You Can Now Buy Into A Wavepool - Stab Mag
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You Can Now Buy Into A Wavepool

Crypto, real estate, robinhood? How about throwing down $AUD30k to become the (part-)owner of a wavepool?

Words by Stab

The world is awash with money, apparently. Amid the volatility of crypto and irrational valuations of big business, there’s something interesting now available for surfers: you can buy into a wavepool.

You’ll remember when we touched on the Soho House of wavepools last year, Wisemans Surf Lodge. A group called BALNCE landed their DA approval for the Sydney project with its SurfLoch tech, golf course, and resort on the banks of the Hawkesbury River. Well, there’s another twist in the story, one that might very well see you owning a slice.

Give us some numbers

The Wisemans site has gone live with the detail, but from what we can tell, the project is a property investment play to co-own the entire resort, with the minimum buy-in sitting at $AUD30k. Like shared ownership in a private ski lodge, you can invest in a property fund, which will own the pool, the hotel, the golf course, everything else on the 45-acre site. The pitch is you make an annual return on your money: a 6-7% cash distribution each year. While the return is nice and all, you’re not buying into a pool for your single-digit annual returns, you’re buying in so you can ride this thing as much as humanly possible. 

The membership model

Wisemans has a different commercial model to most pools. It operates on a member-based system like a Soho House. As an investor in the property, you’ll be given the offer of membership, which starts at an additional $3,600 per year. Like a golf club, your membership is access to the private facility, including sessions in the pool, nights in the hotel, and clubhouse access. The more you invest, the bigger your membership slice. Once the fund is full and the number of investors is set, so too are the number of membership positions. Remaining inventory or unallocated memberships (yes, you can invest and not surf) is used for corporate or private events, which will slide in between member surf time. To put it simply, if you’re not investing, there’s next to no chance of becoming a member. And if you’re not a member, chances are you won’t gonna get to surf the joint.

The Wisemans model may be polarising — the ocean’s waves are democratically for everyone, why aren’t these? — but it’s not a new story for surfing. Surfers have always wanted exclusivity of their waves. You won’t meet a surfer who says, “Yeah, I wish I could share this perfect peak with more people.” Privatization or regulation of surfer numbers is somewhat culturally ingrained. Tavarua. Pasta Point. Nihi Sumba. Macaronis. Latitude Zero. You could argue it’s at the core of localism, certainly for Spot X. But you can’t blow out something that’s gated, and there’s something inherently attractive for surfers in that. Brazil’s first Wavegaren, Praia da Grama in Fazenda is a private facility for residents. Kelly’s Ranch has gone the same way for its Silicon Valley market at $USD50k to $USD75k per day. And now Wisemans Surf Lodge has entered the chat. 

The site of the new pool, just 60 minutes from the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Photo: Chris Grundy

Trajectory of wave parks

In a lot of ways, wave technology has caught up to our expectations, none better than Evan Geiselman at Surf Stadium in Japan. And the question is now being asked: is this surfing’s ski resort moment? 

This notion was the key takeaway from the Surf Park Summit held late last month — an annual conference of chlorine cowboys in an arm’s race to have their Whistler moment. We now understand that big institutional money, pension funds, and global hoteliers are standing in the wings ready to dance with the right partners. Pools have proved their place as legitimate amenities to attract visitation. Visitation equals value, particularly for property owners. The Sun Belt in the US and warmer regions of Australia are the key battlegrounds. 

The buzz around wavepools first captured surfers’ attention because of the pedestrian perfection, but no one knew whether there was a sustainable business around it. The financial success of the Wavegarden tech at URBNsurf Melbourne is undeniably brilliant; it laid the path for more pools in Australia. The biggest upside to Melbourne and the upcoming pools around the world is that they’re being built close to where many surfers live — not, say, 160 clicks from the coast (Lemoore) or a flight to Texas.  

Could a surfer-owned pool actually happen?

Sydney surfers are wave-starved, and many earn decent money as city professionals, creative or digital agency leads, technology execs, or run their own trade businesses. Their homes have jumped 15% in value since last year, so they understand the value of property in the region. Thanks to COVID, many are sitting on disposable income from the boat trip they couldn’t take, and interest rates are next to zero. It’s a clever capital pool to tap and means the first wave pool resort in Australia could be surfer-owned. 

Apparently Dark Arts are the choice wavepool craft.

Should you invest in a wavepool?

It depends on where you are and what you value in life. If you’re outside of the Sydney region — or worse still, Australia — this might not be a great buy because you won’t receive the regular lifestyle benefits the resort affords.

Likewise, if this is a straight money play for you, Wisemans’ returns look to be about on par with the general stock market. But those are just projections, and this is technically an unproven model, so it’s more risk for the same potential reward.

If you’re into risk, crypto is probably a better space to throw your hard-earned. Chances are it will multiply in value over the next decade, or go to zero, but either way it will provide the rollercoaster ride you so desire with a potentially huge payoff on the other side.

If, however, you live nearby Sydney and see value in this concept beyond mere dollars and cents — as in, you see the future of surfing clearly heading in this direction and want to get in early (plus catch a few hundred artificial waves along the way) — this could be an incredible opportunity for you.

Ok, but what’s the wave like?

Ah, yes. The only question that really matters. Wisemans will utilize Surf Loch’s A-frame technology, which creates bi-directional waves that peel from the center of the pool (see the image at the top of the page for an artist’s rendition). Currently, there’s not a full-size version of this design built in the world, but the wave-generating tech is essentially the same one you’ve seen at Cheyne Magnusson and Kalani Robb’s Palm Springs Surf Resort. It’s a pneumatic system, which uses individual air chambers to pump out different “portions” in a unique sequence (Waco also uses this system). This makes the wave 100% customizable, meaning there are theoretically infinite possibilities.

A full wave should last for 10-12 seconds in both directions, and there will be a wave every 17 seconds. There will be sections for tubes, turns, and of course airs. The only question is: are you are going right or left?

And when your session’s done, you can head back to your room at the resort.

How much money are they chasing?

It’s not a small sum — $120M to be exact. It’s not as much as the $187M proposed to convert Surf Lakes’ Yeppoon site into a public tourist Mecca, or $300M planned for an Endless Surf project in tropical North Queensland, but it’s more than double the $50M for URBNSURF’s Homebush pool. It appears commercially there’s two schools of thought: turnstile theme parks at a lower cost, or long-term property plays with experience at the core. Wisemans is after the latter.

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