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Summer bummer: Austin's big wave surf pool still closed 3 years after purchased by world's greatest surfer
Austin's surf park made a splash when it opened in 2016, astounding the city's land-locked surf-lovers with new artificial wave technology. Two years after a company led by the world's most famous surfer took over, an Austonia drone photo survey shows a desolate site where there once was a thriving attraction that brought surfers from both coasts, and beyond.
Surf pools drained and empty, wave generating equipment apparently dismantled, parking lots empty, surf shop and pub closed. Mud, weeds, and only the sound of prairie wind, where once big waves broke to the sounds of joy from excited surfers.
Formerly known as NLand Surf Park, the artificial wave pool sits east of the airport on U.S. Highway 71. Dreamed up by Coors beer heir Doug Coors, the park served fun from its opening until November 2018, when it closed its doors for the season and never reopened.
Artificial wave technology allowed people to surf in the pool. (NLand Surf Park/Facebook)
The 14-acre pool was divided into two sides: Experienced surfers shredded the bigger waves on one side, while kids and beginners rode the small ones on the other. Across the pool, a snow plow-like blade was dragged underwater, generating the realistic, ocean-like curls.
Coors sold the park in 2018 to Kelly Slater Wave Co., founded by renowned surfer Kelly Slater and partially owned by the World Surf League. After officially acquiring the property in January 2019, the new owners set forth plans to reopen as Surf Ranch Austin and outfit the facility with Slater's own wave technology.
The last known action toward bringing the park back to life was in August 2019, when engineering firm Carlson Brigance & Doering Inc. submitted a site plan to the City of Austin, calling for the demolition of the existing wave pool in favor of a new one, which was rejected for what appeared to be administrative issues in October that year.
Since then, nothing.
Surf Ranch on June 10, 2021. (Austonia)
Another clue could come from Waco, where a competing company, Barefoot Ski Ranch, runs a surf pool built on a different technology. BSR is facing a multi-year lawsuit from the family of a 29-year-old New Jersey surfer who died of a brain-eating amoeba after visiting the pool. The suit characterizes the pool as an alleged "pathogen soup" masked by blue-dyed water.
The Austin park's original opening was delayed in 2016 while Travis County and the surf park's owners battled over water quality issues, finally reaching a settlement rather than face dueling lawsuits, one in federal court. According to the Austin American-Statesman, the settlement required Nland to provide daily water quality reports, detailing chlorine, pH, sediment and E. coli levels.
Austonia made multiple inquiries to KSW and WSL and received no response on the site's current status and future plans, and whether water quality concerns have played a role in the park's apparent shutdown.
Austin's Surf Ranch isn't the only location to flop. According to Beach Grit, Slater's first U.S. location, a prototype Surf Ranch location in Lemoore, California, seemed closest to opening but remains closed to the public; it is running on a reservation basis. Another in the works by KSW is Surf Ranch Coolum in Queensland, Australia, a $1.2 billion development with plans to open in 2022.
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Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced a record-setting second quarter during an earnings call broadcasted from the Giga Texas construction site in Southeast Travis County on Monday.
The electric carmaker reported more than $1 billion in quarterly net income and the production of more than 200,000 vehicles for the first time despite challenges such as a global semiconductor shortage.
"It … seems that public sentiment towards electric vehicles is at an inflection point, and at this point, I think, almost everyone agrees electric vehicles are the only way forward," Musk said.
Exterior shots taken just a while ago of Giga Texas (while @elonmusk is reportedly at the Gigafactory!) during today's earnings call!
Hope @peterdog15 got to catch the technoking in his video! #fastestinhistory #Tesla pic.twitter.com/WqeDlb5wU3
— Austin Tesla Club (@AustinTeslaClub) July 26, 2021
Despite rising consumer demand and adequate factory capacity, Tesla faces what Musk described as a "quite serious" global semiconductor shortage, which will determine the company's growth rate for the rest of the year.
With increased revenue and production, Tesla is investing in new factories, Chief Financial Officer Zachary Kirkhorn said. These include Giga Texas, the $1.1 billion manufacturing plant that broke ground last summer and is slated to open later this year.
The Giga Texas factory in Southeast Travis County has rapidly increased in size since ground broke last August. (Tesla)
Musk commended the construction team for "incredible progress," transforming what was basically a vacant site into "a mostly complete large factory a year later."
I was at Giga Texas yesterday. Team is making excellent progress. Building will be almost a mile long when complete.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 25, 2021
Giga Texas will produce the highly anticipated Cybertruck, along with other models, but Musk said scaling its production will be difficult, especially given the supply chain delays caused by the pandemic. "It's going to move as fast as the slowest of its up to 10,000 unique parts," he said.
In other news, Musk said Monday's earnings call would likely be his last regular appearance, only jumping on future quarterly calls when big announcements warrant it.
Tesla Solar recently made news when it announced plans to build the nation's most sustainable residential community in Southeast Austin earlier this month. The newly built homes will feature Tesla solar roof tiles and Powerwall battery storage as well as electric vehicle charging stations.
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The city of Austin released a shortlist of seven candidates for the police chief position left vacant when Brian Manley retired in March.
City Manager Spencer Cronk hopes to announce an appointment by the end of August, which will require City Council approval.
The finalists, chosen from a field of 46 applicants, include:
- APD Interim Chief Joseph Chacon, who previously served as an assistant chief in the department for almost five years
- Anne Kirkpatrick, former police chief in Oakland, California, who was fired last year after a federal monitor criticized her handling of a fatal 2018 police shooting of a homeless man
- Dallas Police Department Assistant Chief Avery L. Moore, who is a 30-year veteran of the department
- Atlanta Police Department Deputy Chief Celeste Murphy, who manages the department's community services division
- Dekalb County Police Chief Mirtha V. Ramos, who previously served as division chief in the Miami-Dade Police Department
- Wichita Police Department Chief Gordon Ramsay, who is a former president of the Minnesota Police Chief's Association as well as one of the first police chiefs of a major U.S. City to call George Floyd's death a murder, as reported by the Wichita Eagle
- Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Emada E. Tingirides, who is also commanding officer of the department's newly formed Community Safety Partnership Bureau, which serves L.A.'s underserved communities
City staff will interview the finalists in the coming weeks, with several community input opportunities to come, according to a Monday press release.
The city conducted a public survey in March and hosted community input meetings in April to learn more about what residents are looking for in their next police chief, which helped shape the selection criteria for the position.
"They want to see the Chief be reform-minded and transparent and have a track record of fostering community involvement and accountability," Cronk said in the release. "The candidates selected show these characteristics in various ways."
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Days after Austin began once again recommending masks in public spaces, Austin ISD announced Monday that kindergarten through sixth-grade classes will have virtual options this fall.
The district will discuss the move in a special board meeting Monday evening starting at 5 p.m., while full details will be released Friday.
Teachers will not have to fret about the new option—no educators will have to juggle both virtual and in-person learning. Instead, certain teachers will specialize in virtual education, according to a press release.
The news comes after a recent spike in COVID cases in Travis County and across the nation. Children typically suffer fewer symptoms of COVID when contracted, but they are now catching the virus more often than their older counterparts without a vaccine available to them and as the more contagious Delta variant is quickly being spread.
While local health officials are recommending everyone wear masks, public school districts are unable to mandate masks due to an executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott in May.
Parents have expressed concern about classrooms with masks unenforceable and children under the age of 12 ineligible for a vaccine. Some have even said they would look for alternative schooling if AISD did not offer a virtual option for students.
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