As soon as you enter the BSR Surf Resort (home of arguably the most rippable artificial waves on the planet) and set foot on the expansive white-sand beach fronting the pool, the first thing you'll likely notice is a big blue sign that advertises "Filtration, Sanitation and Disinfection" by a company called Water Tech Solutions.
More than the new Surf Ride shop greeting you as you enter the park, or the myriad new waves that have been programmed for the pool by American Wave Machines, it's this decidedly-less-sexy water quality management program that will likely define the future of the BSR Surf Resort.
After BSR first revealed the wave pool to the masses, and Hawaiian shredder Seth Moniz stuck a backflip on the pool's air section, sponsored pros and average joes alike scrambled for a spot in line to ride the artificial peelers. Magazine features, freesurf edits, countless Instagram clips and Stab's air-based surf contest rounded out the all-out hype storm that had unexpectedly formed over Waco, Texas. But all that buzz quickly dissipated in September of last year when New Jersey surfer Fabrizio Stabile tragically died due to an infection by Naegleria fowleri, a rare and deadly single-celled organism commonly called the "brain-eating amoeba."
It was a tragedy that shook the surfing community as well as BSR staff—especially the owner, Stuart Parsons, who voluntarily shut down the park while the Center for Disease Control tested the water (the CDC did not find Naegleria fowleri in the pool itself, but concluded that exposure still likely occurred at the facility). In the aftermath, Parsons invested a rumored $1.5 million in the water quality management program that is now advertised throughout the park.
"We did a lot of research, because there are a lot of different filtration systems out there, and we went with a company that has a proven record of managing water quality in parks like this," says Parsons. "Water Tech Solutions have taken this thing on as their baby and wanted to set a new standard for water quality in surf parks. [The Water Tech Solutions] guys can look at readings of every aspect of the water quality in real time. And our testing is transparent–we've sent all of our measurements to the state several times."
This Friday, following the latest round of water testing by state officials, which found BSR’s water quality was found to be exceeding standards, the BSR Surf Resort will open to the public once more. But many couldn't even wait that long to get back in the water. Over the past few weeks, after Water Tech Solutions had implemented the new water quality management program, crews of pro surfers were allowed early access to the pool to gather new clips, as were young surf prodigies from around the world, whose previous reservations had been postponed due to the closure.
Miquel Lazaro, a mechanical engineer for American Wave Machines (the company that supplied BSR with its wave-producing tech, called Perfect Swell), explained that they've used the time before the reopening to refine the waves that patrons came to surf before the closing, while also expanding the overall number of programmed waves to over 40, including rippable three-wave sets, a kegging wedge, various air sections, a double barrel, a longboard wave and something called a "Freak Peak," which is essentially two waves meeting mid-pool to create a pinnacle wedge. According to Miquel, that's by no means the ceiling, as the technology allows for perpetual wave-tinkering to create new and more specific types of rides. "The opportunities are basically endless," he said.
Given the quality and variety of surf, and the fact that it can be reproduced on command, perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that surfers were lining up for a session at the pool even before its official reopening (in all honestly, given surfers' fascination with the technology, some would have likely signed up even without the new filtration). Lucky for them, and for the countless surfers who will surely be booking their own trips to Waco in the future, BSR seems to be putting just as much emphasis on keeping surfers safe as they are on satisfying their dreams of riding perfect artificial waves.