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Big Surf Tempe

We were invited to a private party at Big Surf.


So, what we saw was an emptier version of what is probably the norm for the season, but it was really nice because I don’t really like crowds (I know, sounds crazy!)

Big Surf is at 1500 N McClinton Dr in Tempe, and is easily accessible by the 202 from Surprise. And, there is no fee for parking, but I can gather it gets very busy! The wave pool is easily seen from the air as well, so if you have a flight into or out of Sky Harbor, the wave pool is easy to spot. The Waterpark actually opened in 1969, and was the first wave pool in the world! You can also do surfing or boogie board sessions from 5-6pm every day.


We first went to the restrooms, of course, because three little kids barely make it across the valley. Ok, I’m guilty as well. The restrooms were…the pool type. They had the smell of wet and the floors were slippery. I highly, highly HIGHLY  suggest water shoes. Not even flip flops as they are slipperier than water shoes. We did go in at 530 ish, so it was after a long day of the restrooms being open already, but still-it looked worn.


Next we purchased a locker. There were tons of lockers and were spread out for easy access. I liked that because you are always trying to get around people when using the lockers and taking things off, putting things in. And, they were all shaded!


We also picked up life vests for the kids that were provided. I highly suggest to look for the ones that have the strap that goes underneath the crotch area because it keeps the life vest from pushing up and possibly straight over their head. Mom trick-when they go to the bathroom, keep the vest on and wind the crotch strap around one of the arm areas of the vest so it doesn’t go in the toilet or on the floor. (let’s just not even go there with how many people pee in the pool, ok?!?)


Yes, they have ice cream and lots of food. I even saw dippin dots. I love dippin dots. Seems to stay colder longer, but is SOOO expensive.


There was also a ton of shaded seating everywhere, which was great. Including this fine lady drinking lots of water. You can bring factory sealed water in. You can also see a shower in the background (outdoor shower, keep your pants on!)


The little deck you can see in the pictures is for one life guard to walk around, and another walks around on the outside. Even though the water was about 1-1 1/2 feet deep, the did a great job keeping their eyes on the area. This was a great area for the wee ones, but I’m guessing during the mid day sun, it would be pretty sunny. There are also signs posted everywhere not to interrupt and talk with the lifeguards and that they are also not babysitters. Very appropriate-they were doing a great job, but they aren’t there to break up fights-just keep kids and adults from drowning. You can see in the last picture that there are patches of the pool floor that are bare. This was where Big Surf really showed its age. The patches in floors of the pool areas was disappointing. I know that they are closed for many months during the winter and wonder if this area is maintained.


Unfortunately, we didn’t do many of the slides since the minimum heght was 48″ and our kids deck out right at 42-44″. My hubby and oldest, Munchie, did do the Kilauea slides and Munchie just made it. Which made Giggles totally freak out ( I almost grabbed a picture it was SO cute and SO sad).


You can see the vest on in this picture, and how its helping the wedgie effect. Giggles is carrying the tube before she realized she couldn’t go…eek


The wave pool is huge. Giggles did not have fun with the rafts. Munchie did ok and I held onto Dimples (who had his vest on and a death grip on my arm). The further back you are to the start of the wave the better you are. Unfortunately, it’s either run over or be run over(ed). When the wave breaks, just like a real one, its hard to keep going if you don’t already have the momentum. The current (pull back ) of the water is stronger than one may realize, and at about 1 1/2-2′ my kids were being pulled into the tow. Don’t underestimate it being a fake beach! It felt real in some aspects.

In the corners of the wave area (on the left of this picture) where the water isn’t so affected by the tow, it was kind of dirty. Granted, they have real grass and real dirt for the chairs to be on throughout the park, which explains the dirt. The bottom of the pool in areas had patches that needed to be painted like the toddler area.


Unfortunately, lots of dirt on the stairs-but t was right near some of the seating area.

On both sides of the wave pool were “mickey mouse ear” type areas. One side (where the dirt picture was taken) had a 2 1/2-4′ still pool with a basketball court. You could look over to the wave pool. It was also our respite when Giggles couldn’t do the tube slide with Munchie.


The Tahitian Twisters were a hit with even Giggles, who is just starting to fight to swim. I mean learn to swim.. Oh my gosh it’s a fight with her. The depth was under four feet, but given the amount of speed you come down, you can dunk under even with the vest on. The lifeguards were great and brought the kids back to parents. If you went really slow, you might have to jump down into the water. The lifeguards in both the Tahitian Twisters and Otter slides were very gracious to parents stepping in and grabbing kids out. Both Giggles and Dimples LOVED this area. Dimples really wasn’t a fan and wouldn’t go up the slides. There is a nice area for shaded seating in the Bora Bora bay and you can over look the wave pool. There are lifeguards around to keep an eye on the areas as well. They do not like you too close to the wall that over looks the wave pool and will ask you to move back. Not sure if they are worried you will jump or what, but stay away.

The only thing to really keep note of here was that the path up to the Otter and Tahitian slides were slipper and steepish. I almost did a digger in my flip flops while holding Dimples hand when he refused to go down the slides. There is netting to hold on to while you are walking up and down, but you might think you don’t need it.

I noticed throughout the park that there was some little bitty hills that didn’t seem like much, but without shoes and wet-prime for slip hazards. The paths were cement and bumpy, but not enough traction. I highly, once again, suggest water shoes!


As you can see, there are lots of grassy areas (real grass ) and there were little “streams” that had water in them that went in and out of the tide pools and the slides. Better to walk in than the other cement pathways? Perhaps!


We were in the picnic area and it had a lot of shaded tables with great canopies. I had to say I was surprised we got Styrofoam cups, but it did make our drinks stay cold . Munchie was all ready to go and didn’t want to stop to eat!


In the picnic area, there was also a beach volleyball net set up! The picnic area may not be reserved or open for all events, but there is lots of seating throughout the park.

Big Surf has it’s pluses and minuses. It does show its age, but it’s a little more affordable and has some other areas that work well for little kids as well. In the heart of the Sonoran Desert, to have multiple water parks to choose from is amazing.

The Basics

Big Surf Waterpark

1500 McClintock Drive

Tempe, AZ


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