Surf Trip to Texas: Surfing Two Wave Pools in one day

Nland Surf Park and BSR Barefoot Surf Resort

Never ever did ever I think that I would be planning a surf trip to inland Texas.  Well not only did I plan one, I ended up surfing two wave pools in one day on my surf trip there, that’s got to be some kind of record right?  Well, below is my detailed account of the whole journey and as I can be wordy, below is the outline so you can skip forward to what interests you most about this surf trip adventure!

  • Planning the surf trip to Texas
  • Nland Surf Park Story (update to this story is WSL bought it and shut it down, a shame!)
  • Barefoot Cable Resort/Barefoot Surf Resort Story
  • River Toobing the Comal River in New Braunfels
  • NLand Surf Park vs. Barefoot Surf Resort Comparison
  • Conclusion – Thoughts for my next Texas Wave Pool Trip

Planning the Surf Trip to Texas

I’m a surf nerd and love surf and tech (being an early adopter and trying things out early) so I’ve always been interested in testing out surfing in wave pools that have been developed with the latest modern day tech for real surfing, not the wave pools at water parks where you just float around.

I wanted to go to Nland when it first opened but when I originally visited my family that lives in Texas around the time I was hoping to try it out, the timing didn’t work out.  However this last trip to visit my family in Texas this Memorial Day weekend was the perfect timing, as it also fell in line with the first public surfing sessions available at another nearby wave pool, Barefoot Surf Resort – BSR.

Although I’m not a morning person and have never done a dawn patrol, I did book one of the first sessions at Nland Surf Park on the Saturday of Memorial weekend, as I originally had plans to do some river toobing later that day with my siblings and then surf BSR Surf Resort at BSR Cable Park the next day.  Well, plans had to shift a bit as I was told a group from California booked out pretty much the whole Memorial Day weekend for surfing at BSR but they had a few sessions left on Saturday.

Therefore, I picked a later evening sesh at 5pm on Saturday and since I was surfing early at Nland, it would allow me enough time to get up there and surf both wave pools in one day.  We would have to do the river toobing on Sunday, and do a little backtracking in our driving as well. I was also just super lucky I was able to get a hold of BSR Cable Park to snag one of the few available surf sessions on Saturday – but persistence pays off as I was pretty much stalking their telephone line and Instagram feed – ha!

Planning for the whole trip was a bit stressful at first as I heard that BSR wouldn’t have rental boards available until June and I didn’t want to lug my surfboard to the airport and back with baggage fees for just one day of surfing, so I had thought of all kinds of ideas, including buying an inflatable Uli surfboard.  However, it turns out that both Wave Bandit and Superbrand donated some boards to BSR so they did indeed have rental boards available for me to use when I booked my session there.

So that’s the set up on the whole trip.  Below is my overview on my experience of surfing both waves at Nland Surf Park in Austin and Barefoot Surf Resort in Waco on Saturday and then some fun river tubing the next day in New Braunfels.

Nland Surf Park Story

My surf session was scheduled for 10am and I was told to be there an hour before hand to sign waivers, watch an overview video, and get some tips and general guidelines on the surf priority system from the surf guides there.  I had just got in from San Diego at 1am the night prior and hadn’t had too much sleep and didn’t have time to eat any breakfast before the sesh, as getting there at 9am was a struggle in itself!

I decided to rent a board as I really didn’t think I could handle the drop and turn fast enough on a long foamer board that comes with the surf session.  I heard the wave was really fast and that the foam boards help with catching it, but I also heard that you need to at first head towards the whitewash and then turn back to the fence in the direction that the wave is going, but turning fast on a foamer is harder for me as I’m not used to them.

I got a 6’6″ short board, which was the longest non-foamer they had, which was really light and easy to carry (my favorite thing about short boards), but I did end up having trouble paddling to get enough speed to make the wave in my first few attempts as I’m not used to surfing a board that’s that short and that thin (I do have a 6’3″ fish, but it’s a fat and wide fish).

I surfed the reef wave which has 3 takeoff points, one on each end and one in the middle.  If you’re in the middle spot you can get on the wave if no one is on it.  For the end points, you take turns with priority and unlike regular surfing in the ocean, the person with priority is in the front.  Once you hear the motor start, you really need to just start paddling asap and then just paddle even faster as the wave gets nearer to you.

I was the only female out there surfing the reef wave, but I wanted to go for it, as I can surf the inside whitewash waves anytime in any wave conditions out there any given day in the ocean where I live.

After a few unsuccessful attempts catching the reef wave, the surf guide offered to switch me his foam board so I could try that out and I gladly obliged.  My first attempt on that I wiped out as I was just getting used to the feel of the wave, but I did end up being able to handle the drop on my next attempt and successfully rode the reef wave for a few seconds. I would have ridden it longer but when you get caught up in the whitewash you’re supposed to fall so you don’t go into the insiders section where my brother and sister were surfing.

I didn’t ride the reef wave like it’s supposed to be ridden, as I didn’t get turned around to the pier in time due to my slow pop up that I need to keep working on. However, I did ride the reef wave, which was my goal – to ride it and not wipe out or nose dive, which I did not nosedive at all and I ended up being able to handle the drop!

The reef was a bigger shoulder high wave and the fact that I could handle the drop gives me the confidence to know that I can handle waves that big, as I usually i stick to 2-3 feet waves as it’s just harder to get out on days where the waves are 4-6 feet, which is my goal to start surfing more of now!

Overall, I had a fun time and was just glad to be in the water to escape the hot Texas heat and try out the Nland wave. I bought my brother and sister an inside wave session so they could experience the wave with me.  My sister has dabbled in surfing visiting me before in San Diego and had a lot of great fun and long rides. My brother, who had never been on a surfboard before and really had no training/tips at all before he went out (a total fish out of water), stood up a couple times on his first ever surf sesh – within the first 50 minutes of ever surfing!

My other brother was awesome in helping film our surf session there as I knew I wouldn’t have time to set up my Soloshot 3 before the surf sesh and am so grateful he could capture our surf session there.

After the surf session, I was super thirsty and was soooo excited when I realized they had young fresh coconut with coconut water!  It was the absolute perfect thing to drink and eat for breakfast after the surf sesh (the young coconut meat in the coconut is amazing – I highly recommend it). After that we got back in my brother’s truck and high tailed it to Barefoot Surf Resort, with a few quick stops to use the restroom, get food, and see this bakery place from these HGTV hosts in Waco that my sister wanted to see.

Barefoot Cable Resort/Barefoot Surf Resort Story

We finally got to BSR Cable Park, which contains Barefoot Surf Resort, around 2:30pm after leaving Nland at 11:30. We gathered all our stuff and went to get our tickets to BSR Cable Park so we could ride the Royal Flush slide and sign our waivers and then I talked to this girl to get my surf pass for the surf resort. Then we realized there were no lockers to store our stuff and since I had some high tech camera stuff and my siblings had their credit cards, etc we didn’t want to risk it so we walked back to the truck in the Texas heat to store our stuff their until I surfed at my 5pm appointment.

We only had an hour or so before my surf sesh and since we were toobing in a real river the next day we skipped the lazy river at BSR Cable park so we could get a few slide runs in before hand.  It was a long trek up in the hot Texas heat but the Royal Flush slide was so fun and different from any water slide I’ve ever ridden we had to try a few runs.  I rode all of the top 3 highest slides and I went face first on the 3rd smallest one – I wasn’t brave enough for the drop face first on the others.

It was a blast, however I had no control when I was popped up in the air from the slide flailing around like an insect! The taller slides actually hurt ya a bit more when you smacked down on the water, although the floatation vests you have to wear there do help in absorbing the impact to your upper body!

The above doesn’t really have anything to do with surfing the wave pool there but it does lead up to my level of energy upon starting my surf sesh there. When I was originally planning my trip there I was planning to surf the first session of the day there when I had most of my energy and then do the slides and finish the day winding down in the lazy river there.  However, plans change and you have to adapt and we still worked in the main activities we wanted to do, just in a different order.

After the first few slide runs, we walked all the way back to the truck so I could get my Soloshot 3 camera to film my attempt surfing there. Then we had to stand in line again so I could buy my siblings a shore pass at the surf park (which is a separate entity from the cable park). Once we got inside the surf beach area, I started to set up my Soloshot 3 only to find that although I thought I had it and my tracking device fully charged, the tracking device had no power and was not charged. Fortunately my siblings were there and my brother and sister with their phones combined with mine, were able to capture my kooky surf moments at the Barefoot Surf Resort wave pool.

I observed the wave for a bit before my session started, although I had watched countless clips online and the regular Soloshot 3 clips from others on the Soloshot app.  They have a nice little tide area where people can sit in the water and cool off from the Texas heat and it really feels like an ocean with the current coming in and out of the area.

When it was 5pm and my session started, I did have a bit of trouble getting across this area to the surfing area as the wave pool liner is a bit slippery and I so must have looked like a massive kook from the very get go trying to climb over this section and ended up simply crawling over it, ha!  However I did recently come across this footage of Brett Barley, a sponsored surfer, slipping on the liner at the 4:30, 5:10, 6:02, 6:06 marks so I don’t feel all that bad now about slipping on it!

Therefore, I think my crawl into the pool gave a signal to the surf guy in charge out there that I was somewhat of a wave pool kook. Since I was a tad late to the beginning of the sesh because of that I missed the overview on how the lineup worked there so the surf guide (after seeing my initial kookiness) suggested that I stay in this one area at the moment and catch the wave and go straight (for beginners and intermediates – I’ve been surfing for almost 10 years so I am an intermediate – ha).  I really didn’t mind as I was the only girl and only kook out there in the lineup of about 12-15 other surfers and I kind of felt intimidated a bit.

Normally in a crowded ocean lineup at a surf spot with a more isolated peak like WindandSea, Swamis, and Lower Trestles, I like to stay a bit on the outside and just catch the shoulder waves/leftovers anyways.  This wave had a similar feel to me.

The system there wasn’t as structured as Nland with an overview video, designated surf areas, and formal priority system, as they are just getting started and I think are figuring out what their system is.  They had a looser system where you just kind of all talked to each other and grouped up in sets of 3 and each group took a turn setting up at the peak on the 3 waves that came within each set.

That was another thing I was a bit confused on, so rather than stay right at the peak and just try to go for it and wipe out on a steep section and run into someone possibly, I just chose to sit on the shoulder, as there wasn’t an opportunity for you to be 100% sure that you could focus on a designated wave coming just for you like there was at Nland. They do have a more structured system now for reserving a surf sesh, as they’ve decided to break out different hourly sessions for either beginner, intermediate/longboarders, and expert surfers!

The waves came so much more often than they did at Nland (about every minute or so) and since I was just catching the shoulder waves, I got a chance to surf a wave every set, so even though I wasn’t catching the green waves at the top of the peak, I got a better workout, catching and popping up on more waves in general. I probably didn’t get as good of a workout as I would in the ocean, due to less paddling needed, but I guarantee I got a shot at a lot more waves within an hour session than I typically get in my typical surf sessions.

The wave itself was amazing, just this perfect blue-green, unbroken steep wave coming right at ya and there was no pounding by the waves on the paddle out to get to it.  As soon as you heard the buzzing of the motor start, you knew to look out for the sudden rise in the water.  I rented a Super Brand 6’1″ pro type short board out, which was the tallest rental they had at the time, which I knew I was going to have trouble catching the waves with, given my experience with the 6’6″ board at Nland.

The same thing happened to me at BSR, after a few attempts catching waves with the short board, they recommended I switch it out for a Wave Bandit foamer. That switch definitely helped me catch the waves there much easier, although it still took me a couple times to get used to the feel of the wave.  However as soon as I caught my first decent ride, I had to do a Victory claim at the end, when looking back on the video, it just seems embarrassing that I’m claiming that whitewash wave, but with my energy level & heat factor at that point in the day, I think I was just stoked out that I caught a semi-decent wave at BSR, which was my goal (as I knew I wouldn’t be doing massive airs, shredding up a storm or getting barreled – at least while standing on my board – ha) – so mission accomplished!

It will be interesting to see how the surf sessions evolved with the new lineup as they cram 20 surfers into a sesh for beginners, the intermediate/longboarder sessions have 12, and the experienced sessions only have 9.  I’d pay more just to be out in the experienced session and at least just get a crack at some of the bigger waves with fewer people out, even if I crash and get thrashed – ha! As long as you take your turn I don’t think the experienced session should be blocked off from intermediate types!  Below is the exact wave descriptions from BSR Surf Resort themselves – which I just discovered a day ago after writing this blog – they still aren’t listed on their website so I thought it would be helpful to include it here!

Barefoot Surf Resort Wave Descriptions and Skill Levels Required

After the surf, we wanted to do the Royal Flush slide a couple more times so we could get pics/videos of it since we had all our stuff with us.  I could barely make it up the stairs the 2nd time as I was so drained from the heat and activities of the day, but I made it!

Perhaps the next time I go there I will be in better shape, surf first thing in the day when I have more energy, go when it’s been open for a while and off prime hot season,on a Tuesday or something during a non-peak time so I don’t feel intimidated in going for a steep one, and bring a board I’m used to surfing, so that maybe, just perhaps maybe I can get barreled there, as that is my ultimate surfing goal in life – to get barreled! I definitely feel confident in attempting a drop there if it’s not crowded, and then maybe just maybe it will happen!!

It will be interesting to see how the surf sessions evolved with the new lineup as they cram 20 surfers into a sesh for beginners, the intermediate/longboarder sessions have 12 surfers max, and the advanced sessions only have up 9 surfers.  I’d pay more just to be out in the advanced session and at least just get a crack at some of the bigger waves with fewer people out, even if I crash and get thrashed – ha! As long as you take your turn I don’t think the experienced session should be blocked off from intermediate types!

River Toobing the Comal River in New Braunfels

Surfers usually do more than just surf on surf trips, so I thought it was fitting to talk about the river toobing fun in New Braunfels on Comal River, an hour or so south of Austin and Nland Surf park.  We went there on the Sunday after surfing both wave pools, and it was a very nice change from the action packed day before, just chilling on some toobs coasting down the New Braunfels river.

We picked up our toobs at Comal Tube Rentals and hopped on a bus down to the river.  At the beginning part of the river ride, there were some more action packed chute areas and rapid sections where ya kinda needed to get out of your toob in order to get back in the stream of the river and together with your group, but it was so much fun!

The whole river toobing experience was just relaxing and chill, and when I mean chill I mean it literally as well as figuratively, as the river was surrounded by trees and cool residential areas that provided shade most of the time from the hot glaring Texas sun.

It was a great way to end the holiday surf trip weekend and wind down from the day before. Below is the 360 video I took with 360Fly and if you watch in Google Chrome or the Google app you can rotate around to see from various perspectives!

NLand Surf Park vs. Barefoot Surf Resort Comparison

Which wave pool is better? It’s really hard to compare them as they are built with different tech – Nland uses groundswell motor tech whereas BSR Surf Resort uses air to produce the waves. It’s also a question you really can’t answer, it’s like what is the best wave on earth to surf?  The answer could be very different for each person, depending on their preferences for a wave and surf spot. That’s why I developed my da Surf Engine app, as a way for surfers to find their own perfect waves, based on all the different criteria they love best for surfing a wave.

For me, I prefer to ride waves as long and as fast as I can, so therefore Nland would most likely be the better wave for me, because it is fast and it is definitely longer than BSR Surf Resort (their max rides are only 8-10 seconds.  However, I like Barefoot Surf Resort overall slightly better as it has a dedicated beach area with white sand and it has bluer water, as I enjoy the whole ocean experience when I go for a surf sesh and like to lay out on the beach and soak it in first rather than simply just going out for a surf and then going straight home.

BSR Surf resort also really looks more like an ocean wave coming at you and has a wider variety of waves, and I like variety! Plus there are so many other activities there to do with the Royal Flush slides, Lazy River and even wake boarding, etc. Nland has started doing the float the moat thing, which is kind of like BSR Cable resort’s lazy river, and I’m sure they do other activities there, it’s just during the hot Texas summers, I think the more water activities you can have in an area, the better!

Nland is better for beginners because it has specific sections reserved just for them and long rides to get you stoked on surfing.  However, for most short boarders that want to try airs and get barreled, Barefoot Surf Resort is probably their preferred option.

Below is a list of what I see the strengths are for both pools, so go ahead, plan a trip there to both and make your own decision on what wave best suits you!

Nland Surf Park Selling Points

  • Longer Waves
  • Dedicated wave for each surfer to attempt and focus on with the more structured priority system – and intermediate surfers aren’t blocked off from the prime reef wave (as the best waves are only provided for “advanced” surfers at BSR)
  • Better for beginner surfers
  • Young coconuts on offer as well as food/drink available

Barefoot Surf Resort Selling Points

  • More waves per session, 3 waves per set vs. just one minute or so in between sets
  • Probably a better value per wave, with the ability to produce more waves
    • It is kind of a bummer though that they no longer have an all-day pass for $100 like they initially advertised – I don’t really think you need all day there, but there should be some sort of discounted rate if you buy multiple sessions within a day, although I think you can purchase a private session which might be a great idea to get more wave time in, I’m just not sure how much those sessions are
  • More realistic ocean waves, (not surfing toward a fence), variety of wave types
  • Bluer water & white sand beach area for watching surfers and chilling out in the tidewater area
  • More water activities other than surfing

Conclusion  – Thoughts for my next Texas Wave Pool Trip

I had a blast at both Nland Surf Park and Barefoot Surf Resort.  However on my next trip I would do a few things differently to have an even better experience.

  • Bring my own board that I’m comfortable with
    • I think I’ll ship my funboard that I don’t use anymore to my mom in Texas, therefore I won’t have to worry with surfboard travel and fees and will have a board that allows me to catch the waves easier (vs the pro short board rentals available) at both the Reef break at Nland and the peak green wave at BSR Surf resort, while also allowing me to turn the boards easier (as I’m just not good at all with maneuvering foam boards – pros can maneuver anything – ha)
  • Spend at least 2-3 days at each wave pool
    • This surf trip my goal was just to experience surfing on both of these wave pool waves. My next trip I hope to be in better shape and be able to spend a bit more time with both of these waves to really get a better feel for them and surf them well, how they should be surfed, and that takes time and practice.  Just like surfing a new surf spot, it really helps to have a familiarity with a wave when you surf it.  I mean I may have felt like quite a wave pool kook at both Nland and BSR Surf park, but when I surf my local home break of Tourmaline Surf Park – I feel like a pro, at least there – ha!
  • Surf at the wave pools in off-peak times during the middle of the work week or book a private session
    • The good thing about the predictability of wave pools is that you aren’t limited in seasonality and surfing a day the surf is actually up (however the wave machines do still go down from time to time). I hope these wave pools start to be open year round – I mean come on with wet suits and the fact that people surf in the freezing New Jersey conditions, they should be (they would also make more money that way). Therefore, you could plan a trip when the scorching heat of the Texas sun doesn’t drain all your energy and during the work week when the wave pools hopefully won’t be as crowded. I’m not sure how much a private/smaller group session at either surf pool would cost, but it would be totally worth it if it would allow me the opportunity to really get some practice in and maybe, perhaps maybe get barreled – as that is a lifelong surfing goal for me!

So that’s it, if you made it through this article – and watched all the videos – you get a high five from me!!  Thanks for sticking through it!

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in Surf Spots, Surf Tech, Surf Travel

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