Wave Pools and the Future of Surfing
What will quality wave pools mean to the progression of surfing and surfboards?
The wave pool game has now changed forever. Let’s see what happens with surfing and surfboards.
By now we’ve all seen what King Kelly’s Wave Pool Company has produced. This historic event in surfing has really just opened the flood gates for where waves pools can go, the question that instantly pops into our heads here at Boardcave is: What will this do for the progression of surfing, as well as surfboard design?
You may not think that there is much room for progression as it seems groms are simply born doing airs above the lip, but think about the possibilities of where surfing can go when you can practice the same maneuver on the same section on the same board over and over again!!!
For how fast someone seems to progress their surfing, one thing is holding them back from moving through the paces even quicker…that is simply the lack of consistency that mother nature provides for our waves.
Sure you have locations where the waves break in a similar way over a defined sand bar, reef or some sort of structure, but there are so many other variables involved. The strength and period of the swell, as well as direction (outlined to help you understand more here, Where Do Waves Come From) and then you have the local wind conditions and how that can affect waves at any given time. Tide is a huge factor as well…is it high tide or low tide, is the tide drawing out or pushing in, how high or low of a tide, etc.
New materials are changing the game, what can they do for wave pool progression?
The point is, progressive surfing is held back simply by the fact that as surfers, we are at the whim of the elements. Sure you may go for a 2 or 3 hour surf but the time you actual spend surfing waves is a small fraction of that time you spend out in the water. And for most of us (unless you have a high quality wave at your local) we are getting in maybe two turns and a closeout or end section.
We are now at the dawn of a progression revolution. Wave pools are going to become consistent training tools allowing surfers to practice that same maneuver over and over until they have it dialed. Then when you take these skills back to natural waves and that section happens to come your way, you don’t even have to think about setting up and performing the maneuver. It’ll be ingrained in your muscle memory and become more of a natural reaction, similar to a kick flip or even a golf swing.
You get where we are headed with the progression of surfing…but what about surfboard design???
There is already (and always has been) a lot of experimentation with design principles. We cover many of these principles in article like Let’s Talk About Flex, Surfboard Outlines and Tails, Rails and Noses, etc. Many boards, or styles of boards are designed with certain type of waves in mind. Others are designed to be more or less a one board quiver, the Hypto Krypto for example, allowing you to surf in a wide variety of waves and conditions.
If you are not experimenting, you are not pushing progression. DHD Surfboards doing their part and pushing the limits.
It would be safe to say however that there are going to be people designing and developing models to fit “wave pool surfing” specifically. In reaction to Kelly’s new wave pool, Greg Webber points out that what it is lacking is a trough in front of the wave. What he means is a natural wave actually draws water up the face at the same time that it is moving forward. It is almost impossible to notice while surfing an average sized wave, but what that does is create a slightly lower than sea level bulge right in front of the wave.
If you look at big reef breaks like Teahupoo you can see this effect with the naked eye. As the wave starts approaching, the water over the reef starts sucking out and actually going lower than sea level. This happens with every natural wave although you may not notice it. So in theory, when you are coming off a bottom turn, the trough more or less helps to propel you back up the face of the wave again.
A great illustration of the mechanics of heavy waves…notice the sea level and how the wave sucks water out below that level, creating a trough in front of the waves. Image Courtesy of Surfline.com
If this cannot be recreated in a wave pool environment, maybe the standard surfboard is not the most ideal equipment that could be used. What would be the ideal equipment? We arn’t sure yet as there hasn’t been the opportunity to truly test this, but it would be safe to say that many shapers (if they are interested in designing boards specific for pools) are going to take this into consideration. Most of the design concepts and tech is already there, it’s just figuring out what works best. This research and development will also be made easier as you can now flick a switch to test a design concept or new construction. This could be something like tweaking the flex characteristics like Carbon Wrap Technology from DMS Surfboards out of Australia and offered by Lost Surfboards as well, for example to help the projection back up the face.
Again, we are only at the dawn of a new era in performance for both surfing and surfboard design.
The Second Coming of Rick Kane
Look out, there is about to be a new breed of frothing groms ripping who live nowhere near the coast.
Side Note: if you are not sure who Rick Kane is, go find a copy of the movie North Shore, sit back and enjoy.
Something else for us to consider is the fact that the chance to surf quality waves will open up to the rest of the world who are more or less landlocked.
That kid from Alice Springs in the Northern Territory will be boosting air reverses and scoring longer barrels in as little as a year or so surfing, where it has taken you or me many many years of surfing our dumpy local beach breaks to score the barrel of our lives…which more than likely happened on a surf trip away from home.
Surfing at your local wave pool could mean you can start on a larger or beginner board and progress onto something with more performance like the DHD Skeleton Key, the SUPERbrand Fling or the Album Swing quicker resulting in better surfers ready for natural beach, point and reef breaks and boosting surf tourism around the world.
This will have a huge impact on everything surf related. Surfboard manufacturing is going to sky rocket. Up until now, it is really only SUP’s and Windsurf boards that can really make any promising sales inland. There are plenty of lakes and rivers all around the world you can SUP on, but not many that produce a surf-able wave, apart from standing waves on a flowing river.
Surf Industry appeal and fashion have already made it out there, now surfboards themselves will find happy homes with frothing groms everywhere.
Nation Surfboards will be frothing out groms with pro inland surfer models like the Ric Kane Pro.
We are still way off from seeing this change happen on a commercial level, but this is where it all starts. Consistency of waves, energy costs and a range of business challenges need to be solved before wave pool’s become commercially viable and open up in your neighborhood. The point is the dream of that quality man made wave has now been successfully created. It can be and will be recreated all over the world in years to come. Now instead of waiting for the wind to shift, the tide to come up, the swell to arrive…surfers going to the wave pools will just have to wait for the gate keepers of stoke to flick the switch, allowing you to get barreled every Wednesday before work.
I hope those dude’s who went searching for Slater’s wave didn’t bother to bring boards with them. Unless they had the key or knew who was in charge, they would simply be looking at an oversized swimming pool.
Make sure you check out the Board Engine to find a range of boards all made in America by professional shapers at the top of their crafts. Email [email protected] with your details for a detailed report of board recommendations for you.