Couple finally catches a surf break in dream to bring man-made wave facility to Seattle area
Surfing is not the easiest sport to learn. But getting financial backing, securing land and actually building a man-made, deep-water wave to surf in the Seattle area is definitely harder.
John and Trisha Hoss have learned from experience over the past five years as they tried and tried to turn their CitySurf concept into reality. Not to lean too heavily on a term popular with their future clientele, the Hosses are stoked with where they are now. They just had to go across the country to make it happen.
Technology developed by John Hoss, previously under the name “Rogue Wave,” is now “EpicSurf” and will be manufactured, sold and serviced by Aquatic Development Group (ADG), an Upstate New York company with decades of experience in the aquatic and amusement industry.
The Hoss’ stationary wave debuted at the end of June — the culmination of what the co-founders called years of blood, sweat and tears. The biggest part of the battle was trying and failing to convince traditional investors in software-focused Seattle that the hardware could work.
“It was a painful experience,” John Hoss told GeekWire. “We had to really believe in the physics and believe in the economics to not quit.”
“It just caused us to work harder and to go beyond the usual sources for funding,” Trisha Hoss added.
The couple drove 2,500 miles in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, to spend five months at ADG’s headquarters north of Albany, N.Y., to build out a wave concept that Hoss had been trying to sell via simulations on his computer.
EpicSurf produces a wave of water that can be adjusted from between 3 and 5 feet, for a more authentic surfing experience than machines that push a thin sheet of water over a formed surface. A footprint about the size of a tennis court makes the technology ideal for theme parks or city settings, and delivers on the goal of making the ocean sport of surfing more accessible to more people.
ADG and the Hosses hosted a handful of professional surfers, including YouTube celebrity Ben Gravy (below) whose videos feature him surfing all sorts of waves. Gravy called it “a totally awesome experience” and said he had “more fun shredding it on this wave than on any other wave, anywhere.”
After months of testing and engineering modifications, the Hosses were beside themselves in June watching kids and pros ride the wave they knew they could build.
“It was one of the best days of our lives, right up there with getting married and having kids. It was very special,” John Hoss said.
Back in Seattle, the CitySurf dream is still alive. The Hosses still plan to build facilities that feature the EpicSurf wave attached to restaurants run by Seattle chef Jason Stoneburner. The plan is scaled back a bit from where they started a few years ago and would require a 6,000-square-foot footprint as opposed to 13,000.
“We’ve learned a lot more about the industry. We’ve refined our business plan,” John Hoss said. “We were looking a little bit too big. We learned the hard way that we couldn’t get it financed without proving the technology. So we went back to the drawing board.”
The couple is still looking at Issaquah, Wash., for the first CitySurf location and is getting close to securing a piece of property.
But they’ll no longer be the first deep-water wave in the U.S. as they had originally planned — and won’t even be the first in Washington state. Lakeside Surf, at the Slidewaters Waterpark in Chelan, Wash., beat the Hosses to the punch with a facility that opened in May.
Billed as “the world’s largest and greatest stationary wave,” Lakeside is powered by Citywave, a company with waves in Europe and Japan. John and Trisha Hoss were inspired to start their journey after witnessing a surfing competition in Munich, Germany, at a Citywave facility.
“We got beat with who surfed first in a deep-water wave, but this is a marathon, not a sprint,” John Hoss said, adding that CitySurf will have an indoor wave to surf all season. “In the winter when Chelan is closed, [surfers] are going to be in Issaquah.”
And in the end, during a year in which surfing will make its debut at the Olympics, it’s about turning more people onto the sport.
“It’s a big country,” John Hoss said. “The more that our competitor gets their waves out there, it’s just going to get more people hooked on it.”