Surfing at URBNSURF

This week, URBNSURF opened up their shores to a few salty press to go for a splash. Somehow, Empire Ave was invited. We learned a bunch of things that surprised us, some that didn’t, and have been relentlessly quizzed about it by friends since. What boards do I ride? Does it live up to the hype? Can I wee in the water?

To help answer those questions everyone seems to have, here’s our everything you need to know guide on URBNSURF.

That thing straight ahead? That’s the guts of the entire setup, the pistons, the spine, the magic. It all happens in there. 

How do URBNSURF generate their waves?

This is the secret sauce of URBNSURF and the Wavegarden technology. If you look at photos, you see a big jetty in the middle of the pool with an airplane-style hangar sitting at the end. Inside that hangar is a long spine of 40+ pistons, which swish in sequence through the water like a shark’s tail. Depending on the push and timing of each piston, different waves are generated to break on the specially-formed bottom. 

The coolest thing here is that URBNSURF have just done a deal to have their park entirely powered by renewable energy. So, just like waves in the real ocean, the experience is fuelled by wind, water and a little bit of sunshine.

What kind of waves are there at the URBNSURF surf park?

There are a bunch of settings at the park, from mellow longboard waves, all the way to a heaving slab called The Beast. That particular one is pretty wild, which is an easy take off followed by a fully drawing funnel that can throw chandeliers at your scone. You’ve probably seen footage of it already.

This is probably the best thing about URBN surf – there’s something for everyone. If you’re a reasonable surfer, definitely have a crack at The Beast. If you’d prefer turns, then their T5 and T6 settings are the funnest. 

Right now, there’s no great air wave on offer, which is a bit of bummer if you’re wanting to work on your grabs. They do have a setting on The Beast which throws up a big crumble section at the end, but you’re talking pro-level ability to make that section work for you. Given the flexibility of the wave-making system, it’s hopefully only a matter of time before they find a great intermediate air section where good groms and excited old men can experiment, without fear of twisting their ankles on a full rotation.

There was maybe 3 goofy foots there on the day we surfed, and this guy – Dale from MC – didn’t shift from the left the entire time. He probably caught the most waves out of us all.

Is surfing in their wave pool as good as surfing in the ocean?

No. And yes. URBNSURF is never going to replace the magic of surfing in the ocean, especially at 4ft or bigger on a good day. They’re not trying to either. The wave park doesn’t have quite as much push to comparable waves, the water is fresh over salt so doesn’t have the same buoyancy, and there’s just something glorious about being out in nature.

Saying that, the waves in the park definitely beat hassling with 30 guys for 2ft slop. It’s also pretty surreal surfing it for the first time, so there’s a big novelty factor that will have everyone buzzing with stoke if they haven’t been there before. There’s no ego or dickhead snaking either, because everyone knows they’ll get their fill. Pretty cool evaporating the pecking order for mellow line up. Finally, despite it being a wave pool, every wave in each set is different. There’s enough variation to keep you guessing and on your toes, just like you need to in the ocean.

Pick your moments, treat it as an extra side to surfing rather than a replacement, and you’ll have an absolute blast.

What boards should I ride at URBNSURF?

I took three boards on the day and ended up surfing my regular shortboard the most. That’s probably because I mostly surfed The Beast, but it still went fine on the turns settings. My recommendation would be to take a normal shorty and something fun too (I loved a twinny with a little trail fin in the back). I think an epoxy could be a good option to keep things more lively. Mix it up a bit and you’ll get the most out of your experience.

Vaughan from ATS, SW, etc, stands at about 6 foot something and could get tubed. Which is a helluva way to celebrate ya brithday right? Vaughno got plenty like this.

How many waves will I ride in an hour session?

Somewhere between 10-12 waves on average. Some of this will depend on how many people are in the pool with you and whether or not you can keep up with the pace. If you luck into a session with 4 to 8 people instead of the capacity 18, there’s a chance you’ll get plenty more. If you snap a leash, fin, or board (totally possible) you’ll get less. Make sure you have equipment on standby just in case and it should only mean you’ll miss one set should the worst happen.

How much will an hour session cost?

An advanced session comes in at $79 for the hour. Knowing what you get for that, I’d say it’s a pretty good deal and totally worth it. You can also nab Gold Member passes for $259 (a month). That’ll get you 4 sessions per month, a couple of bonus sessions during the year and a few other perks. If I lived in Melbourne, I’d likely be forking out for one of those. 

There are also group booking options too. You can kick off a Bucks Day with something fun or convince your employer to do a corporate ‘team building’ day where you get coned off your facehole.

Is an hour session at URBNSURF enough?

Probably not. If I’d only had 1 hour in the pool, I would have left wanting more. If you’re going to book for ‘single’ sessions, I’d say do an hour, have an hour’s rest, then go another hour. The ability to do that will depend on the booking schedule, but that would be a best-case scenario in my mind. 

If you’re pressed for time, then 1 hour will have you feeling pretty stoked you got in the water without burning the clock. We did almost 6 hours and I’ve been buckled for 2 days since.

URBNSURF - Melbournes Wavepool - Jim Miles

Jim, from Lipped, spent most of the time on the left getting his tube approach dialled. But in between beast settings he went about just working on his backhand whips.

What’s the water temp like?

The day we went was a scorcher in Melbourne at 37 degrees. The water was sitting around 20 degrees, so plenty of crew were happy in boardies and a jacket. However, as a pool, the temp will fluctuate day to day way more than the ocean. In summer, I’d say more often than not you’d be in a short-arm steamer or 3/2 full. On cold winter days, for sure a 4/3 and maybe boots will be needed to keep you toasty. 

What’s the bottom like and will I hit it?

It’s like a regular pool – ie coated concrete. It’s got that sandpapery feel to it, so if you get scraped along the bottom on bare skin you’ll definitely get some road rash. I hit the bottom multiple times on The Beast. Everyone did. If you’re surfing that setting, treat it with the same respect as you would a shallow reef break. On the turn setting, I didn’t hit the bottom once, so that option feels pretty safe.

Cahill was setting the level as far as the best way to approach and surf the waves – across all settings – the lanky albino was all over it, whipping turns, chasing tubs and even trying some airs. 

URBNSURF Wave Pool Melbourne - Cahill Bell Warren

Tips on how to surf the waves?

Everyone surfs waves differently, but there were a few things that stood out on how to ride URBNSURF. On The Beast, you need to point your board 45 degrees toward the shore, rather than riding along the line. It’s that sucky that if you don’t do that you’re going to catch a rail and eat pebbles. 

On the turn settings, take off is key to get a good run. Cahill Bell-Warren from the Lipped Podcast has surfed there a bunch and has it wired. He takes off suuuuper close to the wall and as far out as the wave breaks (in line with the 2nd filter grate). It means you roll in before it jacks and get that lip hit right away. If you find yourself wide of the wall I found it good to take a high line and wrap into a roundhouse first thing. That bounce off the foam sets you up for a couple of good pocket hits.

How far is URBNSURF from Melbourne airport?

Super close. I wouldn’t be surprised if they set up golf cart runs to pick people up. Some of the guys on the day actually walked from the airport and said it took about 20 minutes on foot.

Can I wee in the water?

Can or should? It’s something like 16 Olympic swimming pools of chlorinated water, so your tinkle will dilute and be treated by chemicals. Saying that, if there’s 18 crew on each side of the pool all taking a sniz, it’s going to lift the water temp and gross factor very quickly. 

Considering most people will be there in one hour blocks, make a point of going before you jump in and then get some relief right after. We were in for a looong time, and was frothing so hard I might have let a little leak out. I didn’t see anyone going in for toilet runs either, so had a solid shower after. 

If you have any other questions, or want to give URBNSURF a go for yourself, head over to their website here.

– Image Credits URBNSURF / Jarrah Lynch

Thanks to the Rupert, Jim, Andrew and the team at URBNSURF for letting a couple of plebs from Empire Ave surf the pool. We had a ball, and can’t recommend the joint enough to try at least once.

If you’d like to know more around the business of wave pools, read up via our series of Wave Pool articles:
*The Business of Wave Pools – Part One
*The Business of Wave Pools – Part Two 
*The Business of Wave Pools – URBNSURF Melbourne Founder Interview