How Wavepools will change surfing for the better with Andrew Ross of URBNSURF

Pretty much every Australian surfer has been waiting with baited breath for a wavepool to open somewhere in our shores. That dream was piqued when URBNSURF announced back in January of 2017 that they’d leased a site in Melbourne to build a wave park. The Financial Times reported then: “WPG (now URBNSURF) has already leased a 7.1-hectare site near Melbourne Airport, for which it has received planning consent, and aims to open the centre to the public in 2018.”

It’s now near the end of 2019 and, just like Back To The Future fans wondering where their hoverboards are, we’re starting our clap chant ‘where’s our pool?!’.

Well, the wait is almost over. We caught up with Andrew Ross, Founder and Exec Director of URBNSURF to chat about their pending launch and what he’s most excited about when it comes to wave parks changing the face of surfing.

The first thing that lights Andrew up is the challenge of making something surfers will want to come back to again and again. 

“That’s the big one,” he says. “I don’t believe anyone has delivered on the vision of what a surf park can be at the moment. That’s the challenge for us. That’s why we’ve pushed back opening a few times, because we want to be able to deliver on that vision. We want to do it in a way that’s attractive to the core of surfing, but doesn’t alienate just normal, or beginner surfers. It’s a really hard balance to strike though and we know that. We’re wanting to be authentic and open about it, talking to everyone we can to make sure we don’t fuck it up.”

I don’t believe anyone has delivered on the vision of what a surf park can be at the moment”

Obviously, not fucking up is a solid aim to start with. But there’s also the opportunity to do great things and improve the sport. Most people quickly understand that being able to catch waves on tap means that kids and adults alike will be able to improve more rapidly than they can in the ocean. Think about how much it takes to catch a wave. If you make a mistake, you can’t go out and find another wave just like it to trying things again. The ocean doesn’t work that way. Pools do though. 


More than 1000 perfect waves per hour of 16 wave types, ranging from sqaure barrels to peeling pointbreak-style walls.

Patented Tech

Advanced software enables wave characteristics to be modified at the push of a button

City Vibes

Allowing city (and all) surfers to enjoy their sport safely, more easily and more often.

“A surf park (like URBNSURF) is like a driving range for surfers,” laughs Andrew. “Somewhere you can practice your swing over and over. You can do a backside reo over and over until you have it nailed. I’m 48 now. Normally, that means your skills deteriorate and you start riding longer boards, or whatever. I can see myself surfing better today than in my 30s because I’ve been surfing in parks like this. There’s the opportunity to maintain, or become a better surfer, as you age, which is huge. At a pro level, we had Josh Kerr in the Lagoon last year in Spain and we had an automated tracking system set up. He’d surf along, then kick out on the inside and immediately step up on the platform and watch his wave and get immediate feedback. And he’s like ‘ah shit, that’s why I am missing out on a half a point on that turn!’ If those guys can get something out of this, all the better for us mere mortals.”

Four days. That’s all it took to fill our slice of paradise in Tullamarine.

To make sure this elite side of things is heading in the right direction, URBNSURF will be working with Surfing Victoria’s elite coaching crew, essentially giving them the keys to the store and seeing what they can learn. 

“I was talking to one of the sport science guys from Surfing Australia and he reckons we know as much about the science of surfing today as we knew about athletics a hundred years ago. Now, we have guys like Nike and Quiksilver and the like working on wetsuits with biometric sensors, so we’ll be able to map biometric movement of every surfer when they’re riding a wave and seeing what they’re doing.” 

While that elite level stuff is super exciting, it still isn’t what Andrew reckons is the most exciting opportunity at hand. These types of facilities are also amazing for amateur surfing. They’re somewhere you can surf with your mates, or your kids and potentially all compete in a league against other teams on a weeknight. While some surfers might find that horrifying, I don’t. Think about how much fun indoor cricket can be. That noise is deadset boring compared with surfing. Add the existing energy of riding waves with being able to rile up your buddies in some friendly competition, and you have the recipe for something ultra addictive that keeps you active. And, you can do it on schedule without much concern for the weather.

There’s also the opportunity to completely change the face of women’s surfing, according to Andrew:

“The most interesting side of surf parks, I think, is the ability to engage more female surfers. Right now more than half of all surf lessons in Australia are delivered to females, particularly to girls in the 13-24 age bracket. But what we’re seeing is we lose a lot of those girls after the initial lessons because surfing is a full contact sport, it’s really male dominated, and can be really confronting. It’s hard to come out and compete against men for waves as a beginner, be aggressive in the line up, assert yourself. The interesting thing after speaking to a lot of women is that they have a high concern for hurting other people in the line up, rather than themselves. It’s also just a hard sport in terms of lining up the right conditions, getting waves on the day so you can go surfing. There’s also fear of sharks, which everyone is concerned about these days. Surf parks (like URBNSURF) remove all of those barriers. We are really excited to bring them through a better journey.”

There’s also the opportunity to completely change the face of women’s surfing

What that journey will look like exactly is still up in the air. But, it’s super exciting to dream about. Waves at the flick of a switch, warm coffee or chilled beer a few steps from the shore, possibly an on-site coach to let you know you’ve got a poo stance. The future of surfing is bright. It will never replace the thrill of tracking swells, heading down the coast, finding the perfect spot and riding ephemeral perfection that happens once in a lifetime. But if you’re pressed for time, the wind is howling onshore, or you need to keep the whole family happy, there’s about to be a spot to do it. Yesssssssssssss. Now all we need are our hoverboards.  

To read the other two articles of this three-part story about Wave Pools, see the below links on The Business of Wave Pools:
*Part One – The Business of Wave Pools
*Part Two – The Tech behind Wave Pools