Bodyboarding at the BSR Surf Resort Wave Pool
“BSR”. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, these initials should be very familiar to you if you are worth your wave-riding salt! The Barefoot Ski Ranch moniker doesn’t exactly conjure up images of barreling artificial waves, but rebranding to the “BSR Surf Resort” has been slow on the uptake for this Mexia, Texas operation. Just outside of Waco, Texas, BSR started as a wakeboard cable park. American Wave Machines and the owner commiserated, and one of the most accessible, rippable wave pools ever seen was born out of that meeting. The result was a “cool” factor that surrounds this aquatic fun-zone that should be on everyone’s bodyboarding bucket list.
I first heard about BSR when they posted a viral video online a couple years back. The video, featuring a sheet-glass Colgate-colored spitting right barrel captivated the wave riding world just when Kelly’s Surf Ranch was relishing it’s crown as the be-all, end-all of the artificial wave world. Where Surf Ranch provided an impossibly long point break style wave that made many wonder if they could even ride the freight train peeler on the boog, (not to mention that is wasn’t open to the public!), BSR quickly emerged as a skatepark-like alternative, replete with wedges, barrels, rights, lefts and ramps that had bodyboarders frothing to get a crack at it.
Fast-forward to this past July. I had enough of seeing friends like ex-pros Joe Grodzen, JJ Ayala, Brian Press, and young guns like Tanner McDaniel sliding into these man made gems, and booked a family trip to BSR. I started with checking air ticket, hotel and car prices. Once we picked dates and found pricing we could stomach, I went on BSR’s website and booked our one-hour sessions. The process was really easy. We booked 2 expert sessions in the same day- one in the morning, one in the afternoon. We also booked one intermediate session for our kids. I’ll explain the differences later. We secured the rest of the travel plans and crossed fingers hoping there wouldn’t be a violent thunderstorm on our surf day, which could quickly derail our tight schedule.
SECRET TIP #1: If you are on a tight budget, you can book one session, and share it with two people (they can’t be in the water at the same time of course).
So, with travel plans in place, we left on a Wednesday to Austin, and then drove the 1 hour and 45 minutes to Waco and checked in to our hotel. Dallas is about equidistant to Waco and you can fly directly to Waco, but generally tickets are more expensive. Quick tip for those of you who might have spouses that aren’t into this whole plan…we booked about a block away from Magnolia Marketplace, one of the local attractions and brainchild of HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines (hosts of the show “Fixer Upper”).
The good thing about BSR is you know when you’re going to surf, and you know you aren’t going to have to battle for waves. We had an 11am session on a Thursday, so we arrived at the park at 10am after a 20-minute drive from Waco to get the lay of the land. If we hadn’t mapped it on our phone, we never would have found it. It’s literally in the sticks. It’s surrounded by residences and farmland and there’s no sign on the main road telling you where to turn off.
SECRET TIP #2: If you’re going in summer, try to book as early and late as possible. The midday Texas sun that time of year is brutal!
We parked in the dirt lot next to the wakeboard lake and walked over to the Surf Resort side about 50 yards away. We entered the building and checked in, getting wristbands indicating the times of our sessions for the day, and then headed out to the “beach”. Yes, there is actual sand, and yes, there are shells in the sand, despite being many miles from any ocean. We looked out at the pool and if you didn’t know the waves were manmade, you’d see the palm trees, white sand, lounge chairs, music blasting from the speakers and you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in a tropical surfing paradise. The water was in the upper 80s, and thanks to a new filtration system installed last winter, the water was Caribbean blue. Our froth levels were at an all-time high.
We watched the session before ours and took mental notes on everything from how to paddle out, to how taking turns worked, to secret hints on how to get “extra” waves.
Finally, it was our turn. We set our kids up with cameras and told them to shoot every wave we caught.
SECRET TIP #3: Have your photographers set up on the wall next to the pool. It’s the best perspective, will get them the closest, and looks right into the wave and their view won’t be blocked by the waves in front.
SECRET TIP #4: Surfline has cameras on the wave pool, and you can download your session footage with their rewind cam if you don’t have someone videoing you. Be sure to retrieve your session within 5 days of your visit or Surfline zaps it from their servers.
The way the expert session works:
There are 9 people max. There are 3 waves per "set". The waves are about 6 seconds apart and then there is about a 55-second break before the next "set".
You get in groups of 3.
SECRET TIP #5: Try to profile the 9 people in your session. The ideal scenario is to be in a group of 3 with good surfers. Here’s why. If they aren’t good surfers and they fall on the wave in front of you, they often get in your way when you’re on the next wave. Additionally, if the surfers who aren’t as skilled are in the group AFTER yours and they fall on a wave while you’re padding back out next to the wall where a nice rip forms, you can dart in and grab the wave they fell on, increasing your wave count!
So, back to how it works…The 9 of you decide which group of 3 goes first. Doesn’t really matter which group goes first as you all get basically the same amount of waves. When it’s your group’s turn, you’ll already know which panel on the wall to sit next to to be able to catch the wave. You decide who in your group of 3 goes on the first wave, second wave or third wave and then you rotate the order on the next cycle your group gets.
SECRET TIP #6: I found that wave #2 and #3 were a bit hollower due to less water over the concrete bottom.
You don’t want to miss your wave or you will have to wait until your group’s next cycle. The machine fires up, and you hear it getting ready to launch out a wave. Keep in mind, it’s a little counterintuitive in that the wave pushes at an angle away from the wall, but you have to take off and quickly angle toward the wall.
The expert wave has a couple of barrel sections and a couple of sections where you can hit the lip. They have wave “settings” and the expert session uses the “Lower Trestles” setting. The bottom is concrete, so if you eat it, cover your melon!
After your wave, you get over next to the wall and enjoy the easy rip ride back out. Paddle slowly or not at all and be ready to dart in to pick up those waves that people in the next group fall on or miss.
Once back out, the water will be calm as the 3-wave set behind your group’s will be finished. At that point, you paddle away from the wall to make room for the next group and wait your group’s turn. There is only about a 55-second delay before the next set of waves, so you get a wave about every 4 minutes, which would be a bonanza in the ocean!
The setup there is 30 minutes of rights followed by 30 minutes of lefts to make up your one-hour session. It’s actually a good workout. Not a ton of paddling, but combined with the midday July Texas heat and bath-warm water had us depleted after an hour.
You can basically do any maneuver you can do in the same type of waves in the ocean. It felt like riding an ocean wave with enough power to do drop knee snaps, rolls, ARSs, etc. I know if you do the much more costly “private” session, you can actually dictate how you want the wave to break and they can make an air section, a more wedgy peak, etc. so if you have the $$$ to do that, by all means, discuss the options with the operator.
We also ran over and snagged surfboards from the lifeguard stand to have a couple of goes, but they rent legit surfboards at the pro shop including FireWire boards, and a host of soft top options. Kinda fun to mix it up a bit.
We had our kids do the “intermediate” session. What’s the difference? Expert featured waves about 4-5 feet on the face that tapers to about 2-3 at the end of the ride. Intermediate was about 25% smaller but you could still get barreled on that wave on a bodyboard for sure. We didn’t get to see the beginner session waves.
How much should you surf in a day? Depends on your budget and your endurance! Some surfers had booked 6 sessions in a day while we were there- 3 AM and 3 PM sessions. In between, they chilled out under the umbrellas or cabanas (extra charge) through the midday and hit up the beer and bbq stand by the pro shop, or the restaurant upstairs from the wakeboard pro shop. The cabanas are a bit pricey, but have a full view of the entire wave and power outlets to charge your electronics. They are basically wood structures with lounges, couches and fans open on the front and a shower around the side. Pretty sweet if you’re going to be surfing all day, but there are plenty of lounge chairs and a few umbrellas on the beach if you’re on a tighter budget.
We had three sessions in our first day (two expert, one intermediate), so what to do in between? There basically three other activities you can partake in which, depending on your tolerance for risk, can make your day super-fun or end in a trip to a massage therapist or hospital if you really blow it!
The Royal Flush is a large deep pool complete with 4 giant slides that rise about 60 feet above the side of the pool. There is a “kiddie” one that basically just deposits you into the water. The other three launch you at varying heights into the air, demanding some level of gymnastic ability to avoid backflops or face plants. The good news is the padded life vest they give you before climbing the ramp to the slides will protect your front and back, but if you over rotate your launch, your face is fair game for a watery slapping. I tweaked my neck pretty good and face planted on a flip, and my daughter got semi-tweaked too, but fortunately, just temporary discomfort is all we left with. Later in the day, since the park allows patrons to BYOB, the Royal Flush party ramps up significantly with all sorts of alcohol-fueled tomfoolery. I’m sure they must have a paramedic at the ready!
Additionally, just across the parking lot is the namesake of the establishment- the wakeboard lake. This is a standard cable park, and if you don’t know what that is, essentially there is a donut-shaped lake with a moving steel cable circling it mounted about 50 feet above the lake. Tow ropes are attached to the cable at intervals and you launch from a small dock with a wakeboard and circle the lake until you fall or get tired and let go. You just hope that either happens when you’re near the launch point or you have to swim to the shore and do the walk of shame back to the dock. There are various jumps, rails and other features you can try if you are game. My best effort was about a 12” launch off a small ramp.
Additionally, there is a lazy river encircling the wave pool that offers a relaxing inner tube trip of about 45 minutes and you can even rent a cooler tube and throw your cooler full of cocktails and have it at your fingertips for cruise.
Of course, the wake park costs extra, but we were able to use the Royal Flush and Lazy River without paying further, presumably because we all had wristbands for the surf park. Normally, you have to pay for those attractions too.
Culturally speaking, the BSR Park is a slice of Texas. There are surfers, rednecks, wahoos, good ‘ol boys, cowgirls, and everything in between which is definitely part of the charm. To finish off the trip we hit up a couple of BBQ places, the best of which was Rudy’s (you’ll see at the end of the video). Vegetarians might want to steer clear of this place, but we absolutely devoured half a barnyard after playing at the park all day for two days during our stay.
So, if you have a chance and just a couple of days available, you can pretty much guarantee that you won’t get skunked on this surf trip, and not many places in the world can offer that! BSR, we’ll be back!