Has Science Created the Perfect Wave?

Ryan C Heffernan: Has Science Created the Perfect Wave

Has Science Created the Perfect Wave

It’s been described as the perfect wave, even “mind-blowing,” according to Robert “Wingnut” Weaver, one of the lucky few who have ridden it. Even more amazingly, it’s a perfect wave every single time, without fail.

Weaver isn’t talking bout some previously undiscovered reef, though, nor an exotic locale or a secret spot along the California coast. He’s talking about an artificial wave pool outside of Fresno, Cali.

For those of us who’ve been surfing almost since we could walk, it may seem impossibly bizarre. Surfing has always been synonymous with the ocean, the beach, the sand and the sun. How could you replicate the wide rides and the intense joy of surfing in a man-made pool? Only a few have tried this experimental new wave generator, but early reports indicate that it may be a game-changer.

Made-made waves are nothing new. Resorts and surf parks have been offering landlocked surfing since the ‘60s, but until now they were nothing to write home about — small and without the trademark hollow barrel. The new Kelly Slater Wave Co. wave is a different story. They developed a brand-new patented technology that involves dragging a wing-shaped device through the water to create a flawless, head-high wave with a perfect tube that lasts for over forty seconds.

The surfers who have tested it say the wave feels natural and gives an incredible ride. The only drawback is that it takes several minutes to generate each wave, leaving a wait for riders. They’re working on that, though, with a new system involving air chambers that would cut the wait down to mere seconds.

Kelly Slater Wave Co. plans to market their machine-generated wave around the world for commercial purposes, but it could have big implications far beyond an improved resort experience for the casual surfer. For one, high quality artificial waves could open up the sport for millions of landlocked enthusiasts, making it much more accessible and popular.

Perhaps more importantly, a truly worthy pool-made wave could change surfing competitions forever. With a machine creating waves instead of the often fickle ocean itself, competitions could provide a completely level playing field for all athletes. Everyone rides the exact same wave, every time, and skill acts as the only variable. Surfing competitions could soon take place in stadiums instead of on the beach.

Time will tell whether this new development is rightly billed as a scientific revolution for surfing, opening up new horizons of possibility, or a perversion of the soul of the sport. For my part, I can’t help but feel that true surfing is inseparable from the ocean. I live for the perfect wave just as much as the next guy, but something of the magic of the moment seems lost when the perfect wave is available every time — for a price.

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