Yakima County could get a surf park by 2024

Surfers could ride waves while looking out at hills, orchards

MOXEE, Wash. — People could be surfing the waves under the hot desert sun in Yakima County by the spring of 2024 — all while looking out at rolling fields, hills and orchards.

“We are standing on the site — hopefully on the future site — of Barreled Surf Park,” said Joey Lawrence, founder of Northwest Surf Parks and the driving force behind the project. “It’s going to be the state of Washington’s first big wave surf technology outdoor attraction.”

The man-made surf park in the “Palm Springs of Washington” will have waves as high as eight feet, lasting for up to 20 seconds each and can be customized for novice surfers or professionals.

“There’s a lot of excitement about offering a brand new outdoor recreation activity that — up until now — has really been out of reach,” Lawrence said. “We’re trying to offer an experience that would typically require someone to get on a plane and fly to Hawaii.”

Lawrence works at the Bale Breaker Brewing Co. taproom and said they’ve been very supportive of the project, which he’s been working on for nearly six years. He said the name for Barreled Surf Park came from both a surfing move called “getting barreled” and the barrels used by the craft brewing industry prevalent in the Yakima Valley.

According to the website, “the open park will highlight the pristine agricultural surroundings, while offering a unique, family-oriented recreational experience, thus far out of reach for the region.”

The equipment comes from Wavegarden, a Spain-based engineering enterprise dedicated to creating wave generating systems and surfing lagoons.

“We have partnered with them to conduct a feasibility study of the area to make sure this place can support one of their projects, which we passed with flying colors,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence said a surf park isn’t like a water park or amusement park, but more like a rock climbing gym or summer ski resort; rather than focusing solely on entertainment, it will be a place for prospective and professional surfers to train, practice and hone their craft.

“We aren’t going to have big bright lights or a carnival,” Lawrence said. “We feel that we found the right location and we want to be as good of neighbors as possible.”

The surf park will include a full sized Wavegarden Cove, surf shop, surf school and locker rooms, bar and food court, lounge pools, beach volleyball, a dog park, a playground and skate track — all with a rural theme. The entrance will be a barn, the restaurant will be a roadside fruit stand and the surf school will be a tractor shed.

“We think the rural community is worth showing off and we want to embrace it,” Lawrence said. “The reason why we’re out here is to highlight those aspects of the Yakima Valley, not to intrude on them.”

The surf park will also offer overnight accommodations, including 21 RV spots, 21 camp sites and 23 small cottages. Lawrence said he chose to build it in Yakima County because of its warm weather, already established tourism industry and steady enthusiasm for outdoor recreation.

“We just like this small town feel and think Yakima has a lot to offer,” Lawrence said. “And then, of course, it’s centrally located between the three major population hubs of Portland, Seattle and Spokane.”

Lawrence said the surf park should have a positive impact on the tourism industry and economy in Yakima County, as well as creating permanent, temporary and seasonal jobs.

“The Yakima County Development Association did an economic impact study, so directly we’re looking at creating 10 year-round jobs and 100 seasonal jobs,”  Lawrence said. “And then, to build it, will be 115 construction jobs and then the economic kind of ripple effect will create an additional 65 jobs.”

Lawrence said the surf park is also expected to bring in about $1.5 million in state and local tax revenue every year. He said they’ve already applied for the land use permit for the property, which is located in rural Moxee, near Roy Farms.

The out-of-the-way location was deliberate; Lawrence said he wanted surfers to be able to learn, practice and have fun while enjoying the beautiful Yakima Valley scenery.

“The point was to provide as pristine an environment to our patrons as we possibly could,” Lawrence said.

Roy Farms provided the property and will be diverting a portion of its water for the park. To do that, the surf park needs to get permission from local and state authorities to change the water usage from agricultural to recreational.

While they’ve been able to get water use approval from the Yakima County Water Conservancy Board, they’re still working to get approval from the state Department of Ecology. Lawrence said state officials initially declined to approve their application due to insufficient information, a decision they are working to appeal.

“All in all, we’re hoping to be through the permitting processes by the end of the summer-ish and then hopefully breaking ground next spring, which puts us on track to be open spring of 2024,” Lawrence said.

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