Words Mimi LaMontagne
So, you remember back towards the beginning of the year when the first plans were unveiled for the Greg Webber Wave Pool, and how awesome it was? And you remember yesterday, when it became reality for the Sunshine Coast in 2016? Remember how excited/jealous you were?
Well, if you thought that was good news, this is gunna blow your freakin’ mind. The Webman himself explains…
All of these images are from the original plans – no sketches have been created of the new technology, but as soon as they're around, we'll make sure to get them online.
So, this is happening. Give us the deets. What’s changed since we last spoke?
Well, right now we’re looking at two different pool sizes – either a 160 x 90 metre pool, which will make 1.6 metre waves, or a 200 x 100 metre pool that’ll make two metre waves. The main difference is price, which the developer is gunna have to decide. Anyone would want the larger pool, though – because it’s longer, it creates these curved ends which will in turn create an entire new set of waves (half the size), which means there’ll be an additional 500 waves per hour (that totals in 1000 waves per hour). So we create a left and a right and each time the hull moves around the end of the pool, it starts up on the other side – on the ends, it’ll be much softer, and more of a freesurfing, free-for-all where softboards and bodyboards can go.
You had said a few months ago the average ride was 15 seconds… still the same?
The rides could be longer in the 200-metre pool. But the thing is, the whole drive system has now evolved to the point that each hull is independent of the other hulls. This is the key change in the past six months. So instead of having the hulls connected to a drive system, they’re now remotely controlled. This means that we can make different sized waves at the same time, all around the pool.
And people can choose which size wave they want…
Sort of. What’s going to happen is you’ll essentially become a member, and when you do, you’ll get an RFID wristband, which will include a profile. When you sign up you’ll input weight, height, experience, and staff will suggest a starting point in size and wave type. So each time you come you scan in and your information is immediately relayed to the software, which will adjust your wave of choice to your individual profile. And it can change as you get more experience – the more you ride, the more difficult the waves will become. The software will respond to your ever-changing skill.
Yeah. And with this new hull system, now that they can do different things, it means that you can make each individual hull alter the wave shape during the ride. The changes would have to be programmed beforehand, and that’s the key to this technology. It means that we could invite a World Champ, or someone like that, to come design waves for beginners, intermediate and expert levels. The pro would design the wave to train and teach the surfers at each level, to perform on that wave in the way that the changes offer. It opens a whole new door to training surfers to learn certain manoeuvres. The pro would design this wave and then make a video documentary on how you should surf those waves – each surfer’s performance would be recorded and available online, so they could see their progress in this virtual reality.
Because we change the angle of the wave, not just the height, we can make a wave do anything – how much easier is it to teach someone to cutback on a wave that was designed to do cutbacks? Made to do cutbacks! You couldn’t teach a cutback on a wave that’s tubing and fast. So if you make a wave that breaks like a fat point break, then gradually changes to become faster and faster and more and more acute, then in that 15-20 seconds you’ve gotten the opportunity to practice a roundhouse, a top turn, and a tube. Three totally different experiences on one wave, and then you can reproduce it and do it over and over.
So you’re saying I could go ride “the Julian Wilson wave”?
Yes. It’s a whole new product. As much as I love surfing just for surfing, now that you can control the wave to that degree, it becomes something that the pro surfer would get a royalty from. Say you’ve got 500 waves an hour in the main channel** (which will then create about 10,000 waves per day in the main channel) of one particular design, and that pro surfer gets 10% of the profits – we’re talking two dollars per ride and they’re looking at some serious income (say two dollars applied to 10% of 10,000 waves, that equals about $2000 per day and over $700,000 per year from one pool). I know it sounds like it’s commercialised and tacky, but it’s the future.
How do you think this is going to influence the future of surfing?
It’s gunna be massive, in terms of the new surfers that come in. If this wavepool becomes popular in big, landlocked countries, you’ll have kids riding up to 300 waves per day, practicing any manoeuvre you could want – and these kids will get good, really fast. It’ll be a shift into the mentality where there’s a new world champion in every country, and looking out for who’s it. And for the brands, all of a sudden there’s a huge market, and a huge number of growing athletes they can promote. Anyone in the world can be a pro surfer, and they can do it really fast.
Wave pools have happened before, but they’ve never made a wave that’s conducive to high performance surfing. They’ve all got a flat bottom, but we have a trough – the same as nature. Other wave pools are Solotons, but we’re a Kelvin, and those are the only two types of waves that exist in the world. Solotons are like river bores, which are dead waves. You need a trough (which makes a Kelvin) to have a real wave. And because these are the only types of waves in the world, there will never be anything that can eclipse this wave pool.
So, 2016, you say?
Yup. I’m actually about to fly to the states to look at a deal, a pretty grand scale, possibly national deal, in America. I can’t wait.
Anything else? Anything else crazy happening?
Well, yes. I’m about to patent this idea that I’ve been sitting on. I’m patenting it tonight, actually, and it’s a whole new technology. It involves some really radical wave types, and one hugely different thing that’s never been done before. I can explain it from the story of this guy who’s experiences this phenomenal type of wave in nature, only I’m looking at making it in a pool. It’s fucking different. It’s really different. I’ll be able to talk to you about it in a few days, and when I do, everyone will be talking about it. It’s gunna open a whole lot of doors, and no one in the world has thought of it. It’s mad.
Well shit, Greg. Speak to ya tomorrow?
** There was a mis-print within the first 24 hours of the article publication, where Surfing Life said 500 waves per day, rather than per hour. We'd like to clarify once again that the rate is 500 waves per hour in the main channels.