Waves and winter can go hand-in-hand for aspiring surfer dudes and dudettes in the Edmonton area.
West Edmonton Mall’s World Waterpark – a five-acre indoor park that has a wave pool that holds 1.23 million litres of water and produces hydraulic-powered waves of up to 4.5 feet in height – began the year-round Sharks Surf Club in 2013 and also teaches those interested in learning to ride waves a sport commonly associated with tropical locales.
“I don’t know of any other location in Canada where a program like this exists,” says park spokeswoman Sheri Clegg, adding water temperatures of 29C or 30C mean “wet suits aren’t necessary. People enjoy being able to surf here,” she continues. “They are often surprised they can do so and delighted that they can learn the sport and/or hone their skills. In a 1.5-hour session they can catch up to 30 waves.”
“Who needs a surf report?” the mall asks of opportunities to surf in the “heart of the windswept Prairies,” adding the balmy indoor temperatures and ongoing waves means people can surf in the northern city regardless of “rain, shine or full-on blizzard.
“We opened up the WEM Surf Programs to the public in September of 2013, so we’ve been operating for just over a year now and our popularity continues to grow. Our goal is to share our passion of surfing with Edmonton and provide a safe, fun and inviting atmosphere for participants of all skill levels.”
Jono Kusyanto, one of those who runs the surfing program, says Surf Club is “great for people who are preparing for a surf destination vacation, looking for a new hobby, or looking for a way to stay in shape.
“We have slowly created a unique indoor surfing culture where Surf Club members are proud to say they’ve learned to surf in the wave pool. Consistency of the waves allows surfers to work on their skills and to catch up to 30 waves in one session. Kris (Yap-Chung) and I get to share our passion about surfing with others, and that’s amazing, but what really makes this for us is the community we and those who join us are building.”
Kelly Bertoncini of Edmonton Tourism says the mall’s program means surfers living on the Prairies needn’t go afar in search of waves. “You can do it in your backyard.”
And, World Waterpark notes the surfing opportunity has another selling point, with its clients – unlike those seeking waves in the likes of South Pacific – needn’t worrying about encountering possibly fearsome marine life. Those in World Waterpark won’t, the mall notes, come across any sharks.