AUSTIN, Tex. — What if everybody had an ocean, across the U.S.A.?
A tentative answer to that question took shape on a recent morning in a giant artificial body of water within 160 acres of cactus-studded former ranch land here in Hill Country.
Every few minutes, about a half-dozen surfers paddled their boards into the shimmering celadon waves that approached. The surfers would then stand, turn and crouch to try riding the water as it crested over a reef and curled across the lagoon in head-high wedges before breaking, only to reform into mellow little rollers of the sort you might find in Waikiki.
It was another day of test runs at NLand Surf Park, a much-delayed attraction under development by Doug Coors, a scion of the beer-making family.
The idea of surfable, potentially profitable artificial waves is not new or unique. Kelly Slater, professional surfing’s most decorated champion, has grand plans for the big barrel -wave pool he has developed in California’s Central Valley — the first of what he hopes will become a global collection of elite training and competition centers built in partnership with the World Surf League, the leading professional tour.
NLand and Kelly Slater Wave Company are just two of at least a half-dozen outfits striving to deliver surf to the landlocked, while proving to skeptics that artificial waves can favorably compare to those made by Mother Nature.
Mr. Coors’s NLand, envisioned as a chain of surfing parks, has reached this final testing point after decades of effort and millions of dollars of investment. And it is part of a long global quest by many that has left money and dashed aspirations scattered like flotsam on the beach.
Proponents say, though, that inland surfing’s moment may have finally arrived.
With surfing set to become an Olympic sport at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games — even though the competition is planned for the ocean — developers of surfing parks see the same sort of publicity and motivational opportunity that the Olympics have provided for snowboarding and skiing.
CreditDrew Anthony Smith for The New York Times
“Now, more so than ever in history, the world is talking about, investing in and developing man-made surf destinations,” said John Luff, founder of Surf Park Central, an online publisher that is helping to plan the second Surf Park Summit industry conference in Orlando, to be held on Sept. 7.