Big Surf to open in May

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TEMPE -- When Big Surf closed its gates o the season last September, the 40-year-old park's future was uncertain, but now it looks like Arizonans will still be able to catch the waves come summer.

After a 20-year hiatus, the park's longtime owners have once again taken over management of the venue that calls itself "America's original water park," and plan to open for it 41st summer on May 28.

The 12.5-acre Big Surf first opened in 1969, and features a 2.5 million gallon wave pool, one of the biggest in the world. That pool is being cleaned up and repainted. In addition, new electrical and computer equipment is being installed as a general refurbishment of the facility is completed.

One of Big Surf's most notable claims to fame was a locally invented wave machine capable of creating surfable 5- to 6-foot waves. Those waves have been toned down to a gentler 3 feet, and over the years, conventional surfboards have given way to boogie boards.

When the park closed at the end of last summer, there was speculation that it might have been for good because Golfland Entertainment Inc., which had run the park since 1991, gave up its long-term lease.

At the time, the El Paso-based company that owns Big Surf, Inland Oceans Inc., had not said anything about the future of the Tempe facility, which also has a kids' wading pool and several water slides.

Now, however, Inland Oceans says it will run Big Surf itself rather that engage another manager.