There is something to be said about a perfect wave. For many surfers, it’s an endless search throughout a lifetime filled with disappointment and missed windows. For those who live in Lemoore, CA a world-class wave is just around the corner. Kelly Slater’s wave pool, the Surf Ranch is 700 meters long, 150 meters wide, and it’s a sight for sore eyes. The wave is created by large metal hydrofoil submerged in the water and attached to a train-like vehicle that gets pulled down a track by a cable at speeds of 30 kmh (19 mph). It’s a modern marvel that makes you scratch your head and wonder what the future of surfing holds.
Wave pools are starting to gain momentum these days. The wave pools offer an allure that cannot be found in an ocean setting such as consistency in wave count, form and size. Premium seating for spectators and easily attainable amenities for viewers and competitors alike is another bonus. Their popularity has reached a truly international interest. These crafted artificial waves have been built in countries such as China, Dubai, Spain, Australia, Japan, and the United States to name a few.
Complete with regulated water temperature, seaweed free, and wild sea life free (ex. sharks, jellyfish, water-dwelling snakes) some may say that wave pools are the future. Others might hold a different outlook. Surfing is much more than how you ride and piece of crafted foam atop a wave. Surfing is a spiritual experience accompanied by utter fear and self-doubt. Surfing tests those who enter the water and constantly humble those that think they have conquered the sport. With one set of complications removed, it makes way for a completely new and untested realm of obstacles. It is understandable why a wave pool stop has been included in the WSL (World Surfing League) championship tour.
Some may argue that surfers may not feel complete after a day of riding an artificial wave however competitively there is consistency and predictability with surfers not having to depend on Mother Nature. A perfect wave evens the playing field. When all the waves are identical competitors can be judged on their talent alone. It may be a cast of luck that sends a perfect set to a competitor during their heat. Other unlucky competitors are sent “ankle-snappers” which are smaller waves leaving surfers desperate trying to get a decent score.
With the man-made perfection of 6 foot peeling waves at Kelly Slater’s Wave Ranch booting up surfers are challenged to concoct a scripted wave run while all the meanwhile attempting to make this display of routine looked unplanned and unpredictable. This can create a new facet for competition surfing. Stay tuned and let us know what you prefer: the ocean or wave pool?