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The boundless ambitions of the surf park industry

The boundless ambitions of the surf park industry

17/06/2024, International, Surfing, World Surf League, Article # 31824862

Wave pools: are they really necessary? | Photo: Red Bull

What is a surf park? There are various types of surf parks. The most common are outdoor surf pools.

Dynamic wave pools are large, typically over ten times the size of an Olympic pool, allowing for a few seconds of surfing over 100 meters or more.

Static wave pools are smaller.

Surfing infrastructures can also be created by installing motors in existing water bodies or by promoting the formation of surfable waves in rivers or along the coast.

The first dynamic wave pool designed exclusively for surfing opened in Wales (Adventure Park Snowdonia) in 2015 and closed in 2023, illustrating the rapid obsolescence of these infrastructures due to intense competition among industry players.

Adventure Parc Snowdonia: the British wave pool opened in 2015 and closed in 2023 | Photo: Red Bull

Development of Surf Parks Worldwide

Currently, there are about 25 dynamic wave pools globally, but more than 200 surf parks are in development.

This demand is driven by the popularity of surfing, the fastest-growing water sport worldwide, which has gained visibility through its recent inclusion in the Olympic Games.

According to industry leaders, the future looks bright.

They anticipate exponential growth in the coming years, with the number of surf park openings doubling year over year for several years.

The main argument of the surf park industry is to make surfing accessible to everyone, including in landlocked areas.

Before the advent of surf parks, surfing could "only" be practiced in certain coastal spots at specific times of the year, with increasing issues of overcrowding.

Promoters also highlight the greater safety of surf parks, with waves calibrated at will and the absence of sharks, dangerous currents, and competition among surfers for waves.

This trend towards seeking spectacular yet less risky experiences at the cost of reduced authenticity is characteristic of modern-day tourism.

Promotions for surf parks frequently emphasize their record dimensions, such as in South Korea, Florida, or Abu Dhabi.

This extravagance comes at a high environmental and social cost.

One consequence is the commodification of an activity (surf) that was previously free, the tendency for individuals to no longer distinguish between real and fake, and a form of secession from the rest of society, as these tourist bubbles often become social bubbles as well.

Wave pools: are we witnessing the commodification of surfing? | Photo: KSWC

The Structuring of the Surf Park Industry

In 2012, a company was created to accelerate the development of surf parks: Surf Park Central.

It was founded by John Luff, an industrialist, and Dr. Jess Ponting, a professor of "sustainable surf tourism" at San Diego State University.

In September 2013, this company organized the first world summit of surf parks in California, and the event has been held annually ever since.

The goal is to support the growth and evolution of surfing "beyond the ocean," bringing together developers, investors, operators, and industry professionals to promote the sustainable growth and development of surf parks worldwide.

Much of the information presented here comes from this company, which, although based in the United States, covers the global development of surf parks.

Who Benefits from Surf Parks?

The willingness to pay by surfers visiting a surf park is of great interest to surf park industrialists.

The latest "Consumer Trends Report" released by Surf Park Central in January 2023 surveyed a panel of 1028 surfers.

The survey was distributed online in 2022 in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

The study participants were mainly men (90 percent), affluent (average salary between $100,000 and $150,000 per year), and highly experienced in surfing (11 to 15 years on average).

The study lacks guarantees of representativeness and quality, but it is the only one available on this topic.

It shows that 99 percent of surfers who responded to this survey are willing to surf in a surf park, with 33 percent having already done so.

This unrealistic figure indicates that the survey is likely biased and that only surfers who are favorable to surf parks participate.

It also shows that an "average" surfer is willing to pay $84 (€78) for ten "perfect" waves, a value that has increased significantly since 2015.

Industrialists, therefore, have little incentive to offer a lower price.

Another study focused on 534 surfers who visited a surf park (Urbnsurf in Australia, The Wave in England, Waco Surf and Surf Ranch in the USA).

They were asked how much they spent in total during their visit, on average: $290 (€270), with differences between surf parks.

Even in the least expensive surf park, half of the visitors spent over $100.

These high prices are logical because these infrastructures are costly to build and operate; promotional messages highlighting the family-friendly and inclusive nature of surf parks must, therefore, be strongly relativized.

The luxurious nature of these surf parks is also evident in the recent trend of including them in high-end real estate projects.

Due to their novelty and spectacular nature, surf parks are now more attractive than golf courses for real estate investments.

An evolution in the field of hyper-luxury involves constructing residential complexes that include surf parks exclusively for the use of property owners or tenants of neighboring residences.

The presence of a surf park (along with a golf course) in these private gated communities becomes a selling point.

Such gated communities built around a surf pool already exist in Brazil and are planned in Australia, Canada, and the USA.

Finally, the Surf Park Central study showed that surfers often travel several hours to visit a surf park, with 31 percent traveling by plane, resulting in a high carbon footprint.

Thus, these surf parks attract a distant public and not only a local one.

In fact, "road trips," including visits to several surf parks, are beginning to emerge.

Therefore, it seems unlikely that the presence of surf parks will encourage surfers to travel less and reduce their carbon footprint - quite the opposite.

Surf parks: water consumption of existing wave pools is often kept secret | Photo: AWM

Acceptance of Surf Parks

The growth of the surf park sector has become an argument for its promoters: since there are more and more surf parks across the world, why not build one here?

It is in countries already equipped with surf parks, such as the United States or the United Kingdom, where most projects emerge.

The surf park industry acknowledges public acceptance issues for these infrastructures, but it argues that this resistance is due to misunderstandings.

They cite the example of a report by famous comedian and social commentator John Oliver, who called the project to build four surf parks in the Californian desert "monumentally stupid" given the water waste it would entail.

They highlight the numerous health benefits of surfing and the interest in surf parks for local economies.

Regarding water use, they defend themselves by comparing surf parks' water consumption to that of golf courses.

However, this comparison is neither valid nor relevant.

The water consumption of existing surf parks is kept secret, and comparisons with water use in golfs are based solely on estimates for planned surf parks, which the industry has every incentive to minimize.

Additionally, the water used to fill wave pools must be potable, unlike the water used to irrigate golf courses.

Moreover, in a surf park, water eventually evaporates, whereas in a golf course, it partially returns to groundwater.

In reality, golf projects are increasingly contested.

And most importantly, relativizing the environmental impacts of an activity (here, wave pools) by diverting attention to another more water-intensive activity (e.g., golf) is a typical tactic of climate inaction.

Wave pools: some surf parks highlight a net energy consumption equal to or less than zero thanks to solar energy, without specifying that they are not self-sufficient in winter | Photo: Wavegarden

An Eco-Responsible Industry?

According to its champions, the surf park industry can and must "go green."

Their idea is to eco-certify surf parks.

To date, however, the only company practicing this eco-certification (Stoke) comes from the industry itself, as one of the co-founders is Jess Ponting, the current CEO of Surf Park Central.

Thus, it is both judge and party!

This certification does not provide for the publication of annual water and energy consumption, a central aspect of the sustainability debate for these surf parks.

So far, industrialists have always refused to be transparent on these points, so claims for eco-responsibility are not serious.

Such "friendly" eco-certification is of interest to the surf park industry: a survey by Surf Park Central shows that 91 percent of surfers are willing to pay more for an eco-responsible surf park, and 68 percent would like to find information about environmental issues affecting natural ocean surf spots in surf parks.

Human science studies have shown that exposure to Nature during a recreational activity, such as surfing, indeed engenders a pro-environmental attitude.

The problem is that such an attitude does not necessarily lead to environmentally consistent behaviors: surfers have a much higher ecological footprint than football players, for instance.

This is called cultural dissonance.

Among the measures considered by the industry to green surf parks and thus reassure their users are using renewable energy instead of fossil energy and ecological compensation (for wasted water and biodiversity loss).

However, these efforts result either in a lesser evil (the cleanest energy being the one we do not consume) or outright trickery, depending on the implementation details.

For example, some surf parks highlight a net energy consumption equal to or less than zero thanks to solar energy, without specifying that they are not self-sufficient in winter.

A summer production surplus does not offset a winter deficit, which puts additional pressure on the public power grid.


The surf park industry envisions extremely rapid development and shows great opacity in its use of natural resources.

Eco-certification procedures are only voluntary and hardly compensate for the environmental impacts.

According to the environmental organization Surfrider Foundation Europe, environmental concerns about wave pools outweigh their value: "The reality of climate change should force us to rethink our growth models to reduce natural resource consumption and reconcile our relationship with nature."

Words by Non Au Surf en Boîte | Environmental Organization
Winter Vincent and Ella McCaffray win 2024 Nias Pro

Winter Vincent and Ella McCaffray win 2024 Nias Pro

13/06/2024, International, Surfing, World Surf League, Article # 31814748

Winter Vincent: the champion excelled in stunning Nias waves | Photo: WSL

Winter Vincent and Ella McCaffray have claimed victory at the 2024 Nias Pro. The Qualifying Series (QS) 5000 event got underway in pumping four-to-six-foot surf at Lagundri Bay on the Island of Nias, Indonesia.

It was a historical event with competitors dining out on some of the best waves seen for a QS competition as McCaffray and Vincent were able to rise to the top and claim the biggest wins of their young careers.

In the men's Final, Manly Beach youngster Winter Vincent came up against former Championship Tour (CT) competitor and professional surfing veteran Josh Kerr, who had been on a charge towards the Finals since the opening round almost a week ago.

In slowing conditions, Kerr opted to get busy early, banking back-to-back waves for a series of powerful and stylish carves on the face to take an early lead.

Eventually, a bomb set came.

Kerr took off on the first wave, pulling into a tube and getting spat out for an 8.50 (out of a possible 10), but fortunately for Vincent, the bigger wave was behind, and he pulled in, stood tall, and came flying out for a 9.63.

The pair scrambled back to the top of the reef, and with 20 seconds left, another set arrived.

Kerr once again took off on the first wave, which only allowed him turns, whilst Vincent got the tube he needed on the second wave to claim victory with a heat total of 18.46 (out of a possible 20).

"This is a day I'll never forget," Vincent said.

"Having all my friends back here, the pumping waves and a Final against Kerrsy (Josh Kerr), it just couldn't get any better."

"Josh Kerr is one of my idols and such a scary competitor to come up against when the waves are good. I was just talking to him out there, having the time of my life."

"This is the best surf the world has seen for a QS event so I'm pretty stoked to be a part of it. It might be the best comp I ever do."

"I got the best wave of my life yesterday and so many barrels this week."

"It's a huge relief to come to Indo and get a couple of good results at both Krui and Nias, as it takes the pressure off for the rest of the Challenger Series season."

Fired Up McCaffray

Ella McCaffray came to Nias this year as a two-time runner-up, once in the Pro Junior and once in the QS.

Her experience and comfort during this wave showed all week, especially in the Final, when she took on Australian youngster Oceanna Rogers.

McCaffray surfed the conditions perfectly, posting a 7.33 for turns on her first ride, then eventually getting one of her best tubes of the week for an 8.83.

McCaffray's two-wave total of 16.16 had Rogers in a combination situation (needing two scores), which she eventually broke with two massive backside snaps, which earned her an 8.17 but was unable to back it up, leaving McCaffray to claim the biggest win of her career.

"I'm so stoked to win an event at my favorite wave in the world," McCaffray said.

"I think this has to be one of the best events ever."

"The waves were absolutely firing, going off every day, barrels after barrels after barrels, so many 10s, some of the best surf ever for a surf event, so I'm just so stoked to be here and be a part of it."

"It's great to come here and compete in the region; it is stacked with so many good surfers."

"I'm from the U.S., so the points don't count for me, but it's all about the experience."

"Everyone here rips, so I'm stoked to take the win and to have had a barrel like that in the Final."

Although she wasn't able to get the win, today's result is by far the biggest of Oceanna Rogers's career and puts her on a great path for Challenger Series qualification in 2025 if she's able to continue this form for the remainder of the season.

Josh Kerr came to these events to support his daughter Sierra Kerr as she looks to gain experience on the QS and in the hollow perfect waves Indonesia has to offer.

Kerr entered the event purely so he could surf the waves empty but almost ended up winning.

Sierra put on some of the most impressive performances of the event and was knocked out by eventual runner-up Rogers in the Semifinal, which ended the potential fairytale of a father and daughter sharing the Final podium at a QS 5000 event.

"I wanted to get barrelled and ride my twinny, so my expectations were absolutely exceeded for sure," Kerr said.

"I got to do those two things, and then making the final is obviously a bonus. It's been many, many years since I can remember having so many barrels day after day in a contest."

"It was so fun to surf waves like this again with a rashie on, to have that little bit of a competitive mindset again, and to be surfing here with my daughter Sierra."

"It's been a great event, and as far as competitive surfing goes, it was awesome."

2024 Nias Pro | Finals


  1. Winter Vincent (AUS) 18.46
  2. Josh Kerr (AUS) 15.33


  1. Ella McCaffray (USA) 16.16
  2. Oceanna Rogers (AUS) 14.50
The sandboarder who rides dunes like waves

The sandboarder who rides dunes like waves

13/06/2024, International, Surfing, World Surf League, Article # 31812675

Franco Diaz: the sandboarder who rides dunes like a surfer

Franco Diaz rides dunes like surfers ride waves. Meet the Chilean sandboarder who draws unique lines in the world's driest desert.

In many ways, sandboarding is the closest sport to surfing.

The shape of dunes, the way sand sometimes tumbles when the rider passes by, and the speed they can reach as they descend the slope remind us of wave gliders.

Franco Diaz has a unique style. His approach to dune-riding makes him somehow a sand surfer.

Diaz was born in Iquique, Chile. The city lies in the heart of the driest nonpolar desert on the planet, the Atacama Desert.

He runs the Munay Sandboard travel agency that offers sandboarding tours, paragliding flights, and diving experiences.

Franco started sandboarding in 2014.

"I was with some friends trying to do something new when the dune was a big garbage dump. So, we adapted some skateboards for the sand," the Chilean sandboarder told SurferToday.

Iquique: a sandboarding town in the heart of the Atacama Desert | Photo: Diaz Archive

Surf-Influenced Dune Riding

Diaz has a sandboarding spot he calls home.

It's a large dune called Cerro Dragón. It is 2.5 miles (four kilometers) long, and its highest point is 330 yards (300 meters) above sea level.

"Outside my city, there are several giant dunes. My favorite is Duna Cerebro. It is located in the middle of the desert, 30 miles (50 kilometers) from my house," adds Diaz.

Franco Diaz's signature sandboarding style, which is very surf-influenced, makes us wonder: Has he ever practiced any other board sport, like surfing or skateboarding?

"In my city, there are more than 20 excellent waves, and I have been surfing since I was a child, even though I prefer bodyboarding," reveals the talented sandboarder.

"There is also a large skatepark where I have been skateboarding, longboarding, and skate-surfing since I was a child."

"All these sports combine very well with sandboarding, and where I live, you can practice all sports at any time."

Sandboarding is actually quite popular in Iquique.

"People from all over the world come here to surf the dunes. It is also a new sport for snowboarders and board riders."

Franco Diaz: his favorite sandboarding dune is Duna Cerebro | Photo: Diaz Archive

Riding Duna Cerebro

The goofy-footer likes to ride the endless dune lines with friends and share the experience with everyone because "it is more entertaining."

But some sand ridges are more special than others.

"The dunes of Iquique are my favorite," explains Franco.

"Here, you can find natural ramps and walls with soft sand for surfing. My favorite spots are near my house, just 15 minutes by car."

"Unlike other dunes, here there are no animals that inhabit the area, no stones or trees; there is just sand everywhere."

"It doesn't rain or get cold here, and the dune is inside the city."

All dune systems are different. But what's the hardest one?

"Duna Cerebro is the most difficult dune. It took me years to master it," underlines the Chilean sandboarder.

"While descending, you find bowls of white sand that you must surf very well to continue going down with speed."

"And in the lower area, you'll get thick sand that makes carving difficult."

"It is also a very technical dune that requires good physical condition to climb back to the top."

Sandboard Paragliding

A well-rounded sandboarder never stops. During winter, Diaz heads south of Chile for the snowboarding season.

You might think dunes are smooth and cushioned like powder snow, but wipeouts can be serious and cause injuries.

"Many years ago, I fell on my butt and broke my coccyx. It took me weeks to sit down again. But I have had other accidents surfing, too."

Franco Diaz wants to keep spreading the sandboarding stoke to his fellow Chileans and foreigners who have never tried the sport.

"Sandboarding is a sport that has been practiced for more than 40 years but has recently become famous thanks to social media," notes the Iquique local.

"In recent years, the number of people in the dunes has increased, igniting some changes. But I wish more riders could share this passion."

Meanwhile, Diaz will continue to hit the Atacama Desert dunes with one dream in mind.

"I am currently learning to paraglide. I want to fly over the dune on a sandboard. It will be exciting."

Words by Luís MP | Founder of
The need to surf alone

The need to surf alone

12/06/2024, International, Surfing, World Surf League, Article # 31811011

Waves: sometimes they're our best company | Photo: Shutterstock

It's hard to find a secluded surf break these days. But when it seems impossible to be alone and surf with your thoughts, magic happens.

Life gets more complicated when you get older, doesn't it?

At least, it feels like it does. The responsibilities stack up, the problems accumulate, and the unfinished personal and professional issues pile up.

Sometimes, we're so overwhelmed by what life is about that we forget how much surfing can help us heal or put things into perspective.

Most of us need water to find our balance and headspace.

It can be the ocean or even a swimming pool. All we need is a liquid basin - smaller or larger - to immerse ourselves and make our worries lighter.

It's great to surf with friends. I've been doing it for nearly 35 years, and I'll never get tired of it.

The process before and after also matters.

There's the schedule, a meeting point, the travel itself, the search for the right spot or peak, and the excitement of putting on a wetsuit while a perfect, blue six-footer peels gently across a desert beach break.

When the session is over, the only questions and dilemmas are where to have lunch or dinner or find the best cold beer nearby.

A day surfing with your best friends is always a day we will remember when we get older.

But some people also have a different relationship with the indescribable act of gliding across saltwater and waves.

It's the darker and most intimate corner of our soul commanding; it's an inner somber voice telling us to shut down from the world for a bit.

In a time when we spend most of our awake hours with our necks bent down and eyes glued on screens, it's OK not to be available for (digital and social) interactions.

Beach: the ultimate frontier between land and sea | Photo: Goldberg/Creative Commons

Alone With Every Dune

One of these weekend days, the ocean was flat at my local surf breaks.

The Windguru forecast showed 0.4 meters of swell, which is basically a "forget surfing" message for most people.

Nevertheless, my stubbornness made me drive to a place where I thought I could get a coastline more exposed to swell energy.

When I parked my car, I looked left and right at the closest peaks, and there was nothing. There's barely a one-foot ripple.

I played the patient game with Mother Nature.

I needed to paddle out and was prepared to be grateful for anything that could transport my surfboard and 65-kilogram body.

That's when I focused my attention on the dune-only stretch of coastline where only birds and sand rule.

"There's something moving over there..." I muttered to myself.

It was a warm day with sunny blue skies. Nearly windless. The perfect conditions for a lone, introspective search for the rare wave.

The walk to the surf mirage was long. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The 20-minute hike was time enough to run through the inner demons of a privileged European adult.

But they are demons, too, even if they are on your personal drama scale.

I saw nobody. I was as alone as I wanted to be. And lonely, yes - that too.

As I walked south and got closer to the whitewater lines I had spotted from a long distance, I felt that paddling out would be almost ridiculous.

It was small. But small and beautiful. And peeling quite nicely from left to right.

"I could do something with this," I told my positive self.

Above, only sky. Around only sand and ocean. Inside, only questions and anguish.

"It's life being life," you could say.

It is, indeed. And so I paddled out, read the ocean, and fine-tuned my positioning.

Surf: paddling out all by yourself can be fulfilling | Photo: Shutterstock

Água Quente

The lineup's water was particularly warm compared to the water in a 10-yard radius. So, I called this place "Água Quente" ("Hot Water").

I don't know if it has ever been surfed. But my loneliness felt comfortable here. It felt under control and part of life's mountains and valleys.

It's funny. The metaphors for what life is are endless, and you can find them hidden or in plain sight every day, whether you're a surfer or someone who has not been blessed and cursed by this passion.

Some of my most helpful thoughts and reflections arise while I'm surfing, particularly when I'm all by myself in the water, waiting for perfect waves that may or may not arrive.

It has an effect similar to clearing or organizing your storage room.

Wave-riding rearranges our minds and refreshes life's purposes.

Água Quente made me feel good. I knew I was one of the few lucky ones surfing in my country at that given moment.

I caught several waves. They were small, but aren't small waves harder to surf? And isn't it supposed to be all about having fun?

When I put an end to my solitary session, I had to walk back to the small village where I had left the car.

This time, with the sun on my back, the return route felt lighter and more hopeful than the initial surf exploration path.

I needed this. Surfing alone has pros and cons, but this time, the advantages outweighed the disadvantages.

Listening to ourselves in silence is hard, painful, and often despairing.

It requires courage to let ourselves know what exactly is going on with our lives and what we can do to make it slightly better.

Wellness is a rare asset these days.

It's a valuable weapon against the troubled times and the hardships that can easily settle within us without asking permission.

Surf with your friends. And, from time to time, go for a surf with yourself. Trust me - it changes lives.

Words by Luís MP | Founder of
Sion Milosky: the surfing legend who lives forever

Sion Milosky: the surfing legend who lives forever

11/06/2024, International, Surfing, World Surf League, Article # 31809277

Sion Milosky: an inspiring big wave surfing and a devoted family man | Photo: Milosky Family Archive

He's one of the legends of surfing history who passed away too soon. Sion Milosky was 35 when he rode his final wave.

He was known as the underground charger who rode for the joy of surfing, not for sponsorship or media attention.

Sion Milosky was born on August 11, 1975, in Kalaheo, Kauai, Hawaii.

He was the son of a Californian hippie who moved to Hawaii around 1970, chasing the Aloha spirit. His Polish surname was inherited from his step-grandfather.

Sion got in touch with the salt water at the age of three, catching waves on a bodyboard at Poipu Beach.

While attending Waimea High School, "Bam Bam" was already an accomplished wave rider, influenced by Tom Carroll.

Sion Milosky did almost everything to support his wave-riding passion.

He worked as a dishwasher, pizza delivery boy, cook, fisherman, carpenter, boat and car repairman, waiter, and bartender.

He then established his business, welding wrought-iron gates for driveways of Hawaiian homes.

Sion Milosky: a generous, fearless big wave surfer | Photo: Milosky Family Archive

Primus Inter Pares

In 2009, Sion married Suzi Olaes and moved from Kauai to Oahu to be closer to the North Shore's big surf, paddling and descending giant Pacific Ocean waves.

Interestingly, despite being attracted to XXL waves, Sion started his career as a longboarder.

The welder-turned-swell-hunter was a true waterman who excelled in surfing, diving, and fishing.

Sion Milosky surfed his last wave on March 16, 2011. It was the ninth ride of an epic six-hour session at Mavericks, the Northern California surf break.

The wave that took his life left him unconscious at the Pillar Point Harbor mouth.

He suffered a two-wave hold-down at dusk. Surfers who were nearby still tried to bring him back but without success.

The big wave surfing community had lost one of its dearest members, known for his friendly demeanor and determination.

Miloski was the second surfer to die at Mavericks after the legendary Mark Foo in 1994.

The Hawaiian goofy-footer was slowly making a name in surfing's elite division, especially in Oahu's North Shore outer reefs.

In 2009, he caught a wave at Himalayas that crowned him the North Shore Big Wave Challenge champion.

At the time, it was considered one of the biggest waves ever ridden.

Sion won Surfing Magazine's North Shore Underground Surfer of the Year a month before passing away.

With part of the $25,000 prizemoney, he flew to San Francisco to surf the last swell of the winter season at Mavericks.

Sion Milosky: surfing for the joy of doing it | Photo: Bielmann/Volcom

The Last Wave at Mavericks

He stayed at Ken "Skindog" Collins' home in Santa Cruz.

Milosky's first taste of the coldwater surf break was on Monday, March 14, 2011.

Two days later, Sion returned to the Mavericks lineup and paddled out at 3 pm on his custom-made 10'5" gun.

Despite the onshore winds and choppy conditions, there were 40- to 50-foot waves detonating off Pillar Point.

Milosky rode the first wave of a new set around 6 pm.

At the time, local surf photographer Curt Myers reported that this avalanche dragged him underwater, with his board tombstoning and likely plunging him about 20 feet deep.

Surfer Shawn Dollar wiped out on the subsequent wave, shifting the attention away from Milosky, Myers mentioned.

Ken Collins, the Mavericks local, never forgot Sion Miloski's spirit and image on that fateful Wednesday evening.

"He had a big smile on his face and just turned around and paddled into this bomb," recalled Collins.

"That was the last time I saw him. The wave just sent him straight to heaven."

Approximately 20-30 minutes later, surfer Nathan Fletcher discovered Milosky roughly a mile down the coast near the entrance of Pillar Point Harbor.

He was wearing a simple, lightweight lifevest that might not have helped him resurface in time.

Jet skis brought Milosky to the shore, where surfers on the beach attempted to revive him while others gathered and prayed, according to those present.

Emergency responders arrived at 6:56 pm and took over the resuscitation attempts.

At that time, Milosky was not breathing, and his heart had stopped.

Although LifeFlight was reportedly requested, the Coastside Fire Protection District Battalion Chief stated that the rescue helicopter is generally not used for patients in full cardiac arrest.

"I'm pretty sure he wiped out - the board came away, and he had no leash," Grant Washburn said at the time.

Another fellow big wave surfer stated, "He looked perfect. They'd removed his wetsuit; his eyes were closed, no apparent damage of any kind."

"Just a perfectly peaceful, healthy person. You felt like you could just jolt him back to life."

Milosky was pronounced dead at the AHMC Seton Medical Center Coastside in Moss Beach at 7:46 pm.

An Inspiring Human Being

In a November 2010 interview with Surfing Magazine, he expressed that one of his aspirations was to be invited to the Jay at Mavericks Big Wave Invitational.

Following his passing, Milosky was nominated for the 2011 Billabong XXL Monster Paddle Award, becoming the first surfer to receive a posthumous nomination for an XXL Award.

Sion had won the Quiksilver Makahiki Longboard Championships and the North Shore Big Wave Challenge and had secured third place in the Oxbow World Longboard Championship.

The Sion Milosky Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that unites communities through the art of surfing.

Its mission is to educate youth and communities on ocean safety and environmental stewardship while promoting Hawaiian cultural values globally.

The Big Wave Risk Assessment Group (BWRAG) was established in his honor.

Sion's humility and generosity were evident in his willingness to help others. He was friends with Andy Irons, who passed away a few months before while Milosky's was surfing Mavericks.

He took pride in his blue-collar background and excelled in tasks ranging from building vehicles to constructing gates.

Through his craftsmanship, "Bam Bam" found fulfillment in providing for his wife and two daughters, Kauanoe and Sariyah.

One of Sion's most iconic pictures is the one featuring himself surfing with Sariyah on the north shore of Oahu.

The Live Like Sion Gromfest, the Steep and Deep Pipeline Backdoor Photo Challenge, and the Killa Papio Fishing Tournament are two events honoring the Kauai surfers' legacy.

Live Like Sion

Sion Milosky: the surfer who said that the ultimate aim is to get barreled | Photo: WSL

Milosky's altruistic nature is also always remembered.

A few months before his death, a woman was swept out to sea in front of Sion's house at Rocky Point after dark.

As the fire crew arrived and started unpacking, Sion grabbed his longboard and silently paddled out into the pitch-black, turbulent waters.

For 45 minutes, he searched and called out until he miraculously found the woman alive.

In disbelief, he pulled her onto his board and paddled her back to shore, saving her life.

She never thanked him. The story never made the news, and he never received an award.

Sion didn't seek recognition; he simply did what needed to be done.

The hashtag #livelikesion invites us to remember the humorous, laid-back, fearless, and generous individual who passed away doing what he loved most.

"It's not about making a big drop," Milosky once revealed in an interview.

"The ultimate aim is to get barreled. Powering into the biggest wave and the biggest barrel. That would be a nice feeling - for people to say, 'Hey, Sion, he caught some of the biggest waves ever ridden.'"

Words by Luís MP | Founder of
The untold story behind the 'Theme from The Endless Summer'

The untold story behind the 'Theme from The Endless Summer'

07/06/2024, International, Surfing, World Surf League, Article # 31802611

The Endless Summer: the original soundtrack music was composed by The Sandals | Photo: Bruce Brown

Bruce Brown's 1964 film "The Endless Summer" is the marquee example of a film made for surfers that went on to have phenomenal crossover success when distributed nationally in 1966.

The premise of the film is simple: two surfers travel around the world following summer in search of waves (never mind that the best waves are always in the other three seasons).

Part documentary travelogue, part quest for the perfect wave, part buddy film, it is peppered with comedic moments and is carried along by Brown's trademark wry narrative and, of course, a fine musical soundtrack.

Brown made his first film in 1958 before surfing had gained mainstream popularity.

When he was making "The Endless Summer," his sixth film, surfing was firmly established in popular culture, including boasting its own popular music - the named genre surf music.

In the previous chapter of my book "Surfing About Music," I showed that by 1965, the widespread popularity of surf music had passed, but Brown was making "The Endless Summer" from 1962 through 1964, a period when surf music was still in its heyday.

Bruce Brown: the director chose a surf band to create the soundtrack for his film that played with the genre, not to it | Photo: Creative Commons

Bruce Brown Did Not Seek The Sandals

In an interview, I asked Brown why he had not asked The Beach Boys or Dick Dale to create the soundtrack for his new film.

His response was manifold: surfers tended not to like surf music at that time (though he likes The Beach Boys now); The Beach Boys sang songs, and he did not use music with lyrics in his films because he thought the text would interfere with his narration; and cost - he could not afford The Beach Boys and probably not Dick Dale.

Instead of engaging an established band that would have brought attention to the film, he used for the soundtrack a then-unknown, unrecorded band called The Sandals.

Brown did not seek out The Sandals.

The band of young men (most of them still in high school at the time) boldly approached Brown and proposed creating the music for his new film.

As Brown recently said when recalling that moment: "I went 'Yeah, fine,' thinking this is going to be a joke. God, they came back a couple of weeks later and played the theme, and I went, 'Jesus, that's terrific.'"

Brown was clearly taken with their whimsical, understated music that combined acoustic and electric guitars with a melodica (a small mouth-blown keyboard reed instrument).

He scheduled time for the band in the studios of World Pacific Records in Hollywood, where they performed and recorded ten of their own compositions for the film, as well as covers of "Jet Black" by Jet Harris and "Driftin'" by Hank Marvin.

Both Harris and Marvin were members of the British band The Shadows.

The soundtrack includes these recordings made by The Sandals, plus arrangements of their compositions for a small studio ensemble of professional musicians, including brass, woodwinds, and strings.

The Endless Summer: a publicity photo promoting Bruce Brown's 1966 surf movie masterpiece | Photo: Creative Commons

Not Exactly Surf Music

The Sandals called themselves a surf band.

In many ways, they fit comfortably within the surf music genre - an instrumental guitar-led rock band.

Many of the pieces they performed for "The Endless Summer" fall squarely into the instrumental surf music style: electric guitar lead and twelve-bar blues.

An example is their piece "Out Front," set to the very first footage of actual surfing in the movie.

Yet the music most identified with the film is the theme tune, played for the opening sunrise sequence and credits and at various other times throughout the film (sometimes played by The Sandals and at other times arranged for different instruments and performed by the studio ensemble).

This composition, called "Theme from The Endless Summer," is what originally captured Brown's imagination and got The Sandals their greatest career gig.

As played by The Sandals, the theme includes a mix of acoustic guitar (Walter Georis), melodica (Gaston Georis), electric guitar (John Blakeley), electric bass (John Gibson), and drums (Danny Brawner).

This mix of instruments creates an ensemble timbre that is uncharacteristic in the surf music genre.

In addition, the formal structure of the theme song and of two other compositions used in the film - "Wild as the Sea," heard during the Raglan, New Zealand, scenes, and "Lonely Road," used for several travel sequences - also distinguishes this soundtrack from the surf music genre.

For example, both "Theme from the Endless Summer" and "Lonely Road" feature harmonically ambiguous guitar ostinatos (repeated patterns) that alternate between two major chords one step removed.

Both have slow, sustained-note melodies, repeated without variation - not the virtuosic riffs favored by many surf music guitarists - with a bridge beginning on the chord that is the logical resolution of their respective two-chord ostinatos, and both end back in the harmonically ambiguous area of those two-chord ostinatos.

These slow, introspective compositions, blending acoustic and electric instruments, were not the usual fare for the surf music genre of the time.

And though the other compositions by The Sandals for this movie do fall squarely within the formal standards of surf music (primarily twelve-bar blues, though The Sandals tended to favor eight-bar blues), their style never achieves the sonic power of most surf bands of the era.

Thus, while Dick Dale had only recently been blowing up prototype Fender amplifiers as he attempted to capture the power of surfing with his guitar, Brown selected a much mellower and subtler version of surf music for his greatest film.

To my ear, the original Endless Summer recordings by The Sandals reference the surf music genre but do not represent it.

Making "The Endless Summer" a Timeless Movie

The choice of The Sandals was shrewd on Bruce Brown's part, and their music contributes to the longevity of the film.

Though in 1964 Brown could have emphasized the music that was then as now internationally associated with surfing as an obvious soundtrack for his film, he instead touched the genre lightly.

It was a fortuitous decision since surf music was received with some ambivalence, especially, as I showed in Chapter 2 of my book "Surfing About Music," among individuals who self-identified as surfers before surf music existed as a popular genre.

Yet, at the same time, for the wider, non-surfing audience who Brown hoped would also buy tickets for this film, surf music was a sonic index for surfing.

So Brown chose a surf band to create the soundtrack for his film, but he chose one that played with the genre, not to it.

He seems to have gotten something right.

After its initial release in 1964, primarily for his established fan base of surfers, the film was released to critical acclaim a second time in 1966 across the country and abroad, and it remains surfing's movie masterpiece today.

Words by Timothy J. Cooley | Professor, Ethnomusicologist, and Author of the book "Surfing About Music"
My long journey to develop an open-world surfing video game

My long journey to develop an open-world surfing video game

05/06/2024, International, Surfing, World Surf League, Article # 31800694

Surfers Code: the adventure surfing video game developed by Ed Marx

I'm now making a surfing video game called "Surfers Code," but I probably shouldn't be.

I'm 57 years old and have surfed since I started high school at Newbury Park in Southern California near Ventura.

I didn't know that my dad didn't know how to swim when I started surfing, or maybe I would have been encouraged to start surfing when I was younger.

My mom took us down to Ventura Harbor as kids, where we would boogie board until we turned purple, but then we discovered wetsuits, got some old surfboards, and found out how much more fun standing up was.

Since then, I have been obsessed with surfing as much as I am now obsessed with this crazy video game.

I was not so much into video games, but I played some games on consoles when I moved to San Diego during and after college.

After several trips to live and work in Kenya, El Salvador, and Guatemala, I eventually ended up living and working in Taiwan.

Everyone there had a cell phone way before it was popular to have cell phones in the US, so I started looking into making a cell phone game for Taiwanese to learn English.

I moved back to California, so I scrapped the learning English idea, looked into other possibilities, and decided on a surfing game.

Ed Marx: the 57-year-old surfer once made a cell phone game for Taiwanese to learn English | Photo: Marx Archive

Where to Start

There weren't any very good recent surfing games.

I had the background and experience to make a surfing game that appealed to surfers, so I decided to make a tropical chill surfing game modeled after the tropical environments where I lived and surfed.

I soon learned that some limiting technical issues are involved in developing a surfing game, making it more difficult than most other games.

For one thing, making waves requires a lot of processing power or massive shortcuts and oversimplifications to achieve a variety of waves and allow interaction with the surfer.

The shortcuts I came up with made the interaction with the waves horrible and did not provide a realistic or even reasonable experience that simulated surfing.

I scrapped the mobile idea since even making waves for a decent desktop computer was pretty technically difficult, and I tried a few ways of making waves.

I tried rigging a wave like a character would be set up in a way where moving the underlying bones makes the surface of the wave move.

I tried moving the points of a plane to predetermined locations the same way that character faces are moved, but not until I tried moving the vertices in 3D using an equation did something variable and performant emerge.

I guess an engineering degree can come in handy in some situations.

I found a pulse wave equation and how to apply the equation to the vertices of a mesh over time.

With the help of Math Labs, I came up with an equation that could be used to make waves that vary in steepness and side speed, vary the size of the shoulder of the wave, and control the wave's shape.

Performance was pretty good, but it was still the main limit to a surfing game.

In the future, as computing power increases and more performant ways of processing are developed, I believe a wave made by particles that can interact will be created.

This is when you will see the kind of crazy, realistic surfing game everyone expects on a level comparable to today's graphics in AAA games.

However, until the performance and processing power to implement true water simulation are reached, it is just a "pipe dream."

That's a pun.

The next step was to make the water look good.

Surfers Code: a physics-based PC game featuring several surf breaks

The Classic Challenge of Digitally Making Waves

It is really difficult to make water look good.

Water is avoided in many games, so aesthetics such as reflection, refraction, texture, and a host of subtle details don't have to be dealt with.

For a surfing game, it's unavoidable.

After struggling with a few attempts at making it myself, I found that the experts who specialize in making water look good do a much better job than me and can make them perform better, too.

I purchased URP Water from Yan Verde, which I was able to tweak and customize for the waves and the ocean.

Many games can use past games as a model or template for their current game, but surfing games are far and few between, so the surfing mechanic, the actual movement and control of the surfing, had to be created from scratch.

It was surprisingly enjoyable developing the controller for the surfer and making it work to resemble a realistic surfing simulation.

Tweaking the movement for different boards and player mass was less fun because of the amount of time needed to fine-tune it, but seeing it come together, especially when the tailslide and stall mechanics were added, made the many iterations seem worth it because of how authentic and true to surfing the movements became.

Now, with waves developed and surfers riding them along with all the little details like foam and how the wave would develop before breaking, it was basically completed.

It was time to make a game.

The Surf Gaming Experience

The surfing part is the core of the experience and obviously plays the main role of the game, but a game with just surfing can get stale pretty quickly, so I knew it would need some spicing up to turn it into a game that would appeal to an audience beyond hardcore surfers.

So I wanted the ability to go on land and explore and do some other activities besides surfing.

A jet ski was added to make it possible to search for waves and get around quickly to try different breaks in an open world.

This developed into a type of theme where the game could be built around the search for waves, and so it was turned into a full-on adventure game where you surf, take boats to different breaks, have contests, get new boards, and get a jet ski to travel further and explore more islands.

But even beyond that, it has developed into even more.

When the dialogue was extended, and more characters were added around the islands, it allowed for some really fun conversations to take place, and surfing lore could be introduced, as well as stories and adventures all around the islands.

With stories and adventures, the game can now have more depth with characters to explain each break, talk about boards and performance, teach and explain how to surf, and become a platform for all surf-related subjects along with humor, quirky characters, fun conversations, and mysteries to unravel such as what is "Surfers Code."

The game environment is based on surf trips in tropical locations such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and El Salvador - any tropical warm water destination with a chill environment.

The breaks are not based on any real-life breaks. However, all types of breaks are represented.

There are rights and lefts, mushy waves and barreling waves, and big waves and long waves, but I took out the small waves - they were too boring.

The breaks can represent point breaks, beach breaks, or reef breaks like Rincon, Pipe, or Hosseger.

Still, they are not specific, mainly because there are so many breaks and conditions that could be copied that no one would be happy with the results and variations if specific surf spots were represented.

The breaks are scattered throughout the islands and can be discovered by land, boat, or mainly by jet ski, and each break has its own character.

You may encounter sharks, a mysterious temple, a locked lighthouse, or angry locals, all to discover as part of your adventure.

Surfers Code: players can select several characters in the game

The Adventure Factor

Instead of making the game like the past surf games, this game is an open world, and you are a surf traveler visiting the islands to surf.

It is an adventure game where you interact with quirky characters to get information about breaks and boards and to learn how to surf.

Find a key to activate the waves at the lighthouse, or go to the temple and unravel the secret stories of the islands.

Read the journals of the surfers that came before, or just go surfing.

If you don't get surfing right away, which non-surfers often do not, then go to the surf school and do the tutorial to understand the sport.

On the main islands, you will find crowded breaks with angry locals and helpful islanders who will explain to you how to get a jet ski and map so you can find uncrowded and better breaks on nearby islands.

The secrets of the islands unravel as you chat with visitors and find more breaks.

Come for the surfing and stay for adventure, or come for the adventure and stay for the surfing.

The surfing is easy to do but hard to do well.

A controller is currently required.

You have to actually paddle around and catch the waves. There is less hand-holding than most surf games.

The surfing is physics-based and can be simple because you can ride a wave by only paddling, getting up, and turning with the stick.

Physics-based means the surfing motion acts like surfing in real life.

For example, when you go down the wave, you speed up; when you go up the wave, you slow down.

You control your speed on the wave the way you would in real-life surfing.

There are buttons for stalling, turning, and tail sliding, but more important is how you ride and use the wave to turn, get speed, and position for a snap off the top, a tube ride, or air.

You are free to draw different lines on the wave and surf it how you want.

While the game was in development, I was able to take my laptop down to the Chapter 11 TV surf shop in Ventura and demo it with Dane Reynolds and some of the guys in the shop playing it.

They quickly adapted to it and were able to surf well.

But getting non-surfers to understand surfing has been challenging.

Aiming for a Realistic Simulation

There is a scoring system and leaderboards to encourage good surfing, but it is less geared toward contest surfing and more toward realistic simulation.

For example, you have to pump for speed, recognize a steep part of the wave, and launch while holding B to pull off an air.

Not easy.

Pull in for a tube ride, come out and do a big air, do a couple of schwacks to the lip, maybe a cutback too, and you are on your way to a Perfect 10 wave score.

Get a jet ski, find other breaks, and try different waves and boards.

Different boards work better on different waves.

There is a fast, short twin-fin board, a realistic thruster, a big wave gun, and a couple of standard three-fin fun boards scattered throughout the islands for you to find and complete your quiver.

Mix different boards with different players, and you will have a variety of combinations to try.

There are five players to play, and each varies in their surfing skills.

A free re-playable demo is now available on Steam for PCs with a controller.

"Surfers Code" will be showcased in the Steam Next Fest, and I'll be streaming live on June 10, 2024, at 1 pm (PST) and June 11 at 10 am.

The planned release date is the end of July.

Get a Steam account, add it to your wishlist, download the demo, and give it a try.

Words by Ed Marx | Surfer and Developer of "Surfers Code"
How to ride a wave on a Laser sailboat without capsizing

How to ride a wave on a Laser sailboat without capsizing

05/06/2024, International, Surfing, World Surf League, Article # 31797337

There are many ways to ride a wave using surprisingly more surf craft than one could imagine. But can the Laser Olympic sailboat do it?

We've seen people taking on swells with the most unusual and unexpected types of wave-riding vehicles: doors, tables, wooden planks, ice sheets, ironing boards, and even televisions.

However, catching waves with sailboats is a different league.

Sailing boats are heavy and harder to steer and control than a standard surfboard. Obviously, right?

It depends.

The World's Most Popular One-Design Sailboat

Take the famous single-handed, one-design Laser, also known as the ILCA dinghy.

The boat weighs approximately 59 kilograms (130 pounds). The hull is 4.23 meters (13.875 feet) in length, with a beam (width) of 1.42 meters (4.658 feet).

It is equipped with a daggerboard and a kick-up rudder, allowing for efficient sailing in various wind conditions.

The standard rig has a sail area of approximately 7.06 square meters (76 square feet).

While sailing the Laser, there are a lot of things to do simultaneously.

The Laser sailboat was designed in 1969 by Canadian Bruce Kirby and American industrial designer Ian Bruce.

Initially conceived as a simple boat that could be carried on a car roof, it quickly became popular due to its straightforward design, affordability, and ease of use.

The prototype, initially called the "Weekender," was later renamed the "Laser," reflecting its sleek and fast design.

The International Laser Class Association (ILCA) gained significant recognition when it was selected as an Olympic class in 1996, further solidifying its status in competitive sailing.

The Laser is one of the most popular single-handed dinghies in the world, with over 215,000 boats built.

It has active fleets in many countries and is sailed by people of all ages.

Laser Surfing

One thing is riding a Laser sailboat in unbroken swells in an open ocean.

Another thing is taking this dinghy along with the mast and sail into near-shore surf breaks in six-foot conditions and share the lineup with shortboard surfers.

Two Olympic ILCA sailors have done it with impressive results.

One of them is Aruban Laser specialist, who published a compilation of his wave-riding skills at Scheveningen, Netherlands, and Islote the Lobos, Canary Islands.

It's impressive how this Olympic sailor manages to keep his boat on an optimal surf line without capsizing or digging the bow underwater.

Then, there's the infamous video featuring Brazilian sailor Mateus Tavares taking on overhead waves at Farol da Barra near Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.

Tavares casually sails over incoming swells before turning around and dropping into the critical section, where the wave crests start to crumble.

Imagine a point break for dinghies. And now, imagine filling a sail with wind instead of arm power to propel you into a wave.

It takes skills and a lot of confidence.

Words by Luís MP | Founder of
Surfing the Zambezi River wave in Zimbabwe

Surfing the Zambezi River wave in Zimbabwe

03/06/2024, International, Surfing, World Surf League, Article # 31795923

Zambezi River, Zimbabwe: a landlocked country with a barreling river wave | Photo: Bradford Archive

Zimbabwe might be a landlocked country, but there's actually a very good wave for surfing here.

My name is Sam Bradford. I was born in Harare, Zimbabwe.

I work half a year as a rope-access wind turbine blade technician in the UK and spend the other half raft-guiding and kayaking in Zimbabwe.

I started practicing water sports in the Zambezi River when I was really young.

My early years were spent in Victoria Falls during the pioneering days of white-water rafting, kayaking, and other adrenaline-filled activities.

My dad taught me to kayak at the age of 11, as he used to be a raft guide and kayaker in his day. I have always been obsessed with the Zambezi River.

That was when I experienced my first nerve-wracking roll in the Zambezi, earning the nickname "Sambezi."

Victoria Falls: one of the world's largest waterfalls | Photo: Bradford Archive

A River Wave in a Landlocked Country

Surfing in the Zambezi River is not popular at all. There are only two other guys that surf every now and then.

Most times, I'm the only one out there. A few people have come to surf Rapid #11, but only sometimes.

Most of my friends have regular jobs, so they're only free to surf on the weekends.

It also depends a lot on water levels, as the two waves available work at different times of the year.

Interestingly, I have only surfed in the ocean a handful of times.

I also wakeboard and snowboard so I managed to pick up surfing quite quickly. But I've been mainly river surfing.

The Zambezi River wave is very unique.

There are two waves that you can surf on the Zambezi: Rapid #2 and Rapid #11.

Sam Bradford: the most experienced surfer at Zambezi's River Rapid #11 and #2 | Photo: Bradford

Rapid #11: The Crown Jewel

Rapid #2 is a pretty small wave that works only in low water from August to December.

Rapid #11 is the curling wave, which is much more intense and is located in Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls National Park.

It works in high water for a week in February when the water rises and a week in August when it drops.

But it depends - every year is different.

It requires a big paddle to enter, and it's obviously a superpowerful wave with very strong currents and whirlpools afterward.

Getting back to the side can also be very difficult. The board often gets ripped from under you when paddling through the currents. 

It's a really hard river wave.

The river's flow and power are intense, and the whirlpools and knowing there are crocodiles make it challenging.

That's why it is better not to think too much about it.

I seem to effortlessly get in the wave and manage the powerful stream because I grew up kayaking the Zambezi and am very comfortable above and underwater.

I know the river like the back of my hand.

Nevertheless, I have had some pretty intense downtime on a board. Nothing too serious, though.

While kayaking, on the other hand, I have had some pretty close calls.

Competitive Surfing in the Zambezi River

For instance, in 2022, I got sucked under for 45 seconds, snapped the paddle, and the helmet got ripped off and popped up 40 meters downstream.

I have a few plans for the future.

I just received my kayaking and surfing license for my business, so I can now run commercial trips in the Zambezi.

I also plan to organize a surfing competition on the famous Rapid #11 wave starting in February 2025.

My job often keeps me suspended on ropes, working on wind turbine blades high above the ground.

It has taken me around the world, offshore, and to stunning rivers to kayak.

However, Africa remains in my heart, and I am always drawn back to the Zambezi, home of Zimbabwe river surfing.

Words by Sam Bradford | River surfer, kayaker, and wind turbine blade technician