A First-Timer’s Guide to BSR Surf Ranch (Waco, TX)

The BSR Surf Ranch in Waco is home to one of the premier man made surfing waves in the world.

The consistency of the waves and the lack of “paddle-battles” makes the surf ranch a perfect training ground for anyone to improve their surfing, and this applies to beginners and pros alike.

High praise aside, surfing in a pool takes some getting used to for those accustomed to the actual ocean. There are some nuances at the wave pool that can catch a newcomer off-guard, regardless of skill or surfing experience. Which is why I (a wavepool veteran) decided to give you some tips to ensure your trip to BSR is everything it could be.

But first, here are a few things you need to know.

There are 3 waves, beginner, intermediate/longboard, and expert.

Here is what to expect from each:

  • Beginner: The beginner wave is about waist high, and can be compared to a soft-breaking, point break on a smaller day. Despite how it looks on BSR’s website, this wave is can actually be fun for people who already know how to surf as well as the total beginners. Honestly, if this wave wasn’t SOFT TOPS ONLY I would probably ride it on my longboard as it’s actually really well formed and (despite being very small) can offer some pretty long rides!
  • Intermediate/Longboard: The intermediate wave is what I usually ride, it’s around chest to shoulder high and rides like a well lined up beach break. Waves come in groups of three (as with all the wave types) but each wave breaks a little different. Wave 1 is the mushiest and wave 2 has the most punch. (Wave 3 is somewhere in between) The intermediate wave can accomodate everything from shortboards to longboards, although I’m usually the guy riding a log out there. Timing, positioning, and a quick pop-up become more critical on the intermediate wave; I wouldn’t quite describe it as “punchy,” but can still deliver a smack down if you are slow to get to your feet and go down the line.
  • Expert: I’m yet to try the expert wave, but this what I have been told from friends who surf it regularly. The expert wave is around head high, and is steeper, faster, and more hollow than the intermediate wave. Barrels, aerials, and massive turns are all possible on the expert wave. BSR compares the expert wave to the cove section at Rincon or the famed bowls of Velzyland on the North Shore of Hawaii. (Which I’ve never heard of, but I’m sure it’s amazing)

Now,

Heres a few tips for your first time at the wavepool:

  • Get there early. Surfing waves that magically come out of the wall is weird at first, so arriving early to watch the sessions before yours can really help you familiarize yourself with the waves and how the whole system works.
  • Positioning is Everything. Not catching a wave or getting completely body slammed can be the difference of 5 feet at the wavepool, your takeoff position is critical. And because you don’t get to see the wave coming (it just magically appears from behind the wall) you will need to use the posted numbers on the concrete wall as well as gauge your proximity to the wall as a reference point. Can’t overemphasize this. Your exact takeoff spot is a matter of personal preference, but I recommend staying lined up to #7, and staying about 6-8′ off the wall.
  • Want some clips? The best angles are from the the wall. The elevated position and the way each wave breaks toward the wall makes a perched position from the ledge of the concrete wall great angle for photos and videos. North side of the wall for rights, south side for lefts.
  • All booked up? Keep refreshing the calendar. People will often ask me, “how do you surf the wave pool so often? Last I check they were completely booked for the next three months”…my answer: I refresh the calendar every day, and new sessions seem to appear regularly. I don’t know if they add new sessions, or people cancel, but as long those green squares keep appearing I don’t ask questions. This trick, of course, only applies to those within driving distance and can go on short notice.
View from South side of wall.

Surfing at BSR has completely revolutionized my surfing,I think a couple hours at the wave pool is worth weeks of ocean surfing for skill progression and overall development. (At least that’s been my experience)

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