The story's been told here before. It's a place we spent countless hours exploring. It's a place many of us visited in its prime. It's a place documented here on QC/D in several articles. Ten years after first stepping foot into its abandoned state, I went to go see what, if anything, was left after the demolition.
Fueled by nostalgia, the story of Surf Cincinnati continues.
|- The former arcade building, go kart, and mini golf area. Highlighted in a 2013 followup to our original articles, this section still stands as well.|
I don't work at one anymore. When I encounter sunlight like that now, more often than not it makes me feel nostalgic for those seven years and eight seasons I worked at Kings Island. Sometimes, it's honestly tough and even after all the directions my life has gone (and I'm very grateful for the experiences I've had), I till long for those sun drenched days at that job. It truly meant a lot to me.
A few weeks ago in mid-February, it was finally starting to feel like spring: brilliantly bright and warm under a blue sky. I knew waking up that morning that I'd probably feel those familiar nostalgic pings as the evening got closer and it started to feel like what would normally be the "preseason" of opening an amusement park. Like clockwork, the sense of nostalgia rolled in and maybe the best way to deal with that was to indulge. So I went looking for something. I didn't go looking for Kings Island though or the memories of a past career (not ready for that story yet), instead I went looking for Surf Cincinnati.
At least, what remains of it.
As the day dwindled and that evening sunlight loomed, I pulled down the road surrounded by industrial buildings into the area that once seemed like the strangest place for an amusement park.
|- 1999 photograph of Surf Cincinnati's wave pool by Bill Ware.|
I never worked at Surf Cincinnati, but I went there a lot. I have a ton of memories of it as a kid, spending afternoons in the lazy river and wave pool. Then it was abandoned and it's where I cut my teeth in urban exploration photography. If you've followed this website for some time, you may remember some of the stories.
- The one that describes the place's history and demise.
- The one that details the start of my fascination with abandoned places and how Surf Cincinnati influenced that.
- The one that documents its demolition and how we still played miniature golf there.
- An update on how things looked in 2013.
To be quite frank, I don't even know if this website would exist if it weren't for Surf Cincinnati. When a friend and I ventured down its overgrown paths ten years ago, I was hooked. Surf spawned a series of adventures, questions of history, and interest in sharing those experiences. At the suggestion of my friend Ben, I started a website to share all of that. That website became Queen City Discovery, now nearing its ninth year.
A lot of the things I've done, images made, and paths pursued started when staring into the murky water of a pool I once swam in as a kid.
|- Circa 2007 photograph of Surf Cincinnati's wave pool after being abandoned for four years.|
Surf Cincinnati had opened in the early eighties. It lasted until its final season in 2002. By the spring of 2003, the owners announced that they wouldn't reopen. I first started exploring the abandoned location in 2006 and made so many other visits in the years after. Sometime in 2009, most of the facility was demolished. I was incredibly sad to see it go. "Surf" had two identities for me. It was the memory for a kid who grew up in the 90's as well as a the starting spot for a photographer fixated on documenting abandoned structures. Surf had been an escape in both of its iterations and one I could appreciate both as a former patron and aspiring artist.
|- Surf Cincinnati postcard. Image via CincinnatiViews.net.|
It was replaced by a massive parking lot and mega church. The former banquet halls that sat outside of the main park found new uses. One of them also became a church. In November 2013, I made a quick visit to see if anything was still there from the park. The arcade building, the bumper boats pool, the old go kart track, and the mini golf course all remained. I snapped a few photographs and posted a quick update here on QC/D. I thought that would be the last of it, probably the end of the story. Yet, here I was in 2016 feeling nostalgic. Nostalgic for my old job at a similar venture, nostalgic for when I could spend hours exploring the abandoned amusement park.
|- February 2016 photograph. Formerly one of the "Harbour Club" banquet halls, the building has been converted to one of two churches now occupying the property.|
|- February 2016 photograph.|
|- February 2016 photograph showing the former park's lighting fixtures still standing.|
|- This pad of concrete was once a picnic shelter/rental space for large groups. Known as the "Emerald Islse," it once sat on an island in the center of the lazy river attraction. The lazy river has since been filled in. February 2016 photograph.|
|- February 2016 photograph showing the "pump house" repurposed as a garage.|
|- February 2016 photograph of a former park walkway still existing.|
|- Cat tails, similar to the ones still growing on the property, as seen in 2006.|
One of the other structures still on sight is the former "Caddy's" building. Caddy's had been a popular nightclub in downtown Cincinnati for years. Located on 2nd St., it was bought out and razed when Paul Brown Stadium was built. For some reason, the business relocated to the Northern suburbs, constructing a new building on the Surf Cincinnati property. The building wasn't much to look at, but was recognizable for its painting on the side. Caddy's downtown had featured an iconic painted sign:
|- The iconic Caddy's nightclub painting that used to grace downtown Cincinnati. Image via Holthaus-Lackner Signs.|
Meanwhile, after the business relocated to Surf Cincinnati, the new facility's decorations were somewhat inspired by the iconic former downtown sign:
|- Circa 2006 QC/D photo showing Caddy's and Surf Cincinnati's main entrance plaza three years after abandonment.|
The painting of the dancers has been removed from the building now and the replacement coat of paint is starting to chip away. A notice from the local fire department on the door warns that the sprinkler system isn't turned on.
|- February 2016 photograph detailing the deterioration of the former Caddy's nightclub.|
The former patio area behind the building still remains as well:
|- Rear of the former Caddy's nightclub as seen in February 2016.|
|- Part of the park's old fence still stands as of February 2016.|
|- Former marker on the ground is a ghost sign of the park's entrance. February 2016 photograph.|
|- It's hard to make out in this dark photo from 2008, but in an employee locker room a message from a former worker was still on the white board. It read: "Bye everyone! Have a great year, miss you all. Love, Laura."|
I walked away from the few remnants, churches, and back to my car. If I was going to spend a day indulging in nostalgia while the sun hit that specific spot in the sky, I'm glad I spent it still looking for what was left of Surf Cincinnati.
For more information and photos of Surf in its abandoned state before the demolition, check out our previous articles:
- The park's history, decline, and abandonment.
- How Surf Cincinnati launched an interest in Urban Exploration and helped spawn QC/D.
- Returning to Surf Cincinnati after most of the property had been demolished, specifically to play mini golf.
- A look at what was left in 2013.
Also, while researching a few things for this article it's apparent that the story of Surf Cincinnati still isn't closed. I may have another article (or articles) coming in the future. A couple things I'm still looking for:
- The true opening date of the park.
- Any images of the park when it was open.
- To talk to anyone who worked there.
If you know anyone or anything that might help flush out a little bit more of Surf's story, please send me an email.
|- Another Surf Cincinnati postcard. Image via CincinnatiViews.net.|