An artist’s rendering of Surf Lakes’ demonstration facility shows at least eight different waves breaking simultaneously. Image from:

Sad excuse for the perfect wave

Dear wave pool manufacturers, what are you doing to surfing?

Dear wave pool manufacturers, what are you doing to surfing?

The perfect wave has been the dream since early films like The Endless Summer and the 1987 classic North Shore. Many search years for this feeling that can only be provided by a combination of preparation and opportunity. This search is what hooks many to surfing because once you experience a great wave it only makes you want a better one.

The search for perfection almost always ends with the most crucial aspect of surfing, disappointment. Disappointment is what keeps people addicted, please don’t misconstrue this as a negative. Wave pools eliminate frustration, great right?

In some regards yes, but overall no, because wave pools make surfing redundant and generic. The perfect human-made wave doesn’t achieve the dream because you don’t have to search for it. There are now numerous wave pool facilities that exemplify the perfect wave, two of the most popular being the Kelly Slater wave pool and the Wavegarden facility in Texas.

Wave pools have been around for 50 years. They’ve seen amateur surfing, professional surfing and may become the new Olympic playing field.

Humboldt State freshman Julian Granados said wave pools might be helpful.

“They could be good for practice because of how many perfect waves you can ride in a day,” Granados said.

That’s true and could be why China has invested $30 million into a wave pool devoted to training for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. So if these high priced wave pools are for Olympic training why should the average person care?

HSU freshman Jason Bernardy said that wave pools are going to make surfing generic and boring to watch.

“I don’t want to watch surfers make the same moves on the same wave so that they can get a score,” Bernardy said. “That’s a waste of everyone’s time.”

Retired Australian surfer Mark Occhilupo set out to get people to care by creating his version of the wave pool, the Surf Lake. The Surf Lake is a human-made lake that measures about 400 x 400 yards with a literal gigantic upside down plunger in the center.

When triggered, the boat-sized flipped plunger lets off a big cloud of black smoke and whistles like a steel engine. Like a horror film the plunger emerges from the water and with another ear-piercing cry it submerges, sending waves in four directions.

The Surf Lake’s concrete bottom then allows the wave to break according to the contour. With four different breaks around the Surf Lake many can surf and in Occhilupo eyes many can pay. Unlike Slater’s ten year dream of creating the perfect wave, Occhilupo has invested in building a resort with full dining, accommodations and excellent surf.

The real concern is the amount of water the wave pools use. Slater’s Surf Ranch in Leemore uses about 8,000 gallons of fresh water per day. The Wave Garden in Australia needs 4.4 million gallons of water per year to replenish what’s lost to evaporation.

That’s a lot of fresh water being used and wasted. The amount of freshwater used is the primary concern but not too far behind is the Surf Ranch’s 70 ton hydrofoil that travels at 20 plus mph to create enough energy to make a wave.

This hydrofoil is unnerving because there is no life expectancy and no plan for how they will dispose of it when there is a need for a new foil. The Surf Ranch, Wave Garden and most wave pools are keeping their facts and environmental plans secret to the public, which only makes the mind wonder and expect the worst.

Many environmental mysteries are surrounding these overpriced distractions. Will wave pools distract us from real ecological concerns? Surfers and ocean-goers make up a large portion of the ocean and climate change activists simply because of their demographic.

Those who live around and enjoy the ocean are the ones who care about the ocean and are the ones to want to preserve it the most. Wave pools counter that. What the wave pool does is distract activists and people with a platform who care about the ocean by telling them they can surf a perfect freshwater wave.

Wave pool manufacturers may not realize it, but they’re subliminally showing people that they don’t need the ocean to enjoy surfing, thus taking away what makes surfing great.

With so many real problems surrounding climate change, rising sea levels and a lack of fresh water it makes one wonder why we would be so entranced and concerned with creating an artificial wave that only contributes to making those three problems worse. We may like them now but soon they will be the downfall of what’s so addicting about surfing, the disappointment.

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  1. Richard Gibbs Richard Gibbs Saturday, May 4, 2019

    Do pitching machines decrease baseball players’ enjoyment of playing a good game in the sunshine? Do drum machines lessen the passion of drummers for a well played paradiddle? Of course not. They are simply adjuncts that give more people the ability to hone their skills or find an addition means of expression.

    If anything I would argue that Kelly’s wave and others of that ilk will only increase the number of surfers in the ocean, ultimately—which of course leads to a different unintended consequence.

    I seriously doubt any surfers are going to give up ocean surfing for a chlorinated wave pool with a concrete bottom, any more than Clayton Kershaw will stop pitching or Vinnie Colaiuta will burn his drumsticks. Sure, there will be artificial wave warriors who never taste salt, just like there are plenty of drum programmers who don’t have a clue what to do with a nice set of Gretsch drums.

    All art aspires to music. I believe the corollary here would be all wave machines aspire to the ocean. Bring it on.

  2. Steven Padilla Steven Padilla Wednesday, May 8, 2019

    Without an artificial wave pool how will Rick ever be able to win a surf contest and travel to the north shore to learn how to surf big waves from Chandler?

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