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Is Queensland Getting A Surf Ranch?

With wave pool news becoming just another inbox notification, it’s hard to believe the next synthetic headline.

Today, there are exponentially more wave pool projects struggling to break ground, be filled, and/or produce x-amount of waves-per-hour, than actual working pools with ridable waves. Which leaves the skeptic to wonder, is our wave pool utopian future a sham? Or is the next big wave pool coming to a town near you?

In 2015, The Surf Ranch became the first wave pool to send a seismic shock through surfing’s system. It had a tube, it broke for nearly a minute, and it was planted somewhere on the sweaty, dusty backside of California’s Central Valley knee cap: Lemoore.

The prototype that’s played host to three professional surfing events is the WSL’s favorite bargaining chip. The WSL hasn't stopped attempts at pushing Kelly Slater Wave Co. (KSWC) tech far and wide since WSL Holdings (the parent company of the World Surf League) acquired a majority stake in the company.

When Paul Speaker resigned from his role as WSL CEO in 2017 he stated, "The Kelly Slater Wave Company offers a tremendous and unprecedented opportunity for the League to dramatically shift the landscape of high-performance surfing around the world with guaranteed conditions, total fairness for the competitors, greatly enhanced live viewing, and major television coverage at a scheduled time. Our sport's inclusion in the 2020 Olympics is a testament to the continuing rise of surfing as a global participatory and spectator sport, and will allow WSL athletes to represent and compete for their countries for the first time ever on arguably the greatest sporting stage in the world."

Two years later, Olympic surfing will be held in the ocean, and the Surf Ranch is rumored to be on the butcher's block for the 2020 schedule. All that shimmers will turn to rust, but what remains is an undeniably exceptional technology. The goal is to get another Surf Ranch not only running but available for public consumption.

The announcement of plans for a Surf Ranch berth in Queensland can't help but sound same-same. In 2017, The WSL announced their Palm Beach, Florida residency for the pond. And at the time, it seemed this Wave Pool fantasy would turn to reality. The plans were almost immediately met with backlash, with many fearing the foundation of the pool would break and the contents (water) would disperse into the surrounding area, creating more wetlands for Florida. This is what shut down NLand Austin, a facility that KSWC purchased at the start of this year with intentions of Surf Ranch development.

Where it all began.

When the proposed Surf Ranch Florida (an 80 acre $6.5mil purchase) was greenlit by the county commissioner’s office, it was slated to include, “a 13.9-acre surf lagoon area and a total of 71,306 square feet of buildings such as the Surf House Clubhouse, a learning center, board room and training center.”

The WSL claimed it'd bring in upwards of 83k visitors a year and in turn, produce more jobs, pumping money into the local economy.

Four months back the WSL announced they were, "disappointed to confirm our decision to cancel the development of the wave basin planned for West Palm Beach, Florida. The nature of this site, including the extremely high water table, exposed unforeseen challenges that made the decision around this unique project clear. These projects are complex and in many ways without precedent, and we have learned important lessons in this process.”

The Surf Ranch Florida was dead in the marsh.

Now, it appears the Queensland location is attempting to do what the Surf Ranch Floria proposed but on a broader scale. The Surf Ranch QLD is set to feature a luxury eco-lodge, event and training facility, tourism accommodations, public open space, and an environmental experience center.

"Australia is a core market for the WSL, and we view the Sunshine Coast as a natural home for a Surf Ranch, given its culture, history, and roots within surfing as well as its pristine beaches and commitment to environmental sustainability,” said WSL and WSL Wave Co Asia Pacific General Manager, Andrew Stark.

The Surf Ranch on the Sunshine Coast will also offer programs that take the ersatz enthusiast into the broader, very wave-rich, area. Unsurprisingly, The WSL is presenting this project's "sustainability" through green-tinted lenses.

"Given the WSL’s demonstrated focus and commitment to sustainability across the globe, we want to ensure we and our partners strike the right balance between economic development and sustainable growth for the Coast,” said Stark. “For us, that means creating a green environment for the community, delivering high-value eco-tourism and attracting more visitors to the region. These are all key drivers for the Sunshine Coast and also inherent in the way we operate Surf Ranch.”

"We love that [the Sunshine Coast] is very environmentally conscious, so are we, and it fits with the Surf Ranch philosophy,” he continued.

According to an article in Australian Surf Business Magazine, Tourism Industry Development Minister Kate Jones said today’s announcement is a win for the tourism industry on the Sunshine Coast. “Having seen this experience first-hand, I can say without doubt that this will be a major drawcard for thousands of people around the world,” she said.

“We know surfers are always on the lookout for a consistent break – this wave delivers the perfect barrel every time,” continued Jones. “The Sunshine Coast is one of our key growth destinations for international and domestic tourists. An attraction like this would give tourists a whole new reason to visit this region, supporting local jobs and local businesses.”

While the initial press release and reaction appear to be sugar and strawberries, the reality of the Surf Ranch coming to the Sunny Coast should be viewed with full knowledge of similar projects' failure to materialize. 

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