Big Surf

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Big Surf is a waterpark located in Tempe, Arizona. Opened in 1969 and financed by Clairol, it boasts the oldest wave pool in the United States, designed by Phil Dexter.[1][2] At a ceremony on August 17, 2013 the Waikiki Beach Wave pool was designated an ASME Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark as the "first inland surfing facility in North America".[3] The Big Surf Water park became the first amusement park to receive the ASME landmark status.


Big Surf was the first wave pool in the United States. Point Mallard Park in Decatur, Alabama also claims to have been first, although Big Surf opened a year earlier in the summer of 1969. Big Surf was financed by Clairol/Bristol Meyers. World champion surfer Fred Hemmings was hired as a consultant and featured surfer. He rode the first man made wave at Big Surf. At one point it featured surfing exhibitions and competitions, as well as regular use by pool patrons. The competitions were largely discontinued in the late 1980s and early 1990s due to safety and liability concerns. Daily surf sessions are held before the park opens to the general public and between 5pm-6pm. Since its opening, Big Surf has added several attractions and replaced its original sand beach with a concrete bottom.

The park celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2009.[4] On September 2, 2009, it was reported that Big Surf would close indefinitely at the end of the day on Monday, September 7, 2009.[5] However, later that week on September 5th, the Arizona Republic reported that Big Surf would be reopened in summer 2010 by Inland Oceans LLC, acquired from Golfland Entertainment, Inc.[6]

Additional attractions[edit]

Pink Floyd performed at Big Surf in 1972 as part of their Dark Side of the Moon Tour.

A popular teen disco known as The Rock Hop operated at Big Surf on Friday nights between 1977 and 1980.

Waterslides were added to the park in 1979.


  1. ^ Inertia, The. "Inventor of World's First Wave Pool Dies". The Inertia. Retrieved 2019-01-07.
  2. ^ "Big Surf Water Park in Tempe - Waikiki Beach Wave Pool at Big Surf". 2011-06-27. Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  3. ^
  4. ^ The Arizona Republic (2009-05-22). "Big Surf, Sunsplash open Saturday". Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  5. ^ The Arizona Republic (2009-09-02). "Big Surf water park in Tempe to close".
  6. ^ Ruelas, Richard (2009-09-05). "Original owners to keep Big Surf open". Retrieved 2011-08-10.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°26′45″N 111°54′45″W / 33.4457°N 111.9126°W / 33.4457; -111.9126