Duke Klauck discovered the joy of soaking in hot springs during the three years he traveled and lived out of his van in the late 1970s. As the founder and owner of Santa Fe’s Japanese-style spa, Ten Thousand Waves, he takes great pleasure in knowing that guests from around the world are enjoying the outdoor bathing experience as much as he does.
Ten Thousand Waves started out as a small bathhouse with eight hot tubs and one massage room, but today it’s a world-class destination with not only tubs and massage rooms but also lodging and dining. When you started out in 1981, did you ever imagine Ten Thousand Waves would become what it is today?
No. I thought I’d be sitting behind the counter doing calligraphy and hosting a small number of people. During our busiest times, in pre-COVID times, we’d see up to 500 guests a day. The business has physically grown from 1,000 square feet in 1981 to 25,000 square feet today.
In what ways have your facilities or business practices changed for the better during the pandemic?
We’ve done a few things we wouldn’t have done otherwise. We established a computerized reservation system so guests can easily book tubs, spa treatments, lodging and takeout food orders online. We also built a small metal building on the property that’s our new laundry room. Previously, we had to make two or three round trips a day to a building in town in order to do the laundry.
What permanent or temporary changes have you made to Izanami so the restaurant can stay open during the pandemic?
We built a permanent pavilion in the upper parking lot that’s open on three sides. We have heaters set up, and we offer blankets to our guests.
What aspect of Ten Thousand Waves are you most proud of, and why?
So many people have been with us for so long, folks who’ve worked here since almost the very beginning. We’ve developed a lifestyle and a sense of community. We’ve been a family and we’re still a family, even through the pandemic.
Visiting Ten Thousand Waves is like being transported to a magical, serene oasis, yet it is only fifteen minutes from downtown. How did you know this location was the perfect place to open a Japanese-style spa?
It was really the only place I could build it. In 1981, it was almost impossible to get commercial building permits. This chunk of land between the city limits and the national forest was about to be zoned residential. I was able to purchase it before that happened.
If you hadn’t gone into this unique business, what other career might you have been drawn to, and why?
I like dealing with happy people. If I were younger and not doing this work, I’d probably go into the solar energy business, which is good for people and our planet.
What question would you like to be asked in an interview but have never been asked?
About the pandemic: we’ve done a lot of work to make Ten Thousand Waves a safe place to visit. We’ve installed special air filters, a device that measures room ventilation and ultraviolet lights that act like a germicide in massage rooms. It takes multiple things to keep guests and employees safe, and we’re doing that.
Who is the most memorable guest you’ve had at Ten Thousand Waves, and what made them memorable?
We’ve hosted lots of celebrities, but one of our most special guests was Ruth Bader Ginsberg. She came here a couple of times with her guys in black suits. A lovely lady. She wrote a handwritten note to us, thanking us for her visit.
What aspect of Ten Thousand Waves has a special place in your heart?
The baths. That’s why I started the business. I love taking hot baths, especially outdoors. One of the perks of being here is that I get to do it a lot.
For more information about Ten Thousand Waves and their restaurant Izanami, visit tenthousandwaves.com.
Writing engaging articles for print and websites continues to be one passion of Emily Van Cleve. She has been a freelance writer and journalist in Santa Fe since 1994, serving a wide range of clients including magazines, newspapers, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations. Emily has been a contributor to Santa Fean magazine for many years and is delighted to be working with the Santa Fean and Essential Guide team. An abstract painter and former professional pianist, Emily also enjoys hiking throughout New Mexico and at the Grand Canyon.