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Australia has another wave pool approved for construction, this time by the Hills Shire Council to be built in Wisemans Ferry on the Hawkesbury River.
We know it’s difficult to get excited about these things until you see waves breaking, but we’ve done some digging, and with the first commercial contract with Surfloch, Wisemans Surf Lodge could be unlike anything we’ve seen in the wave pool space race so far.
There are numerous intriguing things about Wisemans Surf Lodge. Firstly, its position. It’s only 60 minutes from North Sydney, 45 from Palm Beach by boat if you reside on the northern beaches and 60 mins from Avoca on the Central Coast. Wisemans will be operating as a member-only, resort/club. There’s a 9 hole golf course too, and a restaurant, but they’ll be open to the public.
Unlike other wave pools, that have the tendency to feel like they’ve been dropped in the middle of nowhere, Wisemans Surf Lodge is utilising structures that are already there (apart from building a pool the size of four football fields). A 45-acre hotel called “The Retreat as Wisemans” – that was built in the early 90s and previously owned by a Chinese hotel group who acquired it in 2016 for reportedly just shy of $10 million – is the site. The hotel’s getting a re-design by Sydney architect Kelvin Ho (think Merivale’s best spatial offerings), who’s been charged with revamping the resort, transforming the rooms into elegant pool-side suites, and the restaurant and clubhouse into modern spaces complete with bars, a gym, co-working spaces and everything else you’d expect from modern luxury hang-outs.
Wisemans Ferry (traditionally Dharug land) is a picturesque town of 200-odd inhabitants on a pronounced bend in the Hawksbury River, and surfing beneath the surrounding esplanade, among the gums and on the edge of the river itself is sure to be an otherworldly experience. The wave itself is definitely the core interest for surfers, with Wisemans set to utilise Tom Lochtefeld’s Surfloch technology. The first pool in Australia to do so. You’ve seen the newest Surfloch tech on display at the Palm Springs Surf Club, but only at a fraction of its capacity, as it’s a test facility for the technology. It’s a pneumatic system, and talking specifics, Palm Springs has eight caissons (the energy chambers that give the wave grunt) and Wisemans will have 28. Moreover, rather than being a tricky wedge fired at a wall, it’s going to be a long A-frame, peeling from the middle of the pool and running into channels on either side. So no taking off with your rail scraping the concrete.
The Wisemans Surf Lodge camp claims to be able to create waves up to two and a half metres of various shapes on different settings. The main peak will break out the back of the pool, potentially offering surfers a tube on takeoff, and then a wall that runs for up to 12 seconds in either direction. Then, there’s a reform section, where the same wave offers gentler peelers on the inside for less accomplished surfers. Wisemans is setting itself against the theme park, bums on seats (or boards) model and has cranked the interval between waves up to 17 seconds, meaning less chance of stragglers in your path. Furthermore, Wisemans is uniquely immune to wind, being naturally sheltered by various cliffs and ridges.
Following the Wisemans Surf Lodge money leads to BALNCE, the conglomerate set to build this aquatic daydream. BALNCE describes itself as a “placemaking company with a multi-disciplinary team across finance, property development, technology and marketing.” “Placemaking” being described as an “evolving field of development practice that leverages culture to serve a community’s shared interests with the intention of creating spaces that promote health and culture.” Notable characters involved in BALNCE are 4 Pines co-founder Jaron Mitchell, and Balter co-founder Sean Ronan, who’ve both recently sold their business’ to Japanese-owned CUB (Carlton & United Breweries). BALNCE have also enlisted surfers Stephanie Gilmore, Josh Kerr, Joel Parkinson, Jack Freestone, Alana Blanchard, and Bede Durbidge as financial partners in the project.
Whether the news of members-only wave pool resort has you reaching for your black Amex (in which case you’ll have to wait) or rejoicing that your local carpark might be missing a few Range Rovers at the weekends in the future, Wisemans Surf Lodge is going to change things. Self-confessed champagne socialist as I am, I’m uneasy about surfing becoming “exclusive”. A beautifully-designed, member-only resort with a world-class, limited-attendee wavepool within striking distance of Australia’s most affluent city is a sure winner financially. I’m just not sure whether I’ll be allowed in.
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