Growing up in Melbourne I was a regular at the MSAC aquatic wave pool. The blaring of those sirens to alert you that five minutes of waves were about go down were the highlight of any young Melbourne groms weekends. Never did I fathom that Melbourne would soon be home to Australia's first commercial wave pools and one of the world's most progressive pieces of wave pool technology in the world.
Currently living in Bondi now the only thing that stopped me from testing it out in the first week was living in another state. When it came time to journey home the Urbn Surf wave pool was first on my to-do list.
Booking: Luckily I had the finger on my pulse for this because my friends and I ( 6 in total) were all looking to book the same session together on the advanced right. One friend booked in a group of 3 and then I tried to book the next 3 people in about 20 minutes later. By the time I tried to book the next 3 in, it was already sold out. This was booking 2 and a half weeks in advance..... Therefore we had to book into the advanced left which wasn't our first preference. As I look at the online booking systems now its similarly booked out for the next 2-3 weeks on the advanced right. The advanced left is typically booked out for 1 week in advance besides a few early spots in the 6 am session. Finally some good news for all you Victorian goofy footers who have been stuck surfing rights all your life. But moral of the story is book early!
The Set up:I was amazed at how big the size of the facility was at Urbn surf it was roughly 2 times the size of a football field. The facilities are state of the art with places to eat, a comprehensively stocked surf shop with all your needs and even an Awayco set up if you have forgotten your board or are curious to test out another craft. They also have the Blue Ducks restaurant that is set to open in Autumn 2020 and has delicious and sustainable food options for all taste palates.
The pool itself is a bit bigger than a football-sized area that is divided into two parts, a left, and a right-hander that breaks over a shallowish cement shelf. In the middle of these is there is a divided structure where the pistons live that pump out Urbn surfs spicy little waves both lefts and rights. You have to be careful when the pistons first start to pump water and it sucks everyone towards the metal netting against the piston. Apparently many a board ding has been going down when this happens and making Zak surfs shop in Melbourne a lot of money on repairs. Also as you will find out there is always a little dud warm-up wave at the start and the end of the set, you want to stay way from these.
Pool Lifeguard applications are running hot with lunchtime surf breaks on the cards.
Chilling areas provided for pre-surf pump up and post-surf breakdown chats
Plenty of room for you, your mates and the whole family.
The Wave: We surfed the advanced left but got there early to watch a bit of the intermediate right. The first thing that struck me was it was surprisingly bigger than I thought. Even the intermediate setting is head high. The advanced left or right starts off with a fun turn wave which is equivalent to the last setting on the intermediate left or right before gradually ramping up in intensity.
The first thing I felt was the pressure of having 17 eyes all looking straight at you, you definitely don't want to blow the first wave of the set and it did happen quite a few times. Not only is kooking the first wave of the set a bit embarrassing but it also puts you in the impact zone for a potential collision with the surfer taking off on the wave behind you because the take of zone is quite small. The first wave I made the drop pretty easily and tried to go into a big roundhouse cutback, it felt pretty nice however put me a bit too far behind for the next section. When you know you only get 12-15 waves per session, you don't want to blow heaps of waves on trying an overly big turn or maneuver. Therefore my next few waves I surfed a lot conservatively. It was definitely a lot of fun however the sections don't give you a massive chance to go top to bottom on your turns (not on my backhand) anyway. That could have just been me kooking it but I have heard this feedback from a lot of other surfers.
The last part of the session is when the wave turns "beast mode" for the last 15-20 minutes. This is the part where you have probably seen some epic media with people getting some rather thick and throaty looking barrels. Now the day we went actually had a strong cross/onshore wind blowing into it (which is fairly common). I've been told with good authority the days where the winds are blowing offshore or there is no wind, effectively every wave on the beast mode will barrel for around the last 20 minutes. However, when the winds aren't right, like the day we were there only the first 5 waves of the set would typically have makeable barrels.
Kids lagoon pool in the foreground is the perfect place for getting your groms up
Overall: My overall take on the wave pool is it's pretty exciting, I love the possibilities of where this sort of technology is going to take surfing. Both from a performance perspective helping surfers fine-tune their techniques and high-performance maneuvers but also for the expansion of the sport into areas where surfing wasn't previously possible. Maybe it will even eventually decongest some of the line ups around the coasts more popular spots, who knows? As for canceling your next surf trip and buying a yearly membership. Well, I definitely wouldn't be advising anything like that, you aren't going to score a life-changing wave but you will have a lot more fun than your average session at your local beach break and it will be in an environment where people aren't actually snaking each other. That in itself will do for now, until when they get the Teahupoo wave pool technology up and running and padded concrete underneath.
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