In the last few days have I become genuinely excited about a man-made wave, and I think you should be too. The day after Adriano De Souza's victory in the Pipeline Masters earned him the 2015 World Title (congratulations ADS), the surfing world's attention was turned towards this jaw-dropping, 3:40 clip produced by The Kelly Slater Wave Company
I am a bit of a purist, and I think there is something special about the ocean, but are wave pools the future? Could they provide a fun, reliable surfing option, and possibly even a solution to growing crowds, and less new natural breaks to be found?
I have always been a skeptic, but I cannot stop watching this new footage, so lets have a look at it.
A brief history
Surfers trying to recreate the magic of ocean swells breaking is nothing new:
According to Wikipedia, the first attempt at artificial waves was in the 19th Century, by a crazy Bavarian fantasy castle builder. It remains unclear how much surfing they had in mind...
In the 1970s, a number of wave pools were built, and in 1985 the then pro tour even held an event in Allentown, Pensylvania USA, at an inland wave pool.
Then Flow riders came along, which look like alot of fun, and although some versions had a barrell, the shape of boards, and style of riding needed to surf it suggest they behave very differently to an ocean wave
in 2009, the Tokyo Dome wave pool actually had a reasonably good wave and a little barrel (as evidenced by a youthful looking Julian Wilson and Owen Wright in this clip), but was a financial flop and has now closed
Wadi Adventure wave pool in Dubai looks similar to the Tokyo Dome, a fun but short ride, and has had similar airtime with the Globe flick 'Electric Blue Heaven' and Dion Agius pulling every air in the book.
Then came the Wave Garden; in 2013, test video did the rounds of their prototype in the Basque Country hills, with some of the world tour competitors giving it a trial - whilst small and weak, it did look fun, long and semi-rippable. The first of many Wave Garden model operations was Surf Snowdonia which opened earlier this year, but sadly has been plagued by technical difficulties and lots of down-time
Trust Kelly to beat all of that
Kelly's wave appears to be the first 'top to bottom' barrelling wave, around chest to head-high that has genuine power for speed & turns, and is what many surfers would consider to be a long ride.
A screen-shot from the promotional video - after a lifetime of dream waves, I would imagine Kelly rarely gets this excited about a head-high wave...or perhaps I am just naiive and its all marketing hype for the camera. You decide.
But how will it stack up to the real deal?
Maybe I am getting old, but I still have some reservations.
Surfers arent the only ones who do this. Our snow sliding cousins on skis & snowboards have what are essentially football pitch sized fridges in which people can slide down snow/ice. In times of snow deprived desperation I have had a go at this too, but it was ultimately a massive disappointment, and this is the root cause of why I am still skeptical about wave pools.
I dont think man could ever recreate mother nature and all of her intracacies; as surfers we all know that no two waves are the same, no two break types are the same and indeed every single break on this planet has its own nuances that take time to appreciate.
What about anticipation? Watching weather maps, and knowing when your secret spot that rarely breaks could be on, getting up early, driving around the corner to see it firing - that moment of elation and excitement.
The hippie in me also wants to mention the spiritual moments of relaxation, positive and negative ions and just general sense of well being that surfing can offer - will a wave pool provide this? It may, but I don't know for certain.
What do you think?
With each step, I become increasingly excited about the prospect of an artificial wave on call, and who knows how good it could be in 10 or 20 years, but there is a stubborn part of me that refuses to buy into the hype (which is losing at the moment).
I guess the ultimate verdict will come when (if) I get the chance to ride one of these waves.
What do you think? Have you been fortunate enough to Surf Snowdonia, or any other wave pool?
Cheers - talk soon,
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