Prior to becoming the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Champion for a record-tying fourth time, Caio Salles of ESPN Brazil caught up with Kelly Slater at Bells Beach to discuss, among many things, his ideas for improving performance surfing. One of the concepts Slater talked about is his direct involvement in the creation and expansion of wave pools.
Wave pools have existed for some time, but construction and maintenance costs prevent the vast wave pool expansion many landlocked surfing enthusiasts have been waiting for. The idea of having surf contests in larger spectator venues led Slater into a discussion about the artificial wave machines.
“We can’t set up in the Staples Center and bring in 15,000 people now, it just doesn’t work for us,” said Slater. “Eventually we are going to have wave pools. I’ve been working on wave pools for five years. Hopefully this summer we’re going to start to maybe create them. If we had a wave pool that produced a good enough wave for all the guys, and you could just repeat things over and over and over again and get so good at everything. That’s one way we could have an enclosed area and really have performance surfing.”
This isn’t the first time Slater has talked about the development of wave pools. In an interview last year with ESPN The Magazine, Slater went into expansive detail about the formula for wave pool success, the Kelly Slater Wave Company, and when surfers can expect to start using them.
“We need to make wave pools good enough to compete in, and by this summer we'll have them. I'm working on building the best wave pool of all time,” said Slater. “Six of us are part of a company, which we're calling Kelly Slater Wave Company. My manager, Bob McKnight from Quiksilver, and a full-time wave scientist who works out of our office in Culver City are also part of it. We've been working on this for more than three years, and we're building our test model in L.A. as we speak. Once we have the technology, we can potentially build these pools all over the world. I'm already thinking ahead, beyond pools, to how we can create a wave-generating system and sink it into lakes, as long as it doesn't screw up the environment. Eventually, I'd love to see a Tour that incorporates a couple of stops on these waves.
“We would be able to schedule a contest on Friday at 6 p.m., live on TV,” continued Slater. “Picture a wave going around in a circle indefinitely. There's a bridge over the wave for viewing, a Plexiglas bottom so fans can watch guys surf above them, and a crow's nest in the middle so people can watch the best guys in the world surf the wave all the way around them. Kids could stand on the edge of the pool and get sprayed by their favorite surfers.”
The technology Slater refers to is called Surf the Ring. Very little detail outside of miniature scaled models is presented by the designer, Kevin Roberts. Slater’s company, the Kelly Slater Wave Company, doesn’t have a website but is mentioned by name as being the official designer of the world’s first indoor circular wave pool at an massive action sports complex in Portland called the Portland Action Sports Complex and Resort that is still in the development stages. In an extremely random interview conducted back in 2006 by musician Perry Farrell, Slater mentioned that he personally purchased the technology to an artificial surf ring.
With artificial ocean reefs continuing to fail to solve the overcrowding problem at surf breaks, wave pools could very well be the only hope for alternative surfing methods. It remains to be seen if the artificial wave concept known as wave pools is close to reality, or nothing more than a landlocked surfer’s fantasy.