Melbourne's surf scene gets its big break (pun intended) with the opening of URBNSURF, Australia's first surf park, near Melbourne Airport.
At 2.2 hectares, the diamond-shaped surf lagoon is roughly the same size as the MCG, and is segregated into beginner, intermediate and advanced zones, turning out mechanically generated waves at up to 1000 waves an hour. The waves range from gentle beginner waves to softer, 'fatter' waves for intermediate surfers refining their turns, up to the most challenging barrel waves reaching two metres in height.
"The surf park takes the unpredictability out of surfing such as rips, to provide a standardised wave perfect for surfing," says URBNSURF's Rupert Partridge. "In the ocean, it's pretty rare to score 10 to 12 perfect waves in a whole day, much less in just one hour."
Beginner surfers can take out a soft board or body board to play in knee-high rolling waves in The Bays, while more advanced surfers can test their skills at The Point.
Open for daytime and night surfing under stadium-grade lighting, the park aims to open year round, and can accommodate a maximum of 84 surfers at any time in the lagoon.
Before it's written off as a summer folly, URBNSURF is already gearing up for winter surfing, taking its cues from the ski fields with the notion of après-surf –warm outdoor showers, hot plunge pools and toasty changing rooms before a restorative coffee.
The lagoon is surrounded by landscaped lawns with daybeds, trees and a kids' playground for under 6s– the surf pool is open to kids over six, although the company is looking at 'micro-grom' lessons for the littlest surfers.
Surfers can bring their own gear or hire all equipment, including RipCurl wetsuits, and body boards, longboards and hand planes from all the major manufacturers. Opt to surf in one-hour blocks, or join private or group lessons, which run for 1 hour 45 minutes, with coaches, lifeguards and other staff trained by Surfing Victoria.
The park is three minutes from the airport on Airport Drive, meaning it's feasible to fit in a quick surf between flights, or as prep before a surf holiday.
This is the world's third public surf park, behind similar operations in Bristol in the UK and Waco, Texas, in the US, and the company has a second surf park on the planning boards for Sydney Olympic Park.
One-hour beginner surf sessions start from $25 adults/$15 children (6-13 years) mid-week, while lessons cost from $59 adults/$49 children. Non-surfers can watch the action from the park's cabanas and hot tubs, costs $5 entry. See urbnsurf.com