Gossip Girl: The Palm Springs Surf Club Will Be A (Dangerously Debaucherous) High Performance Desert Oasis
A sneaky visit to the PSSC's proof of concept funhouse wave lab with Ian Crane, Eithan Osborne, Parker Coffin and the Snapt 4 crew.
There are some phone calls you know, even before you pick up, that you'll be glad you did.
I had just toweled off after groveling two-foot Venice Breakwater. It was the best it had been since the surfing ban was lifted, but still more an excuse to grab Morgan Williamson (Stab's former Gatekeeper and Senior Editor) and get out of the fucking office than an actual, like, surf.
Damp and disappointed, my phone lit up from Snapt 4 ringleader Logan Dulien, who it turned out had been spending the better part of his quarantine in Palm Springs. He'd been hanging with Cheyne Magnusson and Kalani Robb at the Palm Springs Surf Club, as Cheyne took the downtime in construction to play with the new wave tech before they began hosting investors at the pool again.
We'd been out to PSSC once before, shooting with Cheyne for a documentary on Stab High for ESPN and World of X-Games, but the day before our first visit they'd been visited by local authorities enforcing COVID-19 restrictions, and told to shut the thing down for the time being. So we never actually got to see a wave.
Logan wanted to know if I had plans Friday afternoon, and assured us the new wave Cheyne had designed was sick, and sent as proof a handy little layback of his own on the little novelty wedge Cheyne had whipped up.
Logan had snuck Eithan Osborne, Ian Crane, and Parker Coffin out the week prior, and they'd be meeting us out there, too.
"You're gonna be so pumped when we get there hahahahahaha," Eithan texted me while driving. "It’s like Waco for the first time! Place is so rad looking and the wave is sick. The Slab will make u lose your shit. Get ready to watch [Eithan's brother] Liam get launched on a slab hahahahha."
Welcome to Paradise.
Leaving the LA office at 11:30, Morgan and I rolled up to what was once the iconic Wet and Wild no more than two hours later, the sun ruthless in the afternoon sky, bright blue against the location's topographical amphitheater, smack in the middle of the San Bernardino Mountains to the north and east, the Santa Rosa Mountains to the south, the San Jacinto Mountains to the west.
We arrived just in time to see Eithan sticking a varial, as Kalani Robb, Cheyne, and Monster's Tim English offered full-throated hoots, and watched as Logan took off on the fourth wave of the five-wave set, pumped twice and leaned into what everyone agreed was a textbook Kyle Garson circa-2003 drop-wallet.
For the next three hours we all swapped in and out of sessions, while Cheyne manned the sticks with a focus and attention to detail beyond the capacity of anyone else present. After cutting his pneumatic teeth on the American Wave Machines tech at Waco, the Palm Springs Surf Clubs test pool is Cheyne's first crack at actually getting his hands on the SurfLoch's levers. He likened it to a guitarist being given a piano. Watching Cheyne tune up the right wedge he'd been working on with the Snapt4 crew that week was a radical education on pneumatic's true genius when it comes to wave-making, and the sensitivity and flexibility in wave engineering the SurfLoch tech allows.
Eithan acid dropping.
Eithan testing one of the mini-slabs.
In a full-scale pool with proper bathymetry, and a handful of more blowers pushing on either end, there's no doubt in my mind the Palm Springs Surf Club will have one of the most dynamic waves on the planet, and realize Kalani's unique, contrarian vision for the place.
"Kelly wanted to make his perfect wave, and he did it," Kalani told me. "He wanted that perfect Kirra point break, over and over. And he did that. It's amazing. But when I saw the possibility around the pneumatics, I thought—what would my dream wave be? And it's the Wedge. I want The Wedge. That's the most fun wave in the world to me and all my friends. It's exciting and gnarly and fun. It's entertaining."
Liam Osborne, dead at 15.
We watched as Cheyne sent Eithan's little brother, Liam, on The Slab—one of exactly the types of waves Kalani was just describing, a mutant, over-wedged double-up right, that pitched Liam ass over tea kettle in a legitimately concerning way.
While it was presumed that the COVID-19 pandemic would dramatically delay development of the park, the steady flow of interested investors hasn't slowed (when we visited, Paul Fisher's team was window shopping). There's plans for a Mid Century Modern hotel, as well as a restoration of some of the original park's iconic features. While Cheyne and Kalani weren't allowed to comment, we've heard from within Coachella that they've been in conversations with the boys about partnering on events as soon as the ribbon's cut.
The High Five Wall.
Of course, you can imagine Stab's thrilled at the possibility of a new venue for Stab High, which was the smokescreen for Logan slipping me and Morgs in the back gate.
"It's like when you were a kid and the kid down the street was building a half pipe, but it wasn't finished because you couldn't afford all the wood yet," Cheyne told me as the sun fell below the San Bernardino Mountains. "But you got invited to come and shred it half-built anyway." Meanwhile, Kalani conducted a small crew on the ledge above the pool, bathed in late afternoon Golden Hour light, a spliff hanging from just below his Central Casting moustache and Stetson. What a specimen of a man.
Palm Springs is fucking beautiful. I can't wait for this place to fucking open. As if a girl needed another reason to go get day drunk in the California desert...
As happy as I am to get secret sessions out here in the test pool for as long as they'd tolerate my backpaddling, the moment the boys lock in the money they need to finish the construction, the whole thing's getting torn up in a hurry, and rebuilt hopefully just as fast.
If things go as planned, there's a good chance we'll be inviting you to join us in the desert for what we'll promise you right now will be the biggest party surfing's ever seen in the next 16-months.