Did you know that Big Surf Waterpark opened on October 24, 1969? In 1965, four years before the “surf center” opened, it was just an idea thought of by a man named Phil Dexter. Dexter took that idea and in 1966 built the first model of his wave machine…in his backyard!
The following year he built a larger-scaled model in an abandonded billiards hall in Phoenix. A fully engineered model was built later in 1967, and in the same year Clairol Inc., came on board to help further develop the wave machine. Construction of Big Surf began in January of 1969 in Tempe, Arizona. In September of that year, the surf center opened with a press conference and live surfing demonstration by World Surfing Champion Fred Hemmings Jr. Now, 43 years later, Big Surf Waterpark is home to America’s original wave pool and features over a dozen additional rides for all ages! The famed wave pool is the third-largest in the world, holding 2.5 million gallons of water.
Big Surf served as more than just a surf center. It was a popular destination for numerous concerts from musicians like: Pink Floyd, Elton John, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beach Boys, Chicago, Sting, Rod Stewart and many, many more. The concert tradition was revived in 2011 with two Sound Wave Electronic Dance Music festivals. Big Surf was also featured in two motion pictures: Just One of the Guys (1985) and Storm of the Century (1999).