Barreling At You...The Artificial Wave

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Last month, an article appeared in our local Central Coast newspaper, prompting me to write a little something about interesting developments in artificial wave technology. The article reported that this past September 19, 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater hosted group of about 300 people from around the world to “witness the future of surfing in the middle of California’s San Joaquin Valley”. Safe to say that Kelly has had an interest in artificial waves for a long time…he actually won the 1997 Typhoon Lagoon, a contest held at a Disney World wavepool in Orlando, Florida!

Designed by a USC professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering, Slater’s surf ranch is still considered a prototype facility. But now it seems poised to change the face of surfing forever...

Artificial wave technology has taken many forms over the years, and dates as far back as 1934. In 1966, the “Surf-a-Torium” was built near Tokyo, Japan, and is said to be the first wave pool used by surfers. In 1969, Big Surf opened in Tempe, Arizona. I remember that one…my brother visited it in the mid-‘70s, and sold a board we had built in our garage in about 1970. He hung around the parking lot and sold the thing for $50. Now that I think about it, he never gave me my half of the money…

Some 20 years ago, surfer/engineer Doug Coors founded NLand outside of Austin, Texas and is touted as “the only surfing destination of its kind in North America”. Slater’s California facility could become a force by mid-2018.

The future of artificial waves and their place in the surf lifestyle is an interesting topic of conversation. Is the technology a solution to increasingly crowded natural waves, or could they be – as surfing writer/editor Matt Warshaw wrote – “an automated perversion of a sport whose natural setting is its greatest attraction”? Or perhaps these new wave-making facilities should be viewed as nothing more than surfing’s equivalent of a ski resort? It is clear that high quality waves can now be produced artificially, but how will the surf community embrace this potential revolution?

We asked our good friend Shea Weber (son of the late Dewey Weber and President/CEO of Dewey Weber International, Inc.) his take on artificial wave technology, and he said, “It will change the face of surfing forever in the very best way possible. In the absence of waves, activities like snowboarding and skateboarding exploded out of the desire to board ride. Now, and with regularity, anyone who is interested in surfing will have access to learn and participate…no matter where they live. Between Kelly’s wave and folks at Wave Garden, the expansion of surfing as a participation sport/lifestyle/activity is at the cusp of a massive explosion, and a as a board manufacturer, Dewey Weber Surfboards could not be more excited!!”

Walt Cerney, a local Pismo Beach surfer who was lucky enough to be invited to Slater’s surf ranch last month, said of the experience, “Still speechless after such an amazing day.No matter if you’re catching 400-yard wave at Kelly’s or catching a 4-yard wave at Pismo, we are truly blessed as surfers”.

As always, we look forward to hearing from you…call or email us any time!


Ted Rich