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A resort with a giant artificial wave basin is being planned for southern California

AEC Tech Innovation

A resort with a giant artificial wave basin is being planned for southern California

Technology claims to offer surfers the longest ride in a man-made setting.

By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | May 11, 2020
Rendering of Coral Mountain resort's surf wave basin

The 400-acre Coral Mountain resort in La Quinta, Calif., will include a large water basin for surfing. Image: CCY Architects

Early next year, construction is scheduled to begin on Coral Mountain, a 400-acre masterplan resort in the Coachella Valley near LaQuinta, Calif., which will be the first of its kind whose amenities include an 18-million-gallon water basin that’s activated by artificial wave technology.

The land, which had already been approved for 750 homes, is owned by Meriwether Companies, a private real estate and development firm; and Big Sky Wave Developments, founded and directed by Michael B. Schwab, the son of famed investor Charles Schwab, whose company is one of the country’s largest financial services firms. Michael Schwab formed his company in 2016 to develop exclusive wave-zone resorts.

This $200 million Coral Mountain is designed by CCY Architects. VITA Planning and Landscape Architecture is doing the land planning and landscaping, and MSA Consulting is the CE. The rest of the building team, including its GC, will be brought on board later this year, according to a spokesperson for the project.

The full-service hotel and resort will include a private club, multiple dining venues, and adventure sports offerings. In its latest design, the 2,000-ft-wide wave basin will replace a previously approved golf course, and is expected to use less water.

The technology that will provide the resort’s guests with the longest rideable, open-barrel, human-made wave in the world comes from Kelly Slater Wave Company, a division of Santa Monica, Calif.-based World Surf League, which creates surf-specific events, experiences, and storytelling. Kelly Slater Wave Company is named after the 11-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater.


Coral Mountain will be the first resort in the U.S. to deploy Slater’s wave technology, which uses a giant hydrofoil that is pulled through the water to push out the wave for 700 yards, for an almost one-minute wave from start to finish. Large end bays can accommodate 15 to 20 beginner-to-intermediate surfers each hour on either end of the wave basin. (The only other place with this technology in use is Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch in Lemoore, Calif., and that doesn’t have resort facilities or end bays built into it.)

“We are excited to bring to life an unprecedented vision for an experiential resort development, curated for today’s active and engaged consumer here in Southern California and beyond,” said Noah Hahn, Partner, Meriwether Companies, in a prepared statement.

The project spokesperson says Coral Mountain is being financed primarily through equity and some low-leverage debt. Despite the coronavirus that shut down many businesses in California, the project continues to go through the approvals process, and Meriwether and Big Sky don’t anticipate delays in the construction start or its completion target in 2022.

Also see: Mega surf parks take entertainment to new extremes

The history of man-made waves has been fraught with business and mechanical failures. Probably the best known startup was NLand Surf Park, which opened in Austin, Texas, in 2016, and whose owner was Coors Brewing Company scion Doug Coors. Until it shut down, NLand was using wave technology from Wavegarden, one of several such providers that are active in the industry sector.


In January 2019, Kelly Slater Wave Company, through an LLC, acquired NLand for a reported $4.8 million. Meanwhile, Wavegarden has been pushing its so-called “cove” technology, which was first tested in Spain and last November debuted at The Wave park in Bristol, England. This technology reportedly produces waves as high as two meters.

A spokesperson for World Surf League asserts that the League chose to acquire Kelly Slater Wave Company because “it was the best artificial wave technology where tour pros could train, and the WSL could host world tour events.” 

“I originally invested with Kelly in 2013 for my own personal surfing progression,” recalled Schwab, Big Sky Wave Developments’ Managing Director. “I had no idea the impact it would have on my life, and I realized immediately that I had to share this opportunity.”


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