Stab Magazine | Watch: Is URBNSURF Melbourne The Best Wave Pool In The World?
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Watch: Is URBNSURF Melbourne The Best Wave Pool In The World?

We sampled the tech with Parko, Ryan Callinan, Harry Bryant, Dion Agius, Jai Glindeman and more. 

cinema // Nov 14, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

We landed at Tullamarine (Melbourne) airport at 9:40 am. Collected our boards and hire car, and drove all of seven minutes to URBNSURF’s first pool, where we signed the necessary waivers and insurance documents.

It’s exactly 2.1 km as the crow flies from the domestic terminal to what we’d describe as a steeper but shorter Trestles (that occasionally barrels) with no crowds. 

The first waves were released at 10:45 am and did not stop until 4:00 pm—a real test of stamina.

Fast Facts

  • To drive: 7 minutes from the airport to URBNSURF Melbourne 
  • Uber: $11
  • 21.8 km to Crown Casino
  • 19.5 km to Chin Chin
  • 24 km to Rod Laver Arena
  • 114.2 km to Winkipop (if God’s work is still your thing over the machine)
  • Rubber requirements in winter: 3/2 steamer a necessity, and not ruling out 4/3. Come Jan when it’s trunks and a vest, this experience goes turbo

First thoughts  

The pool was way better than expected. This place is the real deal and so is Wavegarden’s Cove tech. This pool has got so much range. At the push of a button, it can spit out 18 different waves, with slight tweaks for offshore and onshore conditions, and you can surf both lefts and rights at the same time – that’s a big tick! 

And, the pool’s still in its ‘testing’ phase, so they’ve got more in the tank.

Consistency: 3 – 22 waves every 3 minutes 

It depends on the conditions, but URBNSURF can produce 3 wave sets, 10 wave sets, or just run the thing continuously at 8-second intervals for hours on end. As luck has it, we picked the worst day of weather since they’ve been producing waves. It was windy as fuck: 30 knots, shitty rain squalls, and you still couldn’t wipe the smiles off the surfers’ faces.

When we surfed, we were getting 3-8 wave sets per side (or 6-16 waves per set if you count right and left) every 2-3 minutes. That felt like heaps. 

Fatigue

Yes – the surfers were physically shot after four hours. In fact, most of these guys were cooked after two. It does expose fitness—of the legs, not the shoulders. Haz hit a wall, Dion was still figuring it out and wanted more. Jai doesn’t count ’cause he’s young. Ryan’s on tour, so the experience didn’t touch the sides as he’s in supreme nic, but the rest were feeling it.

Hierarchy in the line-up

This part was most fascinating. In the pool, people genuinely shared waves. There’s an order, but it’s not based on Darwinism, and everyone seems more polite and happier for it. This is all still new, but it did seem like this system reduced ego and that often-intimidating alpha male posturing that typically ranks the lineup. When you make this historically limited resource (waves) unlimited, surfers instantly become more palatable. 

Infrastructure

Build-wise, they are moving quickly. We counted 36 hard-hat-wearing tradies getting around, building the various components of the project (surf school, retail, hire store, restaurant, and bar, events areas). When the Three Blue Ducks start doing their thing in the shed, I’d suggest buying up property in Tullamarine. Those guys do not miss with their food, beverages, and service. With a full-time freakshow as the vista, this complex will create unique energy around surfing that Australia’s not seen (minus the schnitzel/tin combo when Snapper’s really showing off).

Sets (remember there are both lefts and rights breaking with every set, so all the numbers are x2) 

  • Air wave: 5 waves
  • The beast: 3-10 waves, depending on wind
  • The point: 6-10 waves

Point wave

It’s head high-ish, or to be exact, 2 meters tall right on the take-off. Whackable wall, three-to-four sections to hit, and plenty of poke.

The Beast (inside slab)

Parko, R Cal and Dion all said it’s comparable to an inside grower at Snapper. They could lay rail then sneak into the barrel which was much wider than imagined. There’s this longer slightly smaller tube as well, which is just beautiful on the eye. 

Talent

Jai Glinderman is the coolest little fuck going around. Youthful happiness, unaffected by the strains of adulthood or big city life, and just lives in the moment and it’s infectious. His style suited the wave the most – he’s got a hint of Parko, Rasta, and maybe a slither of Andy in him. Riding his favorite quad, Jai’s blessed with that ‘growing up on a point break’ distinction that you only really get when housed between Yamba and Noosa.

Both Josema (the Wavegarden inventor) and Rupert said that Ryan Callinan was perhaps the best surfer they’d seen in the pool. He’s aggressive, smooth and so physically tuned up he rarely fell nor was out of breath. His marriage to his equipment was unwavering – I think he only took out one board. Completely faithful. And confident.

Joel Parkinson has a strong and endearing energy. He’s a World Champ and directs traffic like one. On water, pure silk. Especially on The Beast, it was like watching a trained dancer move through their routine. That nonchalant take off, swooping arc into the deepest pits witnessed all day.   

Dion rolled in late with some wild looking boards under his arms—he really is the pool aficionado, dating back to his brilliant Electric Blue Heaven piece. As other surfers were packing down and ready to leave, Dion was in the background getting the pool dialed, hitting section after section until he had the foamy ramp sorted. Like anything, time in the water prevailed. 

Haz, as always, was Haz. Jovial, into it, and had a blast taking to the air. Note that big old straighty he landed was on a rather ugly section.

Staff

Are legitimately happy to be out there. They went from staring at a hole in the ground three years back to realising something that you’d draw on your pencil case as a kid. And they can ride it when the time’s right. They all paddled out at 3:45 pm sharp—decent gig.

Andrew Ross (URBNSURF Founder)

You gotta rate the perseverance. This project is riddled with risk and challenges, and I bet there were weeks (and months) where he would have wanted to crawl into a hole as big as the one he dug for the pool. Andrew was absolutely knackered on this day, after catching 1,000 waves in the past three weeks since it turned on. The fruits of his labour and this period of his life would be one of the sweetest you could taste, we’d imagine. He lives in Perth and has been building this park in Melbourne, and he’s right on the coal face—he knows every centimeter of that flooring. The stress on his family would be astronomical, not only because he’s not around all week, but anyone that’s done that trip a few times knows that it’s seriously draining.

Tall Poppy

Australians have this thing where they don’t like to see anyone achieve. It’s sometimes endearing but mostly it’s just fucking annoying because there shouldn’t be anything wrong with having a swing. And the URBNSURF team have had a mighty big swing. It has paid off, aesthetically anyways. The pool now needs to recover the spend (which I’m assuming they went overs as most builds do) and start spitting out some dollars.

Final Thoughts

After witnessing a day with average weather, I can’t see them losing from here. Without clarity on the pricing model, I’d suggest they can bank on 75%+ occupancy in year one. The variety of waves, proximity to the airport and access to one of the greatest cities for indulging in the world tells me they’ve cracked the code. I asked a few surfers what they’d pay for a day in the pool, and they couldn’t name a figure. You build it and they will come—and they should pay.

I wouldn’t spend a cent on marketing—it’s set. The long tail of the internet will eat this up. It’s built for weekends with friends, and I envisage corporates (bankers, brokers, tech co’s, insurance co’s) doing full days at the pool instead of the races. It’s funner, better for you, and really unique.

We really hope they succeed. They were kind enough to let our racket in and couldn’t have been more accommodating. One small but noteworthy power-move was employing locals and many West Australians. As a rule, sand-gropers are friendly and push a good vibe – this was evident from the maintenance guys to the people pressing the buttons. When you’re walking onto Mars, you wanna speak to someone that talks with a smile.

We’ll keep you updated on developments plus different waves that they’re pumping out, and most importantly when we can all get the CC’s out to book in the best weekend in your calendar year. If you’re based in Melbourne, they’ve just launched their first Foundation Memberships, get ‘em before they’re gone.

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