Friday, the first surf park in North America opened in Del Valle. The park may have just opened, but sessions on the reef waves, which are for more experienced surfers, are already sold out until Tuesday.
“The first wave you catch you'll remember for the rest of your life,” said surfer Ryan Orenstein.
For people in Austin, the first wave they catch could be in landlocked Central Texas.
“It is a real wave. There's nothing artificial about the experience,” said Chris Jones, head of media at NLand Surf Park.
Surfers ages eight to 80 are riding the breakers formed by a machine that can only be described as an underwater snow plow.
As we found out for ourselves, it's a little easier to paddle into the waves at NLand than it is in an ocean, but once the wave is under your board, you won't notice any difference.
“I thought it was going to be weird like you're surfing in place or something like that, but it's not. The wedge moves out, it's a real wave, it's a very real wave, it's not like one of those jets that shoot up a wall or something like that. It's the real deal,” Orenstein said.
The 14-acre lagoon is filled with 11 million gallons of rainwater.
“Our lagoon is 100 percent sustainable from the rainwater that is captured on the property. It's bio-filtered in a wet pond and then moved to a reservoir and from the reservoir it's moved to a filtration system where it goes through ozone, chlorine, so it's very clean, safe water and it's great for a state that has drought conditions a lot of times,” said Jones.
Surfers can choose from three different sized waves. Everything from whitewater waves for beginners to reef waves for those with more experience, but it's not exactly cheap. It costs $60 for a 60 minute session on a beginner or intermediate wave, $90 to ride reef waves.
“It’s expensive, but I mean can you put a price on bliss?” Orenstein asked.
Although the park was supposed to open in April, a disagreement with Travis County lawmakers over how the park would be regulated caused a months-long delay.
“We reached an agreement with the County that is going to allow this to move forward,” Jones said.
A couple weeks ago, NLand announced the time had finally come when surfers would get the chance to stand up on a board without having to travel to an ocean.
“I almost lost my mind. I had to pull over and breathe for a little bit cause I was just so excited about getting here,” Orenstein said.
“To have this here in Austin, Texas is really a dream come true for a lot of surfers,” said Jones.
Those ready to hit the surf will want to book a session on NLand’s website first. It’s best to get there an hour early to sign a waiver and watch the orientation video before picking out a board and getting on the water.
NLand Surf Park is located on Highway 71 just east of SH 130. NLand is open Tuesday through Sunday 11-8pm and Monday 2-7pm.