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Here's an article featuring Gypsea Life in the Orange County Register, July, 2019. You can read the article, with photos here:

Here's an article featuring Gypsea Life in the Orange County Register, July, 2019. You can read the article, with photos here:

Here's an article featuring Gypsea Life in the Orange County Register, July, 2019. You can read the article, with photos here:

Waves in Palm Desert? Plans for artificial surf resort hint at Southern California’s surfing future

By LAYLAN CONNELLY | | Orange County Register

PUBLISHED: July 12, 2019 at 9:37 am

If you want to catch waves, grab your surfboards and take the freeway inland, hours away from the coastline — and into the dry desert.

Plans are underway to create an adventure getaway called “DSRT SURF,” a resort-style destination in Palm Desert that would be Southern California’s first artificial, new-wave surfing destination — an addition to the region’s already rich surf culture that goes beyond the beach, providing access to waves without having to step foot in the ocean.

That means no sharks or stingrays. No afternoon wind that could spoil the surf, or lack of swell keeping the ocean flat. No navigating congested coastal traffic.

Man-made waves popping up around the world are created by machines with a precise consistency not found in nature. But for some surfers, it’s just that unpredictability that makes traditional surfing, in the ocean, so appealing.

A wave of wave pools

Mimicking the ocean is no new concept — there were attempts as far back as the ’80s to create artificial surfing pools.

The technology wasn’t ready decades ago, though, with waves pushing toward surfers more like a rushing river, and for decades the idea wiped out. Smaller wave pools appeared at hotels and on cruise ships, but more as novelty attractions than as waves surfers would actually be stoked on.

But in recent years, wave pools with more ocean-like waves have been developed.

A company called Wavegarden, which created its first prototype pool in 2010, is leading the charge, teaming up with developers and investors who have built in Spain, the United Kingdom and NLand Surf Park in Austin, Texas.

Wavegarden’s first project, Surf Snowdonia in the United Kingdom, opened in 2015. In its first year, it drew 150,000 visitors, the machines cranking out an estimated 30,000 waves.

There has been trouble along the way for wave-pool operators, the worst being a brain-eating amoeba that was blamed for the death of a 29-year-old surfer whose family visited BSR Surf Resort in Waco, Texas, in September and has filed a lawsuit against the operation. The pool  – using American Wave Machines technology — has since added a $2 million filtration system approved by the Texas Department of State Health Services, according to the Waco Tribune.

In California, the only other major wave-pool project to create a buzz is Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch, which debuted last year in the agricultural center of the state, in the small town of Lemoore, near Fresno. Though the waves are said to be perfect, gaining access to surf the private pool isn’t easy.

So far, there have been a few contests allowing surfing’s elite to showcase their skills — with one coming up in September, the Freshwater Pro, as a stop on the World Tour. Otherwise, it’s been mostly surf industry insiders, friends, or those willing to pay big bucks. A wave-riding session at the Surf Ranch was going for $10,000 during the Founder’s Cup event last year.

Desert getaway

At DSRT SURF, the goal is to blend the beach and the desert, creating a resort-destination getaway that is more than a day trip, amusement park experience.

“The easiest way I describe it, it’s more Baja than Bali. We want to pay homage to the desert 

landscape, but we also want people who are surfers to feel like they are going to the beach,” said Marco Gonzalez, a partner and attorney with DSRT SURF who grew up surfing Oceanside. “Those of us who are putting this together, we are lifelong surfers. We’re transposing what we do on the coast to this inland location.”

Though plans for DSRT SURF are still in the early stages, some details have been unveiled. An environmental impact report is in its final stages and then the project will head to the Planning Commission before going to the City Council by early fall. If approved, the project would break ground next year and be open by 2021.

DSRT SURF would sit on a 17-acre site within Desert Willow Golf Resort, city-owned land developed in 1998. The cost for the DSRT SURF land is an estimated $2.5 million, with the total project build-out expected to be about $200 million, Gonzalez said.

The surf lagoon will be on 5.5 acres. A “surf center” will have ticketing, restaurants, a bar and retail shops. A hotel will have up to 350 rooms, and there will be 88 residential villas, on about 5.84 acres, the draft EIR reads.

In all, the project will cover 11.85 acres, according to the report submitted to the city of Palm Desert. 

Developers will try to minimize the impact on the environment with water conservation practices, native and drought-tolerant landscaping, and solar power throughout the resort, according to the draft EIR.

Gonzalez and partners Doug Sheres and John Luff teamed up with pro surfers, including American brothers CJ and Damien Hobgood and Australian Josh Kerr, not just for their surf savvy, but also their perspectives as surfers with children.

“Because of the nature of this destination surf resort, we wanted surfers who could understand what it’s like to have kids and bring them in the surfing world,” Gonzalez said. “They are in regular communication with us — look, feel, how we roll this out, how to maintain authenticity, how to keep it ‘surfy’… . There’s been others that are more day-use or theme-park related. Ours is the first that will encapsulate the surf vibe, and try to make an experience in the desert that takes the best of the desert and best of the beach and marries them together.”

There will be a variety of waves, mostly in the chest- to head-high range, though they can be programmed to suit different skill levels, Gonzalez said. There’s a program with a deep drop with a barrel section, and a setting for longer shoulders allowing a surfer to do more maneuvers. An area will be set aside just for beginners, as well as one for intermediate surfers.

The pool would be able to hold 60 to 80 people in the water at any given time, spread between 

five or six different peaks.

Cost to use the pool has yet to be finalized.

Nature vs. technology

Nature comes with its challenges – but for some, that’s the lure of surfing.

“There’s always the surfing purists who can find something wrong with it, but at the end of the day, we’ll have wave pools that can redefine the surfing experience for the next generation of surfers,” Gonzalez said. “It will be novelty for a few years, but eventually it will be the fabric of surfing.”

Huntington Beach surfer Laura Klees, who owns Gypsea Life Surf and Travel, took a group to Austin, Texas, to ride waves at the NLand Surf Park. Mother Nature wasn’t totally gone from the equation — her group’s surf session was delayed because of a lightning storm.

When they did get a chance to ride the waves, she said, it was fun – for awhile.

“We were super stoked for the first few waves, but after that it was kind of mundane,” Klees said.


What was missing was the element of surprise: There was no need to quickly look back to see if a set wave was going to crash on your head, or if you had to dodge out of the way for a surfer on the next wave.

“You take your wave, you ride it and you’re on this great high, wave after wave,” she said, speaking by cellphone en route to explore surf at Scorpion Bay in Mexico. “After the wave, all your senses are dulled … you lose that heightened sense and it becomes mundane.”

The good part is it’s a great learning tool, because of the predictability.

“If you have a specific thing you want to work on, you can work on it over and over and over. Maybe you want to pop up quicker or surf closer to the peak,” she said. “You can do that in the wave pool, really easily.”

Would she do it again?

If there was no swell for a long time, or too much wind that made surf crumby for long periods, Klees said, she could see herself returning to a wave pool.

Those unpredictable environmental factors are what Gonzalez hopes will bring traditional surfers inland.

“I think the prospect of surfing really good waves with your family and friends without it being flat or blown out is always going to be attractive to surfers,” he said.

The untapped market, he said, will be the aspiring surfer who can’t get to — or is intimidated by — the ocean.

“I think people who haven’t tried surfing, but can do so in a controlled environment, that will always be attractive,” he said. “We’ll hopefully reach a whole new generation of future surfers.”

And that means, as more wave pools pop up in surf-starved areas across the country and the world, the sport of surfing will be changed forever.

“Surfers today are the last generation that will know a surf world without wave pools,” Gonzalez said. “It will be fundamentally different. There will be kids that learn to surf in pools and then graduate to the beach.”

Here's an article featuring Gypsea Life in the Orange County Register, June, 2018. You can read the article, with photos here:

San Jose del Cabo: Skip the party scene, stay for the surf


Orange County Register

PUBLISHED: June 22, 2018 at 11:00 am |

I sat in the water on my surfboard and marveled at the colors bouncing off of the water’s glassy reflection, a cotton candy pink mirroring the hues of the fiery sky above.

It didn’t matter that the day was being swallowed by night, or that my arms felt like noodles after the last of six hours in the balmy water that epic day. Who cares if I was salty and starved?

There were still waves rolling in. I had no kids to feed, no deadlines to meet. The only thing I had to worry about was whether that bump forming on the horizon would morph into a wave I could dance on, dodging rocks and other surfers as I made my way to the shallow shoreline.


I had always discounted a trip to the Cabo San Lucas area, a place I envisioned as a crazy town filled with tequila-addled college kids. But stories about the more laid-back surf town of San Jose del Cabo, a mellower part of the Baja Peninsula about twenty minutes away from the party town, had me intrigued.

A surf friend from Huntington Beach, Laura Klees, takes groups down to San Jose del Cabo with her surf-centric travel company Gypsea Life Surf. She marveled about the easy access to several surf breaks in the area, and how convenient it is to take a quick trip from Southern California. 


Starved for surf after a month of no waves – and what seemed like a never ending stretch of chilly water and overcast skies – my surf buddy Monica and I booked a trip to check out the spot as a south swell brewed on the forecast. 


Klees was right: the flight was painless, a two-and-a-half hour jaunt from John Wayne Airport that cost less than $250 round trip. And getting to San Jose del Cabo was just a quick 20- minute drive from the airport.

First and only thing on the to-do list: Surf. 


Klees pointed us to Costa Azul Surf Shop, which had plenty of rental boards lining the walls. 


There are several surf breaks within walking distance of one another along one stretch of beach. “Zippers” is a puncher break better suited for shortboarders, while “Old Mans” has fun long, rolling waves — but dodging all the beginners taking lessons looked like a daunting task. 


We settled on paddling out at “The Rock,” where longboarders and shortboarders intermingled, all scratching for waves as they broke off a rock (hence the name) in one spot. It reminded me of Leo Carrillo, one of my favorite surf spots just north of Malibu. 


Our second day surfing was one for the books. After a morning session near our condo, we decided to venture out to the East Cape, a remote area accessible by dirt roads along this undeveloped coastline. 


We pulled up to a spot where no one was in the water, a standup paddler dripping wet after moments before exiting the water. 


“How was it?” we asked. 


As he looked up, we saw the blood spilling from the bridge of his nose. 


“It was great!” he said, before explaining how his board whacked him in the face. “And there’s no one out.” 


We were hot and feeling antsy to get in the water, so we decided to give it a shot. 


We hooted and hollered as we took wave after wave, beaming from our satisfied souls as we continued to marvel about the luck of finding a perfect wave with no one else out. 


That night was our stunning sunset session when we arrived back to San Jose del Cabo, another epic surf that put a close to a perfect day. 


It was on the third day where I learned the pains of the region. I put my foot down to push off a rock to get back on my board, stepping on a sharp sea urchin, the spines sticking out of my foot like a porcupine. 


I plucked the big ones out and hobbled my way back to the car to pull out the rest, but the stubborn ones were lodged deep and eventually came home with me as a painful souvenir.

It was during our last surf session the morning before our flight home that we got skunked for the first time on our trip. The last 30 minutes of our session, whipping winds made catching waves impossible. 


We shrugged our sore shoulders, threw our achy arms in the air and said “adios,” for now, to our new favorite surf getaway.

If you go:

Flights: Several carriers offer multiple flights per day from both LAX and John Wayne Airport, with costs ranging fromabout $225 round trip to $400, depending on time of year.Busier summer months are more expensive, but prices dipduring the off season.

Where to stay: You can’t get closer to the waves than CaboSurf Hotel, a quaint boutique just steps from the surf breaks inSan Jose del Cabo. There’s also plenty of all-inclusive resorts intown closer to the harbor. Going rate for busy summer monthscan cost about $300 a night, but cheaper during off season.

Where to eat: We were impressed by the seafood freshness ata restaurant called Blue Fish. Don’t miss the “Octopus in Love”tostada, topped with tender octopus swimming in a creamysauce. You can’t go wrong with the area ceviche, a refreshing dish of fresh fish to help counter the hot weather.

Want to go? Gypsea Life surf travel hosts regular trips to the region.

Visit for details.

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