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We tested the world’s largest artificial stationary deep water surf wave. Here’s how it went.
High above Washington’s Lake Chelan, I walked through the gates of Lake Side Surf and heard the roar the artificial surf wave CityWave USA – the largest of its kind on earth.
I know there are many clauses in this statement: the world’s largest deep-water artificial stationary surf wave. But they are all important. This wave isn’t going anywhere, but it’s deep enough for a surfboard with a proper fin setup. It’s a rare combination.
With this setup, you can grab the surfboard or one of Lake Side Surf’s rental equipment, jump on the wave, and hang ten. No bumping into set waves, no rushing to position in the line-up, and no surfing on a tiny skateboard / skimboard-like device like you do with most artificial blade waves (such as FlowRider Waves).
After two long sessions on CityWave USA Function at Lake Side Surf, I can assure you that this is a surfing experience not to be missed!
Lake Side Surf: CityWave USA
I love to surf, but I don’t like to surf. I’m a seasoned kayaker, a decent wakesurfer, a hack kitesurfer, a pathetic wave SUPer, and a not very good surfboarder.
That said, I don’t like hopping around in the ocean and taking waves on my head, but I long for the feeling of being on a wave and surfing. The Lake Side Surf CityWave USA wave is the perfect place for someone like me: maximum surf time without most of the other obstacles associated with the swell.
Due to COVID, it took an additional year for this wave to be operational and open, but on May 1, 2021, it launched its first paying guests. I can assure you it was worth the wait! The CityWave Surf Wave function is located in the Slippery water Water park on a hill above Lake Chelan, Washington.
Why Chelan, Washington?
You might be wondering why this mass-produced surf wave is seemingly in the middle of nowhere in Washington. The main reason is the extremely cheap local hydropower, the second cheapest in the country. It takes a lot of electricity to run the pumps on one of these shafts, making it unaffordable in many areas, especially on this scale.
In addition, Chelan has an abundance of water, a large seasonal tourism industry, and an established water park over 40 years old.
The author finds his flow
How much does it cost?
There are a few ways to get on this wave. The first is paying for entry to Slidewaters water park, around $ 30 when it opens on Memorial Day weekend.
The park is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. In the first 2 hours until noon, guests can register for 30-minute surf sessions, subject to availability. The maximum meeting size is 12 people.
The next way to surf the Lake Side CityWave is to register online or in person (if spaces are available) for a 45-minute session between 12pm and 7pm each day. These sessions cost $ 30-35 per person, with a maximum of 12 people per session.
This option also requires a pass to the water park (during water park opening hours) so the surf session adds approximately $ 30 USD to the park entry fee.
However, if you want to choose the wave size and shape that best suits your skill level, it is best to rent an entire session for $ 310-370.
You can invite up to 11 of your friends to join you, or just destroy everything yourself. Surf Club, Season Pass or Dawn Patrol Multisurf Session Packages are also available.
Jan Vogt, CityWave engineer, absolutely destroyed his creation
Other Slidewaters / Lake Side Surf Amenities
In addition to the incredibly good surfing wave, which is perfect for both beginners and experienced professionals, the Slidewater and Lake Side surfing opportunities offer numerous other amenities for the whole family.
Of course, there are the features of the Slidewater water park that looked like a blast. There are also several perfectly manicured beach volleyball courts, a hot tub to keep warm between surf sessions, and a bar and grill.
The park also has a high ropes course and a zip line that is under construction. Both will be separate operations with additional costs, but all will add adventurous fun to the same day.
CityWave: How it works
The view from the control cabin at CityWave USA Lake Side Surf. A digital control panel that controls the pumps and the adjustable vertical wave shaper element enables quick and easy wave adjustment with just a few buttons on the screen.
There are many different artificial surf waves around the globe, more and more of which are in development. Most are blade waves, which means they are stationary and have very fast, thin flow over a waveform.
These waves only pick up small, finneless boards, but allow long surfing on a stationary wave. And these can even be shaped into a barrel in some cases.
The other main type of artificial waves that have made headlines lately are wave pools. These replicate more ocean waves as the wave is created by the sudden displacement of water. It then rolls over a contoured pool to create a wave that one can surf from one end of the pool to the other.
The key here is that any surf boat that works in the ocean will work on one of these waves. The disadvantage is the relatively small number of waves this machine can generate compared to a standing wave and the time it takes to return to the wave starting point.
The CityWave surf function is a standing wave that is also deep. It allows for a lot, a lot of surfing on standard surfboard gear.
Twelve pumps deliver up to 600,000 gallons per minute to the top of the inflow to the shaft. The water then flows through two layers of many tiny tubes that distribute the water evenly across the 52 foot wide wave surface (at Lake Side Surf, the largest in the world).
The operator can fine-tune the size of the shaft from a single digital control panel. In general, the more water flows into the wave, the bigger it is.
But there is more magic in how these waves work. The speed increases as it goes down the ramp and hits a small adjustable lip. This lip throws up the water and creates the steepness of the waveform.
Similarly, this can be fine-tuned to create a beginner-friendly wave or a steep wave with a sharper lip that can be air drawn off.
Behind this lip is an area where the water circulates like a hydraulics / hole in a river and then flows out over a ramp grate where the water flows back to the pumps.
This ventilated hole behind the wave provides a fairly soft landing if you fall. It also helps create the back pressure necessary for the shaft to hold its shape.
Mind you, that’s just a basic observation of how CityWave works. Much of the details are copyrighted as there are many companies out there hoping to create the perfect man-made surf wave.
Tips for surfing in a CityWave
CityWave is suitable for all skills and experience levels
After surfing this amazing wave at Lake Side Surf and surfing the Tokyo CityWave just before the pandemic, I learned a few tricks to make your experience as good as possible.
First, relax, smile, and go with the flow. Start with small movements and stay balanced across the board, a little further towards the tail than expected – bend at your knees, not your waist.
Also, look up and see where you want to go, not down at the board. Initiate rotations with your shoulders and arms and follow with hips and then pressure on the board.
Also know that you will fall / fall down. It’s all part of the fun. The carbonated water behind the wave can turn you around a few times, but it’s not really a big deal.
The best way to get a breath of fresh air (and not falter) is by holding your breath, starfish (not clumping together), and then just waiting for the water to spit you onto the grate from behind.
Be sure to protect your face with your hands as you stand as your board will likely be after you – and your fins will hurt.
Perhaps the biggest tip is to share the stoke. Bring friends and family to surf and crash with you. The shock is contagious and really fun to share with people you know.
You can also go all by yourself. The shock is so contagious that you will get many screams and caves from others in your session.
CityWave Surfing around the globe
This is the 13th CityWave surfing wave in the world – and by far the biggest. It’s wider and has more pumps so you get more water and a slightly bigger wave. The width is great so that two surfers can enjoy the wave at the same time and have plenty of freedom of movement.
This means more surfing time for everyone in each session. The height is also fantastic because it allows you to do bigger carvings and generate more power for all kinds of tricks. Bigger is better!
If you can’t tell, I am still delighted with my experience at Lake Side Surf and can’t wait to come back. I am still smiling. And I learned so much more than I would have tried to catch waves in the ocean.
Now I can take these new skills to the ocean, behind a boat, or back to any other CityWave surfing feature.