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Jay DiMartino

Wave Pools, the Olympics, and the Future of Fake Waves

By February 17, 2013

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I am still blown away that surfing has not made it to the world's most prestigious arena. Now as with every aspect of the exploitation of surfing, I find myself thinking something like this and  then immediately realizing that once it happens, it has somehow soiled the purity of the sport. But heck the purity has been soiled already. Have you read a surf mag or watched a surf movie lately? The transformation is complete; let's at least see it go all the way.  Here is my idea:

<p>The secret would be a really good wave pool. Therefore, the playing field would be level.  Every wave is the same. There would be no worries about forecasting good swell. Every surfer has the same opportunity. Every drop, every wave the same. Cameras, lights, sponsors, logos, glittering LCD scoreboards all blazing. How is it different from snowboarding (or skateboarding which has an even better reason to be in the Olympics)? Heck, how is surfing different from figure skating (I'm ready for a wave of comments on that one)? But think about it. It's a graceful, athletic expression that is totally subjective. Both are acrobatic tests of balance and style. True story, when I was working as a full-time professional judge, we would practice using the surf contest criteria by watching the winter Olympics. Think about it, completing the most radical and high risk maneuver with the most control and speed wins. That could be gymnastics or figure skating or snowboarding or whatever.

Since the early days of surfing,  purists have hated to see surfing given to the rest of the world. Mob mentality and competitive sensibilities often manifest themselves into negative aggression in the lineup.  But heck, even George Freeth made money from surfing. Plus, one look at an overcrowded lineup that 10 years ago would have been empty can turn one's stomach, but the Olympics comes from a pretty cool place with a focus on healthy national pride.  Surfers could be part of this. And maybe, if every country built some more of these wave pools, it might free up little space in the lineup for the rest of us. Oh well, it's all just random thought at this point,  but just think if Brazil would have built a wave pool for this event and  then been able to use it as a giant amusement aquatic center thereafter. I don't know Olympics, I think you are missing the ball here. Look at what it has done for snowboarding.

Sure, wave pool history will tell us that they have yet to be fully proven either a legitimate alternative or as a financial boon for investors, but with new concepts from Kelly Slater and Greg Webber, surfing in the Olympics might just happen. But even stranger, you might see cars with boards on the roof racks as you drive through Iowa.

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