Draw in Consumers, Keep Them There, and Bring Them Back: Surf in Retail

Surf + retail? Yes, they do go together. Let us explain.

You’ve seen the changing retail landscape with your own eyes. And when the industry authority, ICSC, rebranded from “International Council for Shopping Centers” to “Innovating Commerce Serving Communities,” you know for sure the picture of malls we grew up with has faded into sepia.

Instead, existing shopping malls and new developments need to consider new ways to draw in consumers, new ways to keep them there, and new ways to bring them back.

Hence, terms such as “retailtainment,” “LBE–location-based entertainment (or was it experience?),” and “the marketplaces industry,” have emerged, with attractions becoming an essential part of this evolving concept of where people gather, shop, dine, work, and play—and how retail revenue is generated.

One type of attraction ticks a lot of boxes: surf.

Surfer doing tricks

Why Surf?

Did you know that 24 million people around the world identify themselves as surfers? The introduction of surf as a discipline in the 2020 Olympics demonstrated the increasing popularity of this sport. With artificial surf technology getting better and better, there is a huge opportunity for developers to bring this sport to people who:

  • Don’t live near the sea
  • Live near the sea but have no access to surfable waves
  • Want to try in a safe space
  • Want to improve their skills with perfect waves
  • Are itching to post cool SoCal surf lifestyle photos of themselves

Depending on your footprint and scope, there are two options to bring surf to mixed-use development: stationary surf machines and surf pools—either of these can be the glue that draws people to the retail development, keeps them there longer, and gets them to come back.

FlowRider FlowCurl

More Accommodating Than Mother Nature’s Waves

For smaller footprints, there is the stationary surf machine. You’ve probably already seen, either in person or in pictures, the iconic FlowRider® surf simulator in resorts, on cruise ships, or in water parks. However, you might not know that it is available in different models for different capacities (up to four riders simultaneously) and venue types. A FlowRider can be installed outdoor or indoor, bypassing the weather gods.

Endless Surf surf pool

For a bigger development, a surf pool can be the anchor attraction, providing 360° of entertainment potential, and can be designed to exude all-round surfer vibes, complete with sand, boardwalks, lounges, and of course, shops. There are currently over 100 surf parks in development worldwide, and the Endless Surf pool is one with state-of-the-art technology that can be programmed to offer tailored waves to every skill level.

With high-quality equipment, artificial surf can provide optimal waves, every time, continuously and efficiently.

A Novel Way to Draw Consumers to Your Venue

Whether lakes, rivers, or seas, we human beings are drawn to water, so why not in a retail development? We’ve seen water parks in mega malls such as West Edmonton Mall, Mall of America, and American Dream. But if you don’t have a mega footprint, a stationary surf simulator can also serve as a magnet for guests.

Girl on FlowRider flowboard

With a FlowRider, you will appeal to physically active consumers who want to challenge themselves in a new way; you will allow them easy access to a new sport. You will also be able to attract parents eager to have their children engage in hours of fun without a screen, not to mention groups of teenagers looking for an Instagrammable activity.

If you have a large greenfield development, a surf park can be a destination to draw a diverse audience. You will not only bring in people who want to surf, but also guests of all ages looking to experience a beach lifestyle in their landlocked towns.

Come for the Surf, Stay for Everything Else

A surf attraction can extend the time consumers spend in a retail environment. Why? Because when you see surfers surfing, the chances are, you will stop to take a look. It doesn’t matter if they ride the waves like they own them or completely wipe out, you will watch.

So when you put a FlowRider in the middle of a mall, surrounded by bars, restaurants, and shops, people will stay and watch. Whether participants waiting their turn with their friends or spectators drawn by the novelty of a water sport on dry land, they will be sticking around to spend money on food, drinks, and merchandise.

To maximize return on investment, a venue like this can be a family focal point during the day and transformed into a bass-pounding, laser-beaming party central at night. In addition to selling flowboarding sessions, imagine generating ancillary revenue through hosting competitions, professional surf shows, live bands, and private and corporate events at a location that guests won’t soon forget.

This is exactly the idea behind Flow HouseTM, a standalone entertainment venue pioneering the fusion between flowboarding, F&B, retail, and events. Guests are already revelling in the California surf lifestyle in 15 Flow Houses across Asia, Europe, Middle East, and the Americas.

Likewise, at a surf park, guests will stay for reasons other than surfing: relaxing with a cocktail or two, chowing down some salmon avocado poké bowls, or buying brand-name boardshorts to go with the beach they will be snapping pictures at. While an Endless Surf pool can be the main attraction, adding a water play structure such as AquaPlay will give families another reason to stay the whole day—and eat and drink and shop.

Return to Become Better and Better

As with any other sport, the more you do it, the better you’ll get. When you offer surf in your retail center, guests will come back again and again to improve their skills and feel that sense of achievement with the help of dedicated FlowRider instructors. And that look parents get when they see their child standing smugly on a flowboard for the first time? It’s gold!

This skill-based attraction gives you a reason to sell annual passes, and it gives teens, young adults, and parents a reason to hang out, make friends (read: community), and enjoy everything else your retail center has to offer.

Similarly, in an Endless Surf pool, guests can take lessons and ride waves customized to their skill level. Once they have mastered the beginner waves, they will want to come back to practice on more challenging ones. With Endless Surf’s booking engine, Surf Concierge, guests can create their own profiles, reserve sessions for their specific skill levels, rent equipment, and save the settings, making it convenient for them to return.

This is just a brief overview of how surf can be an amazing part of retail spaces. To discuss how FlowRider or Endless Surf can fit into your unique development, visit us at ICSC, December 5 – 7, 2021 in Las Vegas, Booth #7156, West Hall.


Harmony Liau Mueller