The wawe of the future



Indoor wave pools, outdoor wave pools, Flow Riders, artificial reefs, whatever -- no matter how good technology gets at imitating Mother Nature, riding waves in the chlorinated confines of a manmade tank will never compare to the raw experience of riding ocean waves over natural bottom contours. But the question remains: How good is technology going to get at reproducing Mother Nature? More interesting: How good is it right now? -- Ben Marcus

Artist's rendering of Chevron Reef, El Segundo, Calif.

What's Coming...

Gary Ross, President and founder of Highwave in Oxnard, California and mastermind of a polyethylene pipe, Y-shaped reef.
Next Month:
I've developed a three-dimensional, three-legged beast that we can fill with air through intake valves on th ends of the pipes, float out to a site, and then let out the air. On the Hilo side of the Big Island of Hawaii, Ernie Montana is heading a project called Quantum Reef that is using our technology. The reef already has been approved through the City Council, and the permitting has just begun. Because the bottom is uneven there, holes will have to be drilled into the lava so it can be secured to it with stainless steel bolts.
Next Year: It looks like construction will start on the Quantum Reef.
Next Decade: Not only will our little reef be proven, but some version will be accepted as a viable fish habitat and a sand-retention device.
Next Century: Hopefully, we'll have a better planet.

Lochtefeld at the controls.
Photo: Divine

TOM LOCHTEFELD, President of Wave Loch Inc., developer of the Flow Rider.
Next Month:
With five new Flow Riders opening around the world this summer, that will bring the total number up to 11 worldwide.
Next Year: The entrance to Ron Jon Surf Shop will be a barrel 15 feet high that'll be sicker than any Indo pic you've ever seen.
Next Decade: Surf resorts where you and your buddies can book a room and have a Flow Rider wave all to yourselves. A guaranteed perfect wave. I also have an idea for a theme restaurant with a full-size, overhead barreling wave.
Next Century: If there's a major breakthrough in fusion, it could provide a cost-effective energy source that allows you to make waves anywhere. You could have your own personal wave pool in your backyard. You could design your own wave.

DAVE SKELLY, President of Skelly Engineering and mastermind of the Chevron Reef project in El Segundo, Calif.
Next Month:
Chevron Reef isn't as much an engineering problem as it is an exercise in bureaucracy. We're in the process of getting approval from all the regulatory agencies, but there are so many it's mind-boggling.
Next Year: I hope we start building Chevron Reef. Beyond that, I think cities should look seriously into putting lights on piers. Creating a night shift of three or four extra hours would take the pressure off the daytime hours.
Next Decade: If Chevron Reef works, then maybe other places will follow suit. Dana Point is considering modifying the harbor and they're open to suggestions. It would be nice if we could bring Killer Dana back to life.
Next Century: We'll go inland and construct a surfing reef out of concrete or some composite material, then transport it to the ocean and secure it to the bottom. Might work better than dropping rocks or bags of sand.

Angus Jackson, managing director of Australia's International Coastal Management and mastermind of the artificial reef slated for the Surfer's Paradise area.
Next Month:
The detailed design will commence with wave-tank testing to get the final shape and what sort of output we're going to get from the structure. In other words, how tubey the waves will be and how often they'll be tubey.
Next Year: Will hire tenders to construct the boomerang-shaped reef and an artificial headland. They'll probably take out 10-ton geotextile bags by barge to build the reef. The Beach Protection Authority has to sign off on it. As long as the green lights keep coming, we'll be well into it.
Next Decade: Artificial reefs will be common, particularly in high-usage areas. We'll see the first integrated coastal resort with its own reef. You'll have chairlift access to the lineup.
Next Century: Artificial wave-making. You'll also be able to dial up the kinds of waves you want. Some will be community facilities, and some will be paid. The waves will be made with big paddles offshore that can be aligned and calibrated for height. And they'll probably be wave-powered themselves, so the energy will be stored in generators. They'll be totally green.



In 1987, La Jolla surfer and attorney Tom Lochtefeld had a vision of a new kind of artificial wave. Instead of pumping a small wave through a big pool, Lochtefeld thought that flowing water over a stationary hump would be the way to go. Unlike most visionaries, Lochtefeld acted on his idea. Ten years later, he is the president and proud father of Wave Loch, distributing Flow Rider stationary waves around the world.

You probably spend more time thinking about artificial waves than anyone else in the world. Where is the technology these days?
There are basically two approaches. In terms of traditional surfboards the technology is still in making a disturbance inside a pool. The biggest drawback with this kind of artifical wave is the cost. Mankind is in a backwater when it comes to duplicating Mother Nature.

What is the state of the art in wave-pool type waves. Is it Ocean Dome in Miyazaki, Japan?
Probably. The problem is, that facility cost like $300 million and the wave pool itself was $100 million. You'll never see it again unless it's done by Disney or Mitsubishi. One hundred million dollars could send every SURFER subscriber to Tavarua for a week.

Guys get barreled on that wave.
Yeah, they do, but the wave is pretty short and not that great. Again, it costs them a fortune to operate. I'm really kind of surprised they manage to keep the thing open.

What are the five best artificial waves in the world?
Ocean Dome is definitely the best. Typhoon Lagoon is probably No. 2 and No. 3 would be the one in Canada, in the Edmonton Mall, or the one in South Africa. The other ones that are up there are the pools in Palm Springs and Irvine.

The Flow Rider is a different approach, which seems to have caught on. How many are there in the world now?
Currently there are Flow Riders in Texas, Orlando, Norway, California, Japan, and Mexico. The Norway wave is the biggest. Five more will be open by June.

People are making money off these things?
Oh, yeah. At Texas their attendance [at the park] went up 25 percent after the Flow Rider went in -- from 500,000 to 625,000. In Norway the attendance went up 30 percent and revenue went up 40 percent, so it's a major marketing tool.

How much do they cost to install?
Anywhere from $500,000 to $2 million. You know, I feel bad talking about all of this without some mention of Carl Ekstrom. We didn't know what we had in the Flow Rider until Carl designed the boards for it. The turns guys are carving in just a few inches of water are amazing to me, and that's all Carl's doing.


Any other weird ideas in your head?
As a matter of fact, I've teamed up with Chuck Sauerbier to refine an idea of his that first appeared in SURFER Magazine in the late '80s. It's a sort of wing that moves through the water and pushes a wave along with it. We have one model that moves on a track and another that is towed behind a boat. I built one to do a 4-foot wave but, unfortunately, I screwed up on the engineering and it didn't work. Chuck and I made another one that we towed with a cable through a lake, and it was perfect. It was flawless.

What would be the application for this thing?
Maybe guys with charter boats could buy them and take groups of guys out in the middle of the ocean during glassy conditions and just ride. Understand that it's not a wake. It's an actual wave that throws up a crisp little barrel and a nice shoulder. It's something a surfer would want to ride.
-- Ben Marcus




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