It’s difficult to avoid clichés about “making waves” when it comes to describing Tom Lochtefeld. You see, that’s exactly what the founder of San Diego-based Wave Loch Inc. is doing — creating and generating major waves in aquatics.
The 54-year-old California native and surfing enthusiast’s main creation, the FlowRider, has brought aquatic play to new levels and new ages, since it first came on the scene in 1991. His design attracts a demographic rarely reached successfully in the past: the teenager. Because the FlowRider is a challenging twist on aquatic fun, it lures patrons of all ages to try, again and again.
The FlowRider simulates surfing and boogie boarding by pumping 30,000 gallons of fresh water per minute up a curved slope. You can find one at any of Lochtefeld’s Wave Houses, a board-sports dream that combines surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding under one roof with retail, recreation and restaurants. So far, Wave Houses operate in San Diego and Durban, South Africa, with another nine locations in the works.
The 25-plus-year veteran of waterparks, former tax attorney and founder of Raging Waters waterpark describes the niche as growing in terms of extreme sports, but in a safe way. Wave Loch is currently focusing on growing the wave technology. Its most popular product, the FlowRider, is a major part of that growth. In addition, Lochtefeld is trying to add rides that use real surfboards in a waterpark-type environment, which teach people actual surfing skills. He envisions bigger wave pools with real surfing on his future agenda – a waterpark ride where the patron makes his or her own fun and level of enjoyment, and where the ride will always change as the patron improves.
His biggest concern is safety. “If we screw up without disclosure, if someone gets hurt and doesn’t realize the risk, that’s not good,” he says. He says he’s amazed by the number of new products on the market without government interference. “Luckily we’ve been able to avoid landmines and keep innovation moving forward,” he says.
He anticipates that surfing will become a regular part of aquatics, especially as the Midwestern markets bring his technology into the growing indoor waterpark industry.
“Wave Loch is going in the direction continuing surfing as its primary [product],” he says. “But we’re stepping up a notch and creating new attractions … for the beginner-intermediate level, high-end equipment to be introduced in the Wave House concept in the near future.”