Ride the world’s largest artificial deep-water standing wave: CityWave USA
We tested the largest artificial stationary deepwater surf wave in the world. Here is how it went.
Over Washington’s Lake Chelan I walked through the gates of Lake Side Surf and heard the roar of the CityWave USA artificial surf wave – the largest of its kind in the world.
I know, there are a lot of clauses in that statement: the world’s largest man-made stationary deepwater surf wave. But they are all important. This wave doesn’t travel anywhere, but it’s deep enough for a surfboard with the proper fin setup. It’s a rare combo.
With this setup, you can take whatever surfboard you have, or one of Lake Side Surf’s lenders, jump on the wave and hook ten. No getting pounded by fixed waves, no scrambling for position in the range, and no surfing on a tiny skateboard / skimboard device like you do with most man-made sheet waves (like FlowRider waves).
Lake Side Surf: CityWave United States
I love to surf, but I don’t like surfing. I am an expert kayaker, a good wakesurfer, a hack kitesurfer, a pathetic wave surfer and a not very good surfer.
All this to say that I don’t like to float in the ocean with waves on my head, but I want to feel like I’m on a wave face while surfing. The Lake Side Surf CityWave USA wave is the perfect place for someone like me: maximum surf time without most of the other obstacles that come with riding a wave.
It took an additional year, due to COVID, for this wave to be operational and open, but on May 1, 2021, it was launched to its first paying customers. I can assure you it was worth the wait! The CityWave surf waves feature is located in the Slidewaters water park on a hill above Lake Chelan, Washington.
Why Chelan, Washington?
You might wonder why this huge, fabricated surf wave seems to be in the middle of nowhere in Washington. The main reason is the extremely cheap local hydropower, the second cheapest in the country. It takes a lot of electricity to run the pumps on one of these waves, making the cost prohibitive in many areas, especially on this scale.
Beyond that, Chelan has an abundance of water, a large seasonal tourism industry, and an established water park for over 40 years.
How much does it cost?
There are several ways to ride this wave. The first is to pay to enter the Slidewaters Water Park, around $ 30, when it opens on Memorial Day weekend.
The park is open from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and for the first 2 hours, until noon, guests can sign up for 30-minute surf sessions on a first-come, first-served basis. The maximum session size is 12 people.
The next way to surf the Lake Side CityWave is to register online or in person (if there are free spots available) for a 45-minute session between noon and 7 p.m. each day. These sessions cost between $ 30- $ 35 per person and are also a maximum of 12 people per session.
With this option, a water park pass is also required (during water park opening hours), so the surf session adds around $ 30 to the park entrance fee.
However, if you want to choose the size and wave shape that best suits your skill level, your best bet is to rent an entire session for $ 310-370.
You can invite up to 11 of your friends to join you or just destroy everything yourself. Surf Club, Season Pass or Dawn Patrol multisurf session packages are also available.
Other Slidewaters / Lake Side surf equipment
Besides the great wave of surfing, perfect for beginner surfers and experienced professionals, the facilities at Slidewater and Lake Side Surf are full of other amenities that cater for the whole family.
Of course, there are the features of the Slidewater water park, which looked like a blast. There are also several perfectly manicured beach volleyball courts, a hot tub to keep warm between surf sessions, and a bar and grill.
The park also has a tree climbing course and a zip line under construction. The two will be separate operations with additional costs, but will all contribute to the same day of adventurous fun.
CityWave: how it works
There are many man-made surf waves around the world, more and more under development. Most are sheet waves, which means they are stationary and have a very fast, thin flux through a waveform.
These waves only accept small boards without fins, but allow long surfs on a standing wave. And these can even be barrel-shaped in some cases.
The other main type of man-made waves, which has been making headlines lately, are wave pools. These waves mimic ocean waves more, as the wave is generated by the sudden movement of water. It then rolls over a contoured pool to create a wave that can be surfed from one end of the pool to the other.
The key here is that any surf gear that works in the ocean will work on one of these waves. The downside is the relatively small amount of waves this machine can make compared to a standing wave, and the time it takes to get back to the wave take-off point.
The CityWave surf feature is a standing wave that is also deep. It allows you to do a lot of surfing on standard surfboard equipment.
Twelve pumps lift up to about 600,000 gallons per minute at the top of the wave inflow. The water then flows through two layers of numerous small tubes, which evenly distribute the water over the surface of the 52-foot-wide waves (at Lake Side Surf, the largest in the world).
Operators can fine tune the wave size through a single digital control panel. Generally, the more water flows through the wave, the larger it is.
But there is more magic in how these waves work. The speed increases as it descends the ramp and hits a small adjustable lip. This lip kicks the water and creates stiffness in the shape of the wave.
Likewise, it can be fine-tuned to create a wave suitable for beginners or a steep wave with a sharper lip to evacuate air.
Behind this lip is an area where water recirculates, like a hydraulic hole in a river, then flows over a ramp grate where the water returns to the pumps.
This airy hole behind the wave provides a fairly soft landing when you fall. It also helps create the back pressure needed for the wave to hold its shape.
Remember, this is just a basic observation of how CityWave works. Many of the details are exclusive, as there are many companies hoping to create the perfect artificial surf wave.
Tips for surfing a CityWave
After riding this amazing wave at Lake Side Surf, and riding the Tokyo CityWave just before the pandemic, I learned a few tips to make your experience the best it can be.
First: relax, smile and go with the flow. Start with small movements and balance on the board, a little further than you think – bend your knees, not your waist.
Also, look up and see where you want to go, not down on the board. Start the turns with your shoulders and arms, and continue with the hips then the pressure of the rail on the board,
Also be aware that you will fall / crash. It’s all part of the fun. The aerated water behind the wave can cause you to recirculate a few times, but that’s not really a big deal.
The best way to get some fresh air the fastest (and not to fall) is to hold your breath, starfish (don’t move), and then wait for the water to spit you out from behind on the grill .
Make sure to protect your face with your hands when you stand up, as your board will likely follow you – and the fins will hurt.
Perhaps the biggest tip is to split the blow. Bring your friends and family who will surf and crash / fall with you. The attack is contagious and it’s really fun to share it with people you know.
You can also go there yourself. The attack is so contagious that you will receive a lot of hoots and howls from others in your session.
CityWave surfing around the globe
It’s the 13th CityWave surf wave in the world – and it’s by far the biggest. It’s wider and has more pumps so you get more water and a slightly higher wave. The width is ideal to allow two surfers to enjoy the wave at the same time, with plenty of room to move around.
This means more browsing time for everyone in each session. The height is also impressive as it allows you to carve bigger and generate more power for all kinds of tricks. The bigger the better!
If you can’t tell, I’m still delighted with my Lake Side Surf experience and can’t wait to come back. I am still smiling. And I learned so much more that I would have tried to catch waves in the ocean.
Now I can bring these new skills to the ocean, behind a boat, or go back to another CityWave surf feature.