous artificial wave pool—Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch in California—O’Brien and Magnusson helped American Wave Machines create a wave that offers several sizes and is suited to a variety of styles of surfing.

Can I Learn to Surf—Or Is This Just for the Pros?

Pros love to surf Waco—but so do beginners. The wave pool offers beginner sessions. You can practice and step up your skills by advancing to intermediate sessions. The facility also rents boards to get you going.

How Can I Visit?

In 2021, the wave pool was purchased by two surfers from San Diego, who rebranded it Waco Surf and expanded it to the resort style it has today. Waco Surf offers a variety of accommodations, from private cabins and refined hotel rooms to RV hookups. The facility also offers a water park with a lazy river, a cable park for wakeboarding, and plenty of spots to relax and enjoy the beach—in Waco.

Read up on more of Texas’ untold surfing history here.

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