A Manufactured World Class High-Pro Technology is Changing the Game of Surfing
Ever surfed in the ocean? Sure; me too; not too praiseworthy (I hope we all have). But have you ever trekked down dirt roads into the middle of Waco, Texas to a man-made pool to tuck into 10-second head-high barreling waves? Probably not, because they are both sparse and coveted. Well, I’ll tell you first hand—it’s quite the ultimate experience. And more and more of these world class pools, comparable to breaks at the cove section of Rincon, California or even the wedging barrels of Teahupo’o, Tahiti, are popping up all around the landlocked regions of the globe.
Potential for Discovery
To the average folk a pool that produces waves at the touch of a button sounds almost science fiction. But if you have been one of the lucky few to test one out then you probably are stuck with a mental image of peeking through a crystal blue tunnel of natural pool water to an open clean pool of flowing natural river water. And trust me, I was in your shoes not too long ago: only having seen images of these places that seem so sought-after. But that changed after traveling through the mountainous Basque country on the border of France and Spain, across the inland dirt roads of Texas, only to discover different stagnant pools of sustainable potential wave energy.
Surfing, a religion to many, is a meditative connection one only can find while floating in the mysterious big blue, with no expectations but the transformative energy of current under your feet. This is a feeling that can’t be replaced (most surfers would agree). So, what’s the deal with those artificial, non divine, wave pools? Let me tell you a tale: As I straddled my surfboard, surrounded by mountainous Spanish landscape in a flat, peat-colored lagoon, everything that awaited was unexpected. I’m anxiously anticipating the crescendo of engine noises on the other side of the chicken-wire fence I’m sitting against. Then, all of a sudden I’m scooped up by a 4 foot drop in water level to be propelled by an unforeseen head-high surge. You wouldn’t believe it when they explain this to you as you suit up to get in the water. The slimy, salt-lacking liquid, the mechanical clamor, the wired fence you’re positioned up against to be in the right spot for the impending wave—none of it can prepare you for a ride that seems like what the Pacific might churn up on a rare large swell.
No, I was not convinced of intrinsic powers that may be comparable to the sea. But it conveyed something else; a beautiful representation of a natural irregularity that excites the sport and dares the possibility of taking surfing to brand new horizons. Eleven-time WSL world champion, Kelly Slater, said “While surfing for me will always be about adventure, travel and the ocean, this wave brings a new opportunity to the sport without taking away the soulfulness that attracted many of us to surfing in first place” (WSL/KSWV Press Release). Well-put Slater. Let’s see where this thing can take us.
Riding the Wave to…
The game of surfing is evolving quickly: from surfing’s recent inclusion in the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo (thanks to esteemed surfing pioneer Fernando Aguerre, dear friend and International Surfing Association president) to the WSL including Kelly Slater’s pool located in California in a stop on the world tour this September. With technology such as that of the team of engineers at Wave Garden, a Spanish company outside San Sebastian, Spain, developing a commercially viable surfing lagoon, the deep sea is the limit on how the game of surfing will progress. Cam Hassard, Red Bull journalist, believes, “A new era is upon us: the reign of the artificial wave” (Hassard). In his article he ranks the fake breaks and their viability, from Munich to Malaysia.
But, what is more important is Olympic talk. The 2020 Olympic surfing contest site is scheduled to be at Shidashita Beach 40 miles outside of Tokyo. However, in a Wall Street Journal article, author Stan Parish began his admiration piece for “A Landlocked Surfer’s Solution” by stating, “Wavegarden, a Spanish engineering company, is making waves that could land the sport in the Tokyo Olympic games” (Stan Parish). At least he was right that surfing itself would make it. Are wave pools the next advancement for Olympic surfing? Can we expect to see international surfers ripping replica head-high waves for their countries in 2024? Well, one step at a time. For now, this groups’ technology has drawn notice for its development of what is now pay-to-play commercialization that has landed expansion of their machinery in dozens of landlocked locations all across the world. This effort has given access to surfers who would have otherwise never been able to travel on a blue surge of water. What an inclusive effort!
“The Worlds Best Man-Made Wave is Powered 100% by the Sun” – EcoWatch
Surfing is all about natural flow and energy. Those of us who have dabbled can attest. So doesn’t it seem reactionary to spend all of this energy to create what already exists naturally? Well not in the case of many man-made waves out there. Kelly Slater’s freak of technology, one of the most admired pools out there, is powered totally by solar. This wave is actually one of the first in a sustainable effort to access electric energy from power farms in Northern and Central California. Noah Grimmett, GM of the Kelly Slater Wave Company, touts,
This program allows Kelly Slater Wave Company to not only be a pioneer in wave technology, but also in supporting sustainable power initiatives as we act environmentally through an alternative to installing solar panels and fulfil our vision of building the best man-made wave.
So, at least we’re keeping it environmental.
The biggest name in surfing is making big moves. The WSL (World Surf League; an organization that has hosted the annual tour of professional surf competitions and broadcasts since 1976), a global competitive surfing platform, is based off of their dedication to “Celebrate the world’s best surfing on the world’s best waves.” So, on May 24 of 2016 the WSL released its’ agreement to acquire a majority of the Kelly Slater Wave Company. Their intent behind their company stands to “Promote the growth of high-performance surfing around the world.” Yeah, these are big advancements. Surfing in this new dimension is opening a new gate for the sport, where surfers can practice in a controlled environment.
At the root of it, it is progressing surfers abilities and adding a new layer of competition. Like a canvas for the global advancement, existing surfers are getting better and new ones are progressing quicker than ever before. We can only envision the popularity of surfing to intensify (WSL/KSWV Press Release).
Chow, Lorraine. “Kelly Slater: Worlds ‘Best Man-Made Waves’ is Powered 100% by the Sun.” EcoWatch, 9 Feb. 2016.
Hassard, Cam. “The Best Landlocked Waves You Can Find around Our Globe….” Red Bull, Red Bull, 23 May. 2016.
Kelly Slater Wave Company. (2016, May 24). WSL Holdings To Acquire Kelly Slater Wave Company [Press Release].
Parish, Stan. “Artificial Wave Pools: A Landlocked Surfer's Solution?” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 1 Dec. 2015.