Surf’s up in Austin at NLand Surf Park

Sydney Mahl

Matt Thomson is a self-described fish out of water. His passion for surfing began at a young age, but, for a long time, living in Austin meant he craved for faraway, big ocean waves.

That’s different now thanks to NLand Surf Park. The park is roughly 20 minutes from downtown Austin and serves up ocean-like waves to the local surfing community. NLand partnered with Spanish company Wavegarden, which is among the leaders in wave engineering, to make sure their waves had the best break.

“It’s very similar to ocean surfing and they have created a really good wave,” Thomson said. “I was surprised it was as good as it is and as fun as it is to surf.”

Thomson said he goes to the park multiple times a week to surf the powerful and steep point break wave produced by NLand’s technology. Thomson said they even rival those he surfed while attending Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.  

NLand was founded by Doug Coors of the Colorado-based Coors Brewing Company, who spent years researching how to provide Austinites waves that mimicked those in the ocean. Thomson said the waves he’s surfed weekly at NLand have met Coors’ goal of an authentic ocean wave.

The road to opening NLand wasn’t always easy. During construction, the Travis County Commissioners Court sued NLand Surf Park, saying that NLand had failed to meet minimum safety requirements under state law. NLand in turn sued the county for not treating their company like others of its kind, such as Quest ATX and Next Level Ride Austin, which are wakeboard water parks.

“The biggest disconnect was lack of communication,” said Dani Kaigler, the marketing specialist for NLand. “It’s a huge feat of engineering. We’re now working on putting legislation in place for future companies so things can happen smoothly.”

But the trouble wasn’t over yet.

After the park opened on Oct. 7, 2016, it was closed four weeks later after damage was discovered under the park’s lagoon that caused water to leak onto nearby property. It reopened May 12, 2017 after months of repairs just in time for the summer season.

Thomson said it’s great having a surf park in Austin, as it allows him to drive just 20 minutes for a surf session and return to his daily life, instead of making surf trips to the Gulf.

Though it’s great for people like Thomson and other experts, having a surf park also allows landlocked Texans and Austinites to learn how to surf, as NLand offers coaching sessions for $85 to $190. Gaby Erives was a first time surfer looking to learn some tricks before her honeymoon in Puerto Rico and took a surfing lesson at NLand to prepare.

“I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf and I’ve always thought that Texas isn’t a great place to surf, but I was completely wrong,” Erives said. “Eventually I got to where I could stand on the board for a few seconds and the rush was so worth it.”

Kaigler said NLand is looking into developing a membership option but they are still collecting data to ensure the membership would benefit as many guests as possible. She also said the park is looking into adding a military discount, but nothing is definite at this time.

Both Thomson and Erives said they would be interested if NLand offered a membership or seasonal pass for surfers who want to visit the park frequently. Right now, the cost can add up: surf passes are $50 to $90 for a session just under an hour with an included softboard.

“For the most part, all of the Austin community is stoked that we have a wave in our backyard now,” Thomson said. “My view is that NLand has done an incredible job of making surfer’s dreams into a reality.”