GREEN ROOM: 11-time world champion Kelly Slater slotted in the perfect mechanical wave of the future.
GREEN ROOM: 11-time world champion Kelly Slater slotted in the perfect mechanical wave of the future. Todd Glazer

Is faking it the wave of the future?


KELLY’S Slater’s wave pool: is it as good as it’s cranked up to be? On the surface of it, it seems perfect, maybe too perfect.

Together with World Surf League establishing a business relationship to acquire Kelly’s wave pool, both agree it won’t replace the ocean breaks.

“It’s a supplement,” said Kelly, who has spent the last 10 years perfecting the perfect wave that costs somewhere in the $2million plus range. Kelly’s design is far more sophisticated than the wave pools proposed for Tullamarine, Victoria and Sydney’s western suburbs. Kelly’s wave breaks top to bottom, like a perfect peeling super bank ride. Whereas the Victoria and Sydney models are based on the UK’s Surf Snowdonia wave garden facility, which produces a softer wave.

Obviously Kelly’s model has been designed for the pros and that’s why the WSL was so keen to buy it. Whether it will replace average surf events in Brazil is yet to be seen. WSL’s Dream Tour is geared for high performance surfing and needs the right waves for their pros to perform.

In a way, Kelly’s wave pool is still in its infancy. The photos and vision provided to date are mind-blowing to say the least — but can it deliver to the masses and at what cost?

The Olympics angle is already being discussed although ISA (International Surfing Association); the rival association to WSL has been negotiating to have surfing included in the Japan Olympics in 2020 and in real, ocean waves.

Gold Coast Pro Mitch Crews at Surf Snowdonia, Wales , UK.
Gold Coast Pro Mitch Crews at Surf Snowdonia, Wales , UK. Surf Snowdonia

WSL and ISA will no doubt work together to bring about a wave pool scenario for non-surfing countries who host the Olympics. Kelly has welcomed the Olympics participation. Hell, by the time that happens Kelly could well be the CEO of WSL. You have to give it to the 11-time world champion, who won’t win a 12th in 2016 but has managed to steal the limelight yet again with this masterstroke of wave technology.

Hawaiian big-wave hellman Kala Alexander from Kauai, who often pops up in the TV series Hawaii 50, reckons learners would struggle.

“Everyone’s going crazy over it, and it’s amazing, but you’d have to be an amazing surfer to surf that wave,” Kala said.

“You see when he’s getting tubed? It’s so technical. There’s no way average surfers could do that.”

Although when a mainstream American TV station covered the story, their reporter managed to ride a smaller, fuller wave on a longboard with a lot of help from Kelly lying in prone position and balancing the reporter who was giving shakars (Hawaiian thumb’s up).

So where does this leave artificial reef projects such as the City of Gold Coast’s $20 million proposed artificial reef for Palm Beach?

Bondi surfer/shaper and innovator, Greg Webber has been working for 20 years on an artificial reef.

It’s a removable, floating system that pivots on one central pillar anchored to the seafloor. The best bit is that every swell direction is the right one and “if conditions are clean and offshore, each wave will look just like Slater’s wave pool wave”, Webber said.

“It will always point in the right direction to point straight into the swell and moves up and down with the tides.” This has been one of the ideas to cope with overcrowding of the points to be able to create added surf amenity on the coast as proposed in the council’s Surf Management Plan.

Palmy’s version is based on Webber’s invention but it is also designed to protect the beach from erosion. Some locals are wary and say it will bring on more crowds. If it works, saves the beach and creates good waves, it will be hard to argue against. Surfing faces many concerns for the future which will see science and conservation trying to achieve the right balance.

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