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Big Surf Water Park in Tempe AZ

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Waikiki Beach Wave Pool
Big Surf in Tempe AZ

Waikiki Beach Wave Pool at Big Surf

© 2006 Judy Hedding

Waikiki Beach is one of the big attractions at Big Surf. It's big -- over 2 million gallons of water! Long before there were water slides, the wave pool was the place to be in the summer. Big Surf claims that it had the first wave pool in America. The waves are, of course, what makes it fun. They get to about 5 feet high. Big Surf provided the following historical information about the wave pool:

Phil Dexter invented the wave generation process used at Big Surf, having conceived the idea of a manmade wave pool in 1965 on a trip along the Californian coast. Dexter set out to recreate ocean waves, and a year later he had developed a tabletop prototype that he submitted for a patent on 'Apparatus and Method for Producing Waves' on December 7, 1966 (Ser. No. 599,758). This first model was a functional prototype built using plywood and held together using bailing wire and discarded socks. By the end of the summer of 1967, in a bankrupt billiards hall in Phoenix, Dexter had made another prototype that automatically created waves every 20 seconds in a miniature lagoon, 40 feet by 30 feet, and held 1,000 gallons of water. This prototype was a miniature, working replica of the final wave pool at Big Surf Waterpark, and it was featured in a 1969 issue of Sports Illustrated magazine.

There used to be a sandy beach a Waikiki Beach, but no more. Too many burned little feet, I suppose.

Here are a few historical photos of Big Surf.

Surf sessions are now offered at Big Surf. You can bring your own surf board or rent one there. Every day from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. only people with with surf boards will be allowed in the wave pool. Likewise, boogie board sessions are held every day from 11:30 a.m. to noon and 2:30 to 3 p.m. Boogie boarders only in the wave pool during those times. Bring your own boogie board or rent one there.

Tip #2: Rafts are available to rent, but no outside rafts or tubes or water toys are allowed at Big Surf.

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