Let me lend some of the wisdom I gained during my 48 hour surf trip to the Lone Star State.
1. Look beyond the wave pool.
My first introduction to fresh water surfing in TX started at 6:15 a.m. when Alec Cameron from Waterloo Surf Craft picked me up from my hotel room to head to the banks of the Colorado River where we met up with Baylie, Morgan, and Tegan for some proper wake surfing.
This crew is no joke, they are soooo good at surfing behind the boat... and this isn't wake-boarding-masquerading-as-surfing... this is elegant, real as it gets surfing. They ride everything on that wake—quads, twin fins, and my personal favorite, heavy singlefin longboards.
Tegan Gainan is absolutely masterful at noseriding behind the boat.
I, being accustomed to ocean waves, was taken aback by how fast and critical the pocket of the wave is. They graciously told me that I was doing great for a first timer, but I have a loooong way to go to catch up to these Texans.
We spent a few of the best hours of the day out on the sheet-glass water, taking turns riding waves that ranged from 30 seconds (me) to 5 minutes (the Texans).
I left the river totally excited about the possibilities of wake surfing and incredibly grateful to my hosts.
2. NLand Surf Park is Worth the Trip
As new technology keeps pushing the limits of freshwater surfing—and raises the bar of social media clips—it's easy to become enthralled with the newest, shiniest man-made surfing experience.
When I was invited to NLand, I was stoked to finally surf a man-made wave, but like many of my contemporaries, there was a part of me that had visions of BSR Cable Park dancing in my head.
NLand Surf Park is hardly noticeable from the highway, marked only by a small vinyl banner.
The architecture, landscaping, and layout are all exquisite. (If you can look past the heavy reliance on their red, black, and white NL brand identity.)
3. Tips for Successfully Navigating the Wave at NLand.
The wave is like a scaled-down, approachable version of Kelly's wave. Similar tech concept, but about 1/2 scale in both length and height.
Surfing the wave, as I'm sure you've heard, is NOT the same as surfing an ocean wave. The water is trying to push you away from the pier, which is exactly where you don't want to be. The only thing on your mind while you're paddling should be "Stay close to the fence. Stay close to the fence. Stay close to the fence."
If you stay close to the fence, and keep high and tight on the take-off, you'll be locked in to a 30 second long wave that reels most of the way down the 300 yard long pool.
I rode the 5'4 R-Series Secret Menu, which was a perfect board for that wave, if I'm allowed to say that.
The board paddles well, catches the wave with ease, and the wider tail provides enough speed to effortlessly explore the pocket and race the length of the pool.
The R-Series board has been a dream of mine for 3 years, and surfing a man-made wave has been a goal for at least as long—riding the R-Series Secret Menu in the pool represented a significant milestone for me. It was the culmination of two things I wasn't sure would ever materialize.
4. Bring more foam. Bring more foam. Bring More foam.
Do you want to know the only guys who didn't have a cheshire cat grin on their face in the water? The guys who were floating up to their chest on their favorite 24 liter thruster that works great at their home break.
For so many reasons, foam is your friend. Here are a few of those reasons:
A. It's learning to surf something entirely different—you wouldn't learn to surf on a potato chip, so don't try to learn to surf here on a potato chip.
B. It's freshwater, so it doesn't have the same flotation characteristics as the ocean.
C. It's not a particularly punchy wave, so the ability to effortlessly generate speed is far more important than the ability to make tight turns.
5. Take A Break
Taking a break between sessions is like calling a timeout during a basketball game, its a chance to catch your breath and re-orient your mental approach.
The sun is hot and you can't drink the pool water, so hang out in one of the shaded cabanas and rehydrate before your second session.
6. Trust Me, Surf the "Inside Wave"
Whether or not you are interested in the "Reef Wave" you absolutely must surf the "Inside Wave" (which is different from the "Bay Wave")
It's a re-form that occurs on the shoulder of the Reef Wave, only on the West side of the pool.
It's a giant wall of white-wash at the take-off, that cleans up and reforms into a respectable 3-foot glassy peeler by the time you have to kick out, over 150 yards from where your ride started.
You do that about 24 times in an hour, and by the time the end of the session is nearing, you're barely able to get back into position before the next wave starts up again. It's about as much silly, joyous fun as you're likely to have surfing. Like aching legs and belly laughs fun.