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The Viable Surf Park Business Model – Jamie Meiselman

In this week’s Summit video release, Jamie Meiselman discusses what it’ll take to make a commercially viable surf park a reality. Having been involved in the Ron Jon Surfpark project in Orlando, Jamie brings an experienced and grounded perspective to the subject at hand, and includes figures and lessons from Ron Jon that should prove invaluable for all serious surf park entrepreneurs.


Presentation in Review

The Goal of Surf Parks

– High quality, repeatable wave
– Economically sustainable
– Affordable for repeat visits
– Environmentally responsible

We’re Almost There, But Not Quite…

– Existing pools and technologies have some varying drawbacks – 90 second intervals for some (too long for commercial viability), large footprints for others (both physically and environmentally), and unproven commercial viability for newer technologies. We’re close but still haven’t seen the perfect surf park yet.

What’ll it Take?

Proven Technology – high throughput, minimum power consumption, minimum footprint, wave height and shape variation capability, wave dampening, long-term reliability
Ripe Market – large local surfing population, poor local surf conditions, healthy economy
Rock-solid business plan

Ron Jon at a Glance

Why Orlando?

– Large surfing population
– Inconsistent/weak surf
– Crowded when there is surf
– Warm weather year-round
– Strong economy

Market Survey Highlights

– Over 2,000 respondents
– 63% within 2-hour drive
– 56% over 25 years old
– 48% would attend once a week or more

Membership Drive

– Forecast 2,000 members
– Nearly 6,000 actually registered

Solid Business Plan

– Core customers (surfers) provided best margins
– Pro Pool highest revenue line item
– Training Pool higher margin than pro pool
– Retail/F&B/Events were lower margin but substantial upside potential

Capital Raise 

– Successfully raised $11 million in 2004 – $7MM Equity/$4MM Debt
– 70+ Individual HNW investors (mostly surfers who understood supply/demand imbalance)
– Debt secured by mall owner

Investor Appetite 

– Standalone surf parks are a high risk investment
– High risk investors demand outsized returns
– Business plans must be realistic and show high likelihood of competitive ROI for risk profile

How to make it happen 

– Skepticism on tech and financial assumptions
– Don’t attempt a home run – a base hit will suffice for now
– Focus on the core
– Eliminate all non-critical financial and operational risks
– Put money and effort into making the best wave possible – aspirants and amenities secondary
– Once high-quality wave is proven viable, investigate and implement ancillary revenue streams



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