Updated: Apr 18, 2020
Building a wakepark can be quite overwhelming and can be done in many different ways. We’ve put together 10 things you’ll need to consider before you start. Have a read and don’t hesitate to consult us.
1) Follow your dreams
Every business starts as a dream, an idea. As an entrepreneur, you have many. You’re looking for a way to express yourself. Follow these dreams, let them guide you into challenges, step by step.
We always say, if we would have known, how difficult it would be to create our dream, we would have never started. But in the end, we’re so happy we pushed through.
It’s always good to dream, to take it as it goes, cause in the end, you will figure it out.
Finding a location is the hardest part. You can look for existing bodies of water, which have the political challenges and environmental issues. If you’re lucky, you own a body of water. Or, you can look for property that has the opportunity to dig and shape a lake. Creating a lake has a lot of advantages, as you can decide the way of riding and you can go for a poolgap. A bi-level poolgap is a great addition to your basic set up. We were lucky t
o find a piece of property, with exactly the right dimensions for a two-tower park. The first time we stood on the property, we could easily visualize the main lake, with a sloping part towards the end for a bi-level area. Very little trees and agriculture were present. The dream was visualized.
Only ten minutes away from a small emerging town, which was hosting all touristic surfers in the country, called the Surfing Capital of the Philippines, it made sense to add wakeboarding to the menu.
We had a dry piece of property, so how to add the water, essential for wakeboarding. Look for professional advice on the components of your soil. Do a soil testing, if it’s available in your area. You’ll want to know, if your soil has ground water or not. We took it very basic, dug a hole, threw in some water, and checked if it stayed present. As it didn’t, we understood a plastic liner would be the way to go. These days lining a pond or lake is a very common installation and many companies can help you. The technology is maybe 30-40 years old. The lifespan of it, is still to be determined. Again, acquire professional help, as you might be told you can do the lining yourself. After witnessing the installation, it definitely is not for amateurs on this scale. Find someone who can design your lake and advice your how to handle the water. How to clean, drain and in our case, deal with the overflow.
We have an awesome rain season, which is perfect to collect the fresh water needed, but it can also damage your lining and surrounding structure. Make sure you have a well-designed plan to deal with this.
Look for a contractor that can do the groundworks, embankment, slopes, lining, and draining. Again, a proper soil testing is key, so both you and the contractor understand the challenges of the existing soil and understand if imported soil will be needed. Locate your electricity and water source. Figure out the expenses to build a well, collect rainfall water, construct a powerline or acquire a generator.
Create a business plan! If you’ve never done, look for professional advice, look online to see the chapters and find some templates, you’ll definitely need this for the next stage of your dream.
Check your bank account, ask your family, friends, plan meetings with banks, investors and other financial opportunities. You will need them all.
Present your business plan and take note of who wants to help you and believes in your dream as well. Always keep believing!
Every opportunity has its pro’s and con’s. Your first bet would be your friends and family, as they are more lenient if ever you need to adjust payment plans due to unfortunate circumstances (covid-19 for example). Banks and investors are also a good option, as they will be very strict on your numbers and keep you on your toes running the business. Just make sure your financial plan is solid and can cover the requested percentages and payment plans.
You’ve got the property, you’ve got the money, now make sure you are allowed to build and construct the dream. This is actually a good one to do already before you acquire the property, but the actual paperwork starts now. Every government will have its building code and environmental requirements. Take them seriously! In our area, a lot of construction was done without much paperwork. Well, we’re very happy we did ours accordingly, because eventually it will catch up with you, and you really don’t want to be forced to close after everything is ready…
Inform with your local municipal what is needed and keep updated, as things might change along the road.
Your contractor has set you a price, sign a contract, and set the date of delivery. Included in the contract is the fact what happens if the delivery date is not met, don’t forget. Now let the magic happen. See your lake get into shape, with all its ups and downs. You’ll have issues with the equipment, weather and labour force. You will cry, laugh and sweat blood. In the end, it’s all worth it.
Make sure you have a good plan and follow it. Take care of the final layer of soil, the angles of the slope, the shape of the corners.
Have the lining company come in, when the shape is ready. The material used is HDPE, the strongest plastic in the world. Standard thickness to install is 2mm. You can opt to use existing soil to soften the surface, but you can also use a protective layer or thicker lining.
Your next and most important challenge will be your electricity. It is essential to have a good power supply, so take this one very seriously as well. You most probably will need a 3-phase connection, which is very different than your standard 220v power supply. Make sure you are located close to these lines from your local electricity company, or go the other route and decide to run on generator supply only.
Setting up the towers will be done by your wakepark manufacturer, and you’ll be asked to assist where needed. The anchor points need to be there before arrival of the park. There’s a bunch of suppliers to choose from. We opted for Sesitec as they are the market leader and have a very reliable product with easy straight forward and basic controls. The possibility of having a wireless remote control called ‘Reckon’ was a big plus for us. You can buy everything in one package, going from rental gear to obstacles, which makes it easier to ship and handle customs if needed. They also have great marketing and got some of the best wakeboarders on the planet riding for them.
Analyse your market and make a plan. Who will be your customers and how will you reach them. You will want to be close to an existing town with a lot of potential new clients and tourism. You can go for offline stuff like flyers, banner, magazines, roadmap, road signs, online options like Facebook, Instagram, google, TripAdvisor. Team up with online platforms, team up with local homestays and resorts, and the list goes on. We’ve tried all of the above and found out that road signs and the map worked best as we mainly attract customers who are willing to drive out of town. Partnering with the local accommodations was also successful although we suggest you make someone responsible of following up with all contacts, as they tend to change fast.
Operating a two-tower wakepark is quite basic. You will need two permanent employees, one for the front desk and the other one to instruct. Depending on how many hours you run a day, you’ll need to work in shifts and closing a day can make your work schedule a lot easier. We started operating every day including a lunch break. Slowly we transitioned into a full day 8am to 7pm and we also started offering night sessions. It all depends on how occupied you can make your sessions. In our high season, it was absolutely worth it. Overtime we also added a fulltime cook and assistant manager and the place was running smoothly.
Only one person can ride at a time, which gives you several options in how to sell tickets. We chose to offer 90min sessions with 6 people maximum in the session. Basically, making it a half day activity and having the customers spend approximately three hours in the park. We kept it simple with a full package rate, all gear included and no discounts for second sessions and no day passes. There are many other options to present your service, but we believe this was the best choice for the type of customers we have. You can always adapt over time also, as we played around with the option to start doing hourly sessions but haven’t implemented it. We also heard of wakeparks offering 15min slots for individuals, on which we received mixed comments, e.g. it’s hard to offer this to beginners as they will need time to rest and analyse their mistakes.
Our vision and ideal situation is two times a two-tower set up and 2 lakes where you can split the level of riding and offer a different service to each need.
Just be aware, you will make most revenue on learning new people how to ride. The new experience is something people like to pay for. Once they know how to ride, it’s a matter of finding the cheapest way and that’s more practical on a full size wakepark.
Secure the quality of riding and teaching and make every guest enjoy the same. Do regular talks with your staff and evaluate them on their skills. Send every guest a review email and follow up and answer all of them.
Have all employees do their emergency respond training and the operators should have their life saving skills as well.
To this date, there’s no real international training on how to teach wakeboarding, but the lifesaving is a necessity.
You’ll see that learning someone how to ride on a two-tower park is very easy and enjoying. The success rate is high, and everyone leaves the park smiling.
Consult your community, friends and family on how to run a business and be successful. Look for professional advice where needed, don’t be shy to ask questions about everything and contact the wakeparks you know, maybe they will want to share you some advice.
The reality however is that most business owners are very protective on their experience and will see your questions as a potential threat, being a new competing park.
From our side, we’d just want to see the sport grow, so please feel free to contact us if you have any additional questions and would like to have us consult you on your project. We can help you with any of the above 10 things to do.