With all of the wind, rain, snow and flooding the Pacific Northwest has had this winter, surfing would seem to be an out-of-reach hobby, accessible only to those living in southern California or Hawaii.
But beginning this autumn in the Issaquah Highlands, it will be possible to surf all year long.
Enter CitySurf, the first indoor surfing facility of its kind to grace the United States. The brainchild of Sammamish residents John and Trisha Hoss and their business partner, Sammamish High School alumnus Kyle Clayhold, CitySurf will be a simulated ocean surfing experience that allows participants “from age 8 to 80” to surf on a 5-foot-3-inch wave, according to the Hosses.
“If you want to surf on a real wave, there’s nothing available [here] … It hasn’t taken off because there hasn’t been the wave technology,” John said.
Lifelong water sport fiends, the Hosses were inspired when they saw a surfing competition on a wave machine while traveling in Germany two years ago.
“We thought, ‘This is amazing,’” John recalled. “We just knew gravity sports people would be into it.”
John, a former commercial pilot with a background in aeronautical engineering, observed surf machines in other parts of the world and said he “took what we think is the best of all of them” to design a one-of-a-kind wave machine for CitySurf.
Using a computer program that models flows, he “perfected the design with a computational fluid dynamics model” and “built two scale models in the backyard.”
In pre-booked, half-hour sessions, 16 surfers will line up alongside a 33-foot-wide pool of water and take turns surfing on the wave. Surfers will stay in place as the water moves, and will fall into deep water.
“It would feel very similar to wake surfing behind a boat,” Trisha said.
CitySurf is different from other surf parks in the U.S., which have a person fall into shallow water and risk injuring themselves, the Hosses explained.
No prior surfing experience is necessary for CitySurf visitors — just the willingness to learn and to have a good time. First-time surfers will train with a horizontal bar as they learn to balance on a board. Those who don’t want to surf in the traditional sense can paddle-board, boogie-board and body surf.
Trisha suggested that CitySurf — set to open behind Dick’s Sporting Goods and Marshall’s — could be a great option for people who “have always wanted to learn to surf,” but want to do so in a safer environment before trying it out in the open ocean.
She added that “true ocean wave surfers can practice their tricks and have more experience on the wave.”
With sessions costing around $30, CitySurf will become a more cost-efficient alternative to driving to the coast during Washington’s few warm months, or flying out of state the rest of the year. Even non-ocean types of surfing, such as wake surfing, can get pricey, the Hosses pointed out.
“To wake surf, you need $100,000 [for a boat] and you need it to be nice out,” John said. “We’re creating a gravity sport people can do at will.”
The Hosses intend for CitySurf to be a site for birthday parties, corporate events and summer camps. In addition, they hope to have other activities that encompass the surfing lifestyle, such as yoga classes, on-site gardening and healthy cooking tutorials.
“We’re trying to create a lifestyle brand that brings together all of the things in surf culture — good food, music, environmental awareness, art,” Trisha said.
CitySurf, according to Trisha, will include a “fast casual” restaurant featuring “healthy, mostly organic” creations from Chef Jason Stoneburner, owner of Stoneburner in Ballard and also a surfing enthusiast. There will also be a surf store on the property.
CitySurf will not look like typical, tropical-themed water parks. Instead of palm trees, bamboo furniture, Hawaiian leis and umbrellas in cocktails, CitySurf wll embrace an urban, industrial, contemporary vibe, with metal, concrete and artwork from local artist Todd Fischer.
“It’s going to have a very artistic feel — you’ll see a lot of artwork in this place as well, instead of the theme park with tikis, which is overdone,” Trisha said.
The Hosses are currently in the permitting process and plan to break ground this summer, with a grand opening in the autumn. After announcing the business on social media earlier this month, John said that the response has been overwhelming.
“It’s amazing how many surfers in the Highlands contacted us after that announcement,” John said. “We got really positive feedback from people who are excited about surfing and looking for a new activity.”
He looks at CitySurf both as a regular workout spot that locals can use before the workday begins, and also as a destination that will bring people from around the Pacific Northwest.
The Hosses and Clayhold hope that Issaquah will be only the first stop for CitySurf; they plan to expand the business to other cities around the U.S. in the future.
“When there’s six inches of snow, you can be surfing at CitySurf,” John said.
For more information, visit CitySurf’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/citysurfseattle/.