Artificial Waves: The Future is Now!11-time world champion Kelly Slater and renowned Aussie surfboard shaper Greg Webber have embarked on separate journeys that promise to change the face of artificial wave generation and wave pool design. Both have patents in place and big investors backing them, but whose will be the last wave standing?
Although Webber began his thinking and tinkering (thinkering?) about making his own waves almost a decade ago, the story didn’t get really hot until Slater jumped into the mix. That happens when you are considered history’s greatest surfer. But while several of Slater’s requests for patents were rejected for being “too similar” to Webber’s design, the world champ is now a bona fide contender in the race to create the world’s best fake wave.
Let’s take a look at the concept from the The Kelly Slater Wave Company . According to the company website, designers are of “the best and brightest minds in hydromechanics, mechanical systems and industrial engineering,” they and have created a hydrofoil wave generating technology capable of building very specific wave forms directly from nearby generators, thus allowing the swells to retain a maximum amount of moving energy. Other added elements include what the KSWC calls “…chop cancelation; passive flow redirection; and other current mitigation systems” to control surface conditions which in conjunction with bottom contours would create a constantly churning, customizable and all-around perfect wave.
Early images depict a singular, central tropical island habitat surrounded by a circular pool and angled, endless waves breaking in orbit around it. Looks cool, but the company has been mum on specifics beyond how epic it’s all going to be (although Slater is famous for his competitive mind games).
Webber , on the other hand, has been up front with his plan and technology. Inspired by the endless perfection of small waves that radiate from the hull of a passing boat, he and fellow designers are incorporating a moving hull of sorts to create waves with a discernible trough which will add to a more “real” surfing feel. Webber is predicting his waves will be more vertical and plentiful than any artificial wave so far at a rate of some 240 waves per hour.
Webber’s plan includes several pools of varying levels and session packages that surfers can purchase consisting of several smaller and larger waves (ranging from 10 to 20 seconds long).
Both Slater and Webber appear to be learning from wave pool and artificial waves present and past and are approaching the project as surfers first. That’s important. Surfers know what surfers want. However, the key will be (as both have stated) to engage the new and non-surfers to create repeat and forever customers who can grow with the park.
So many variables have to be considered beyond the wave like location of the park itself. Both Slater and Webber look to be settling on Australia as ground zero for their ground breaking wave parks. This strikes me as interesting since Aussies all live on the coast, and they already have epic waves. It seems that Florida with its mammoth surfing populace and extreme flat spells would make more sense, but I would imagine they know more than I do about this.
And these guys know what a good wave looks like and feels like, so I am entertaining my own romantic notions of why someone would put all this energy into creating a perfect wave. I can see countries building pools like these for the Olympics and the sports best athletes competing in prime time on perfect, customizable 20 second waves. Yeah!
But let’s not be coy about the ultimate deal breaker here: Can either of these concepts make money? If there’s no cash in, there’ll be no slashing. Uhg…