Updated: Jul 11
Let’s be honest: there’s no replacement for surfing in the ocean. Few things match the feeling of a wave generated from energy hundreds of miles away under your surfboard. But there are alternatives to surfing in the ocean when the waves are flat — and one of those alternatives is wave pool surfing.
In this article, we’ll break down the best wave pool surfing options in America so you can experience the one nearest you.
Wave Pool Surfing: The 4 Best Wave Pools In America
You knew we were going to start this wave pool surfing list with the Surf Ranch, right?
How could we not: head high to overhead glassy barrels, open faces for carving, good enough for WSL competitors — all this and more behind the illustrious wooden doors.
If you’re looking for wave pool surfing that best mimics an ocean wave, the Surf Ranch is your best bet.
Located in Lemoore, California, this wave pool surfing venue is 2,000 feet long and 500 feet wide, producing the longest rideable barreling man-made wave in the world.
In terms of wave sizes, it can be adjusted to fit different skill levels and can reach a maximum height of 6.5 feet.
The venue features 4 waves, including:
The World Surf League-certified wave is used for WSL competitions, which features two high-performance maneuver sections as well as two barreling sections.
Hero wave: although it’s a step down from the WSL-certified wave, it features two high-performance maneuver sections and two barreling sections.
Waikiki wave: Ideal for beginners on longboards, this wave produces long, knee to waist high, open wave faces, and whitewater.
Shore rollers: the perfect wave for those who have never ridden a board before, this wave allows a safe environment to practice surfing fundamentals like balancing on a board or popping up.
For a golden ticket into the Surf Ranch, there is a steep price to pay. According to the Center for Surf Research, the costs are:
$5,500 plus the booking fee to surf along with others
The cost per day ranges from $35,000 to $50,000
On a per wave basis, this cost ranges from to $290 to $415
For more on this wave pool surfing venue, visit KellySlaterWaveCo.
The last place you’d expect to see board bags strapped on top of vehicles — the heart of Texas — is where the next wave pool on our list is.
Arrive at Waco Surf and you’ll see green chest-high waves rifling 30-60 yards through an expansive pool. Organized in three-wave sets, each wave comes 70 seconds apart at this wave pool surfing venue. With 120 to 160 waves per hour, it’s guaranteed that you’ll score plenty of waves.
The wave sizes and peaks include:
Freak Peak Wedge: 2 waves that collide from either end of the lagoon creating the perfect air ramp
Waco Wedge: Slab barrel wave
Peel: A fast, hollow, and peeling wave perfect for longboarding.
As far as pricing, a beginner session costs $60 for one hour, which includes a surfboard rental. Intermediate and longboard sessions are $75. Expert sessions are $90 per hour. If you’re a parent looking to be a spectator, all day beach passes are $20. Plus, you can take advantage of the food and cabanas on property. Private bookings start at $2,500 per hour as well.
Learn more about this wave pool surfing venue by visiting the Waco Surf Website.
Another wave pool surfing option is found in the heart of the theme parks in Orlando, Florida: Typhoon Lagoon.
As sunburned tourists are leaving the park, you’ll be walking in with surfboards in tow. You’ll be greeted with a massive blue-water flat pool. And when the machine gets going — you’ll hear it activate before you see it — chest to shoulder-high walls of water rifle through the wave pool.
Each 3-hour session at Typhoon Lagoon comes packed with 100 waves, broken into sets of 25. Before the session, you can choose between:
If you decide this is the wave pool surfing venue best for you, here’s a tip: even though the wave isn’t exactly intimidating, don’t take your leash off your board. We’ve seen several leashless boards get tossed on the concrete, putting a damper on an already expensive surf session.
You can book a surf session on the Typhoon Lagoon website.
Skudin Surf American Dream
Five miles from the heart of New York City in East Rutherford, NJ sits warm water and a 3-4 foot breaking wave at the Skudin Surf American Dream.
For those used to parking at a beach park and walking on a boardwalk to check the waves, driving through a city and arriving at an indoor wave pool with surfboards can be quite the experience.
According to Will Skudin, Vice President at Skudin Surf, “this wave pool is like having a few sick little mini skateboard ramps in your backyard.”
At this wave pool surfing venue, the wave includes:
an under-the-lip-take-off barrel
a left/right perfect section wave
As far as equipment, they recommend bringing your own boards — specifically “2-5 liters of volume more than their everyday boards.”
“There is a good chance of some minor dings,” the site says, “so leave your favorite board at home.” Although the pool is 10 feet deep, the wave breaks in about 3 feet of water and gets shallower as you near the shoreline.
If you don’t want to bring your own boards, there’s good news: you can use one of their boards for free, ranging from a 5’1 to a 9’0, including soft tops.
You can book a session at Skudin Surf.
Wave Pool Surfing in America
While these wave pool surfing options aren’t necessarily surfing in the ocean, they’re still pretty fun alternatives — if you’re willing to pay. And stay tuned, because as the wave pool arms race continues to heat up, more wave pool surfing options are on the way.