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BEST PLACE TO CATCH A WAVE Phoenix 2005 - Big Surf

Big Surf

Big Surf

1500 N. McClintock Drive

Tempe, AZ 85281

480-947-2477

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Of the Valley's three water parks, all owned by the Mesa-based Golfland Entertainment Centers, only Big Surf offers a wave pool where you can actually ride the waves -- and even then, the only spot the curls break strong enough to carry your rental raft all the way in to shore is at the three-foot depth marker, about two acres in from where the underwater gates release the rolling manmade pipelines.

For FOGs (surfer slang for Frickin' Old Guys) who remember the lagoon when it first opened in 1969 as the world's first inland wave pool (pictures of the park's original layout still hang in the front office), it's hard to see so much of the gnarly water going to waste on pintsize kooks and hodads. During regular operating hours, the deeper third of the lagoon remains roped off, as are the stairways surfers used to descend at the deep end to short-cut paddling out from shore.

But at least once a month during the summer, Big Surf returns to its glory days by offering an after-hours run of the entire lagoon to anyone itching to really catch a wave. For $35, anyone over 12 can grab one of the old '60s longboards the park still hangs onto and ramp it up on a series of 10 extra-big waves that Big Surf's patented plunger sends curling down the entire two-and-a-half-acre length of the pool. Call early to reserve your spot, though; even ocean-lapping Californians are known to show up for this way-cool after-hours pool party.

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