By this time, CitySurf Seattle had hoped to be making waves, with an indoor surfing spot 20 minutes from the city in Issaquah, Wash. Co-founders Trisha and John Hoss have been talking about their plans for a high-tech wave machine since October 2017.
But zoning and permitting and raising money is a process that appears to be as frustrating as a flat day on the real ocean.
Original hopes called for a two-story, 10,180-square-foot building on a 1.24-acre site, to be open sometime in the summer of 2018. Summer came and went and early word this year was a June 2019 target. Trisha Hoss reached out to GeekWire this week to explain what she now called a “phased approach” to getting surfers in the water 17 miles from Seattle.
“Our initial activation will be a CitySurf ‘pop-up’ in downtown Issaquah — the exact location will be announced shortly,” Hoss said. “The pop-up wave is 23 feet wide compared to 33 feet at the permanent facility.”
Hoss said CitySurf “experienced a bump in the road” when it came to the permit issued for what she called the planned “flagship site,” at the southwest corner of 10th Avenue Northeast and Northeast Falls Drive. A zoning change at the Issaquah Highlands seemed to indicate they would need to start the permit process over again and comply with new rules that would have made CitySurf infeasible, Hoss said. But they reached an accord with the city and she said CitySurf’s permit is good through 2020.
The biggest challenge to date has been securing financing.
“We hope to obtain construction financing once we have a few months of operating numbers under our belt at the pop-up,” Hoss said. “Traditional financing has proven to be difficult without existing comparables or proven economics for an indoor surfing facility with a restaurant and bar. A group of University of Washington MBA candidates just completed a marketing study on the flagship in Issaquah — based on their report, the location is a good fit.”
In the quest to become home to the first deep water, standing surf wave in the United States, CitySurf will rely on technology called the “Rogue Wave.” The machine moves 240,000 gallons of water per minute to form a standing wave that can be adjusted to as much as 5-feet high.
“For the wave technology, we’ve gone through the structural design process numerous times, each time with a different primary material for the superstructure,” Hoss said. “We now have stamped plans ready for permitting in 50 states with construction choices of concrete, mild steel, stainless steel and 6061 aluminum.”
The pop-up would feature a food truck from Seattle chef Jason Stoneburner, who is part of a small investor group that includes some friends and family and a couple local business owners. Stoneburner would operate a full-scale restaurant at the main facility.
CitySurf has also teamed with Rowland Hanson, a branding and business development consultant well known for his work at Microsoft around the naming and launch of Windows.
Hoss, who said she and her husband have spent just under $1 million to date, said they are ramping up efforts to identify local and industry sponsors for the pop-up activation, with summer again on the radar.
She said it would only take about 60 days to build the pop-up and with the necessary funds “we could be surfing in July.” CitySurf plans to employ about 10 people, including crew, lifeguards and surf instructors.
“We’ve learned the hard way that Seattle is an innovative, forward-thinking startup community that will compete to provide incubation or funding for software, app, or cloud related ventures, but anything other than tech, it’s an excruciating challenge — even if it’s a profitable, successful model in other countries,” she said. “So far, the people that get it have a passion for surfing or wake surfing or believe in creating opportunities to get their kids to unplug.”