Surfin’ RVA: Wake surfing school launches on the river

SafeSurfRVA4

David Klotz of Safe Surf RVA catches a wave from the boat’s wake next to the Chesterfield Power Station. (Jonathan Spiers photos)

Surf the James River? Who knew, but it is possible.

And if you didn’t, David Klotz and Jacob Hollomon want to show you.

The childhood friends and longtime water sports enthusiasts recently launched Safe Surf RVA, a wake surfing school providing lessons and outings for catching waves via the wake behind a motorboat.

Unlike wakeboarding, where riders are towed at high speeds and perform aerial tricks on boards they’re strapped onto, wake surfing is lower speed and involves pulling yourself into position, dropping the rope and surfing the wake hands-free.

SafeSurfRVA6

Business partner Jacob Hollomon is towed into position under Klotz’s watchful eye.

Klotz and Hollomon, who have been boating together for years and grew up in the same neighborhood near Willow Lawn, are operating Safe Surf RVA from Osborne Boat Landing, the public launch off Osborne Turnpike in Varina beside Kingsland Marina and The Lilly Pad restaurant.

Safe Surf RVA adds to other water-based ventures that have picked up around the marina with Kingfish Boat Rentals, which Kingsland and Lilly Pad owner Max Walraven launched in recent years and offers pontoon boats, kayaks and paddleboards for rent.

The wake surfing school is also receiving some shared promotion from Walraven on Kingfish’s website, with Klotz and Hollomon returning the favor with a Lilly Pad link on Safe Surf’s site.

SafeSurfRVA2

A video still from Kingfish’s website.

Klotz said he met Walraven a decade ago when Walraven acquired the nearby Richmond Yacht Basin marina. Klotz said he and Hollomon came to Walraven with the idea of adding wake surfing to the mix and they all agreed to make it a separate venture.

“It’s one of those deals where Max is totally capable of doing this all on his own, but it’s just one more thing to do and take care of and manage, so we decided we would do it,” Klotz said.

“We’ve been surfing for a while. We’ve taught a good 20-30 friends to surf,” he said. “It’s really something everybody can do, other than lacking the equipment to do so.”

BoatParade MaxWalraven

Max Walraven

Walraven said the wake surfing was a hit out of the gate when Safe Surf RVA started bookings June 1.

“The fact that there’s no service like it anywhere on the James River or close to Richmond, there was an obvious need for it, because the first day we pushed it out on Lilly Pad’s social media, they got their first booking,” Walraven said.

“It’s people that have surfed before, don’t own a boat, but are dying to get out on the river. I want my marinas to be the Swiss Army knife of river activities. Something for everyone,” he said. “The James River is so underutilized and I think it’s our job to get people out on the river.”

While they launch from Osborne Boat Landing, Klotz and Holloman said Safe Surf RVA conducts its lessons at some remove from the marina and keeps a distance from other boats in light of the wake.

Lessons are open to all ages, with waivers needed from parents for kids’ groups. Klotz said groups of two to six are preferred so riders can take turns and rest between sets.

SafeSurfRVA3

Klotz prepares for a ride. (Photo courtesy Safe Surf RVA)

Bookings start at $589 for a four-hour lesson or outing, and $999 for an eight-hour “all day” surf. The costs include instruction and use of the boat, rope and boards, and life jackets and other equipment is provided.

Klotz said anyone able to use the rope to pull themselves upright when the boat accelerates can handle wake surfing, which he described as smoother and gentler than wakeboarding because of the slower speed and choppy water making falls less painful.

Their boat is a Moomba Mobius LSV, equipped with a Wet Sounds speaker system for music during rides and hydraulic metal plates that help add more wake. The boat also has ballast bags that are filled with thousands of gallons of river water to add weight to the back of the boat and create more wake.

SafeSurfRVA7

Hollomon halfway through a 360-degree spin.

Klotz and Hollomon bought the boat together last September and said they’re aiming to buy their next upgraded boat, which Klotz said sells for $150,000. Beyond the boat investment, he said operating costs for Safe Surf RVA come down primarily to fuel and boat maintenance costs.

Klotz said they finance the venture themselves. Hollomon, 31 and a Thomas Jefferson High School grad, is a mechanic for a grocery store chain. Klotz, 29 and a Freeman High grad, said he’s focusing on Safe Surf RVA full-time after several years maintaining the docks and landscaping at Kingsland and Richmond Yacht Basin, and working at The Lilly Pad.

Two other instructors round out the team, and Klotz said all of the drivers have a state boating license and two have a captain’s license. He said certifications are not needed to teach wake surfing and acknowledged that the team will be learning as they go, as well.

“We are learning as we go from previous experience, with the guidance of people like Max and other friends that are helping us,” he said. “While I plan on getting a lot more experience teaching here very shortly, I feel very confident. We’ve taught 10 kids, five women, and then the rest being our classic longboard-y, skateboard-y friends.”

SafeSurfRVA5

The childhood friends have been boating the river for years.

Klotz said wake surfing is growing in popularity and he sees promise for it taking off in Richmond. He noted the surf park that’s planned with The Lake development underway in Chesterfield.

“The sport is inevitably going to grow in Richmond. Virginia Beach just announced they’re 50% done with their beachfront surf park; Chesterfield, we’re getting one here in the next couple years, so I think it’s going to grow a lot,” he said.

Describing the James as his favorite river in the world, Klotz added, “Something I forget, as someone who’s been out here my whole life, is that while surfing is a lot of fun to me, I think for a lot of people, just to get out here and be on the water is already a treat.”

Clarification: Klotz said all of the drivers have a state boating license and two have a captain’s license. 

SafeSurfRVA4

David Klotz of Safe Surf RVA catches a wave from the boat’s wake next to the Chesterfield Power Station. (Jonathan Spiers photos)

Surf the James River? Who knew, but it is possible.

And if you didn’t, David Klotz and Jacob Hollomon want to show you.

The childhood friends and longtime water sports enthusiasts recently launched Safe Surf RVA, a wake surfing school providing lessons and outings for catching waves via the wake behind a motorboat.

Unlike wakeboarding, where riders are towed at high speeds and perform aerial tricks on boards they’re strapped onto, wake surfing is lower speed and involves pulling yourself into position, dropping the rope and surfing the wake hands-free.

SafeSurfRVA6

Business partner Jacob Hollomon is towed into position under Klotz’s watchful eye.

Klotz and Hollomon, who have been boating together for years and grew up in the same neighborhood near Willow Lawn, are operating Safe Surf RVA from Osborne Boat Landing, the public launch off Osborne Turnpike in Varina beside Kingsland Marina and The Lilly Pad restaurant.

Safe Surf RVA adds to other water-based ventures that have picked up around the marina with Kingfish Boat Rentals, which Kingsland and Lilly Pad owner Max Walraven launched in recent years and offers pontoon boats, kayaks and paddleboards for rent.

The wake surfing school is also receiving some shared promotion from Walraven on Kingfish’s website, with Klotz and Hollomon returning the favor with a Lilly Pad link on Safe Surf’s site.

SafeSurfRVA2

A video still from Kingfish’s website.

Klotz said he met Walraven a decade ago when Walraven acquired the nearby Richmond Yacht Basin marina. Klotz said he and Hollomon came to Walraven with the idea of adding wake surfing to the mix and they all agreed to make it a separate venture.

“It’s one of those deals where Max is totally capable of doing this all on his own, but it’s just one more thing to do and take care of and manage, so we decided we would do it,” Klotz said.

“We’ve been surfing for a while. We’ve taught a good 20-30 friends to surf,” he said. “It’s really something everybody can do, other than lacking the equipment to do so.”

BoatParade MaxWalraven

Max Walraven

Walraven said the wake surfing was a hit out of the gate when Safe Surf RVA started bookings June 1.

“The fact that there’s no service like it anywhere on the James River or close to Richmond, there was an obvious need for it, because the first day we pushed it out on Lilly Pad’s social media, they got their first booking,” Walraven said.

“It’s people that have surfed before, don’t own a boat, but are dying to get out on the river. I want my marinas to be the Swiss Army knife of river activities. Something for everyone,” he said. “The James River is so underutilized and I think it’s our job to get people out on the river.”

While they launch from Osborne Boat Landing, Klotz and Holloman said Safe Surf RVA conducts its lessons at some remove from the marina and keeps a distance from other boats in light of the wake.

Lessons are open to all ages, with waivers needed from parents for kids’ groups. Klotz said groups of two to six are preferred so riders can take turns and rest between sets.

SafeSurfRVA3

Klotz prepares for a ride. (Photo courtesy Safe Surf RVA)

Bookings start at $589 for a four-hour lesson or outing, and $999 for an eight-hour “all day” surf. The costs include instruction and use of the boat, rope and boards, and life jackets and other equipment is provided.

Klotz said anyone able to use the rope to pull themselves upright when the boat accelerates can handle wake surfing, which he described as smoother and gentler than wakeboarding because of the slower speed and choppy water making falls less painful.

Their boat is a Moomba Mobius LSV, equipped with a Wet Sounds speaker system for music during rides and hydraulic metal plates that help add more wake. The boat also has ballast bags that are filled with thousands of gallons of river water to add weight to the back of the boat and create more wake.

SafeSurfRVA7

Hollomon halfway through a 360-degree spin.

Klotz and Hollomon bought the boat together last September and said they’re aiming to buy their next upgraded boat, which Klotz said sells for $150,000. Beyond the boat investment, he said operating costs for Safe Surf RVA come down primarily to fuel and boat maintenance costs.

Klotz said they finance the venture themselves. Hollomon, 31 and a Thomas Jefferson High School grad, is a mechanic for a grocery store chain. Klotz, 29 and a Freeman High grad, said he’s focusing on Safe Surf RVA full-time after several years maintaining the docks and landscaping at Kingsland and Richmond Yacht Basin, and working at The Lilly Pad.

Two other instructors round out the team, and Klotz said all of the drivers have a state boating license and two have a captain’s license. He said certifications are not needed to teach wake surfing and acknowledged that the team will be learning as they go, as well.

“We are learning as we go from previous experience, with the guidance of people like Max and other friends that are helping us,” he said. “While I plan on getting a lot more experience teaching here very shortly, I feel very confident. We’ve taught 10 kids, five women, and then the rest being our classic longboard-y, skateboard-y friends.”

SafeSurfRVA5

The childhood friends have been boating the river for years.

Klotz said wake surfing is growing in popularity and he sees promise for it taking off in Richmond. He noted the surf park that’s planned with The Lake development underway in Chesterfield.

“The sport is inevitably going to grow in Richmond. Virginia Beach just announced they’re 50% done with their beachfront surf park; Chesterfield, we’re getting one here in the next couple years, so I think it’s going to grow a lot,” he said.

Describing the James as his favorite river in the world, Klotz added, “Something I forget, as someone who’s been out here my whole life, is that while surfing is a lot of fun to me, I think for a lot of people, just to get out here and be on the water is already a treat.”

Clarification: Klotz said all of the drivers have a state boating license and two have a captain’s license. 

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Fred Squire
Fred Squire
26 days ago

Sounds like a neat idea. Especially for those with no access to a boat.

The operators may want to check up on Inland OUPV regs before they get too carried away with only their state boat/jet ski cards.

Hunter Lipscomb
Hunter Lipscomb
26 days ago
Reply to  Fred Squire

Paid passengers require a Captains license even on inland waters. They would at least need what is known as a 6-pack, which is a captains license for six paying passengers.

Robby Comia
Robby Comia
26 days ago

I grew up in VB and I miss being so close to the ocean. I have bodyboarded since I was a kid but now only take a few trips to the beach during the summer with family. When I first saw this headline I thought, what a great idea! And I was also looking forward to the waterpark coming to Chesterfield. Then I saw the pricing. I understand there are upfront costs for equipment, licenses, fuel, etc. But wow. I hope there can be partnerships with youth groups, summer camps, or something. It just seems a little steep for a… Read more »

Hunter Lipscomb
Hunter Lipscomb
26 days ago
Reply to  Robby Comia

Have to remember that ethanol-free gas on the water is running $5-6/gallon, and wakeboarding/surfing requires “plowing” and pushing a lot of water (i.e. a lot of fuel burn). Then add maintenance, insurance, and all the other overheads (boat purchase, trailer maintenance, watersports equipment and safety equipment, etc.). Do the math and it adds up very quick. I wish them the best and hope that it allows them to break even while having fun on the water and allowing others the experience of getting on the water.

Ned Rennolds
Ned Rennolds
26 days ago

Awesome business idea and good luck! This is a great part of the James to do this.