Riding the indoor surfing wave
NASHUA — New Hampshire surfers rode some roaring waves Sunday, not at Jenness Beach, a favorite spot for many Granite State surfers, but in Nashua, just off Daniel Webster Highway.
Several dozen adults and kids showed off their style and skill in a contest hosted by Surf’s Up, Nashua’s new indoor surf stream adventure center.
“The water moves so fast, it takes a little time to get used to,” said Jonathan Anderson, a seasoned surfer from Hampton, who was competing with his two young sons.
But Anderson, who travels every year to catch the waves in the Caribbean, said the new indoor surf center is a terrific place for wave chasers of all ages and levels of experience.
“It’s a good place to train and it’s great in the winter,” he said.
And that’s what Surf’s Up owners Laurie and Rob Greer were going for. The couple has been at the forefront of a growing trend of moving adventure sports and recreation indoors.
Eight years ago, the Greers, both pilots who met through their love of flying, opened SkyVenture, an indoor park with a vertical wind tunnel where anyone of any age can experience the adventure of sky diving.
With the success of SkyVenture, the Greers started growing their business with a rock climbing wall and their Fish Pipe Slide, a huge, rotating clear ball where up to three people can sit, slosh and spin in a stream of water.
Last December, they opened the doors to Surf’s Up, a 32-foot wide surf stream, the first indoor surfing site in North America and the largest indoor surfing stream in the world. Developed by California-based American Wave Machine, Surf’s Up wave pool uses pumps to create continual cresting waves that surfers ride in a stationary position.
“Weather dependency is a huge issue in New England,” said Greer, as she watched surfers compete on Sunday. “Everything is starting to move indoors , where people can do things 24/7.”
Over the past decade, technology and design has made it possible for thrill seekers to experience a variety of adventure sports in controlled, indoor environments. Indoor ski slopes, white-water rafting parks, bungee jumping platforms and mountain biking courses are popping up in resorts areas, and at malls.
For some, the indoor adventure centers offer an alternative fitness regime that’s more fun and more challenging that working out on machines in a gym. For others who love certain sports such as surfing, the parks and adventure centers are a place to train and enjoy the experience hundreds of miles from the coast.
And for the curious, indoor sports parks are a chance to sample adventure sports with the help of trained staff and the convenience of rental equipment.
And as Laurie Greer pointed out, indoor surfing eliminates some of the inconvenience surfers face outdoors.
“Sometimes, when you go to the beach, the waves are small and the water is cold,” she said. “We are bringing surfing indoors and provide 85 degree water. No sharks, no rocks, no problems.”
For Lenny Nichols, head of the Eastern Surfing Association of Northern New England, Surf’s Up is a good way for beginners to get the feel of surfing. “It’s a novelty,” said Nichols who brought a group of Hampton-based surfers to Surf’s Up weekend competition. “Kids have fun, and you don’t have to wear a wet suit.” For Nichols, surf streams and surf pools are not substitutes for beaches and oceans.
“This isn’t meant to replace outdoor surfing, it’s a compliment,” he said adding that surfing ocean waves requires more skill and experience.
Still, the Atlantic has nothing on Surf’s Up when it comes to timing and dependability.
“You can find good waves all over, but here there are only quality waves,” Nichols said.
Although launching an indoor surfing site was a significant investment of time and money, the Greers saw it as a good fit with SkyVenture.
“Skydivers and surfers are both adrenalin junkies,” said Rob Greer. “They like the personal challenge.”
And both Greers believe that Surf’s Up will eventually have the same following as SkyVenture.
“It’s a new business and we are growing,” said Laurie Greer who added that people not only like riding the waves, they love sitting under a palm tree, ordering food from the new café and watching the surfers.
Sunday’s surfers and spectators did look like there was no place else they would rather be, including Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau who stopped by without a bathing suit, but had plenty of enthusiasm for Surf’s Up.
“For Nashua, this is great,” said Lozeau. “It’s one of the most interesting adventures in the city.”