PBC approves Kelly Slater’s wave park, 11-time champ expects 2019 opening

Palm Beach County commissioners on Thursday unanimously approved zoning for a wave park planned by surf icon Kelly Slater and billionaire Dirk Ziff.

During a short interview after the commission meeting, Slater said construction should begin in 2018. The 11-time world champ expects the pool to begin pumping out perfect, man-made waves sometime in 2019.

Kelly Slater Wave Co., which is owned by the same group that runs the World Surf League tours, in March asked Palm Beach County for permission to operate a wave park on 80 acres at the Palm Beach Park of Commerce along the Beeline Highway in northwestern Palm Beach County.

At Thursday’s meeting, star-struck commissioners asked Slater for autographs and selfies. Mayor Paulette Burdick told Slater her surfer husband and his friends often find themselves frustrated by Florida’s inconsistent waves.

“They don’t like some of the slop we have here,” Burdick said.

“We’re trying to fix that,” Slater said.

The proposal raises the intriguing possibility of the world's best surfers -- who typically compete in exotic Pacific locales -- making a pro tour stop in inland Palm Beach County. Slater already has built one wave park in rural California, and that facility wins rave reviews from surfers who have tried it.

In a zoning application, Slater laid out a proposal that would allow pro surfers to train at the facility and the possibility of an occasional contest. However, Slater has been quiet about who else might be allowed to use the pool, and how much wave time would cost.

RELATED: Surf legend Kelly Slater aims to build wave pool in Palm Beach County

While residents of Jupiter Farms initially opposed the project, no one spoke against the wave park at Thursday’s meeting. Susan Kennedy of the Jupiter Farms Environmental Council told commissioners her fears had been allayed.

Ziff, a billionaire who lives in Palm Beach County and is co-owner of the World Surf League, attended Thursday’s meeting but didn’t address the commission. Ziff and Slater spoke about their plans Wednesday night at an event hosted by the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, but that presentation was closed to the media. 

Slater, long a dominant force on the pro surfing tour, holds the distinction of being both the youngest and the oldest surfer to win a pro title. The Activision video game Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer once was a hot seller, and Slater dated Pamela Anderson during the actress’ Baywatch heyday.

Commissioner Melissa McKinlay told Slater that his appearance in the chambers let her 19-year-old son know that “his mom’s commission meetings can be cool, so thank you for that.”

RELATED: Which Palm Beach County surf spot was named one of the South’s best?

RELATED: Kelly Slater wave pool creeps forward despite Jupiter Farms opposition

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