Surfing is forever evolving. Now with the introduction of wave pools, the envelope has been pushed out even further. So, what does the future of surfing look like? Well for starters, everyone is going to get a lot better at surfing.
Waves at the beach will probably be referred to as “free waves” as in it doesn’t cost money to surf them. But on a positive note the abundance of wave pools could potentially dilute the crowds. Plonk a perfect wave in the middle of nowhere and people will likely move their whole families. If there’s one thing we do know, it's that their popularity is certain, which is why every man and their surfing ambassador is jumping onboard with their own design.
There are 6 major wave pool designs that have emerged since 2005. However, there is still no clear winner. We’ve taken the liberty to dig up the facts and statistics about each man-made wave so that we can better compare them. Within the next 5 years it’s likely that everyone who reads this article will at least have had the opportunity to ride one of the below wave designs and that’s exciting.
Considered the grand old daddy of wave pool technology. It uses a hydraulic wave system to produce waves. Murphys Waves are generally found in popular water parks across the world which includes Hot Park, Rio Quente, Cartoon Network Amazone Waterpark, Siam Park, and Wild Wadi to name a few.
Their Olympic Surf System uses a ‘reef’ to produce barrelling break right or left waves up to four meters high. Its wave generator can be used for different applications making them perfect for waterparks. Anywhere from action rivers, surf pools, surf rides, wave pools, even for use in survival wave pools.
One of the most popular wave pool technologies being used today, Kelly’s wave has been adapted by the World Surf League and plans to use them in future wave pools across the world. Kelly Slater Waves uses a hydrofoil which is run the length of the pool on a track at speeds of 19 mph. The sections of the waves are influenced by the different bottom contours much like those found in the ocean.
Kelly Slater Waves produces 45-second rides and the best tubes, perfect for competition surfing. It takes around 3 minutes for the water to settle and only one wave can be generated every couple of minutes.
Unlike Murphys Waves, this technology was solely designed for surfing. It features a pier located in the middle of the wave pool. A submerged hydrodynamic foil which moves at 4.5 m and 7.5 m per second moves along a track at the central body of water which in turn creates a large wake that breaks along the right and left side of the pier. One downside is that the wave pool is only limited to one wave every 90 seconds.
After initial success with its Wavegarden Lagoon, the much improved Wavegarden Cove was designed to generate varying waves at a push of a button. It uses proprietary software to control its wave generating system to instantly create waves of varying size, shape, and frequency for surfers of all levels. This technology also allows it to produce more waves per hour, a huge advantage over its competitors.
Surf Lakes technology uses compressed air generated by a central hub plunger mechanism. The plunger is released into the hub creating a wave that is sent in all directions. This is similar to creating ripples in a lake albeit, much, much bigger.
The number of waves generated per hour is determined by the number of breaks. A wave set of 6 waves with 2 breaks, for example, creates 12 waves per set and when you run 4 wave sets an hour that’s a total of 48 rides per hour.
American Wave Machine’s PerfectSwell technology produces three wave sets every minute. Waves are generated using a series of air pistons located in a central wall which ten pushes out air in a predetermined sequence to displace the water hence, creating a wave. It is highly customisable and can be used in a variety of settings, from enclosed to open areas.
Wavegarden was the first wave pool company to market. What started in Northern Spain has now spread to several global locations including Australia, South Korea, Switzerland, Brazil and the UK. Wavegarden has been experimenting with man-made waves since 2005. Due to this, their design history varies with the final, most advanced version being dubbed The Cove Technology.
The Cove uses call modules to pump energy into the wave as it travels down The Cove. By doing this they are replicating a ground swell type wave with little energy loss and plenty of power for the surfer to play with. The Melbourne location is called URBNSURF Melbourne.
Formerly owned by the Kelly Slater Wave Company the long barrelling wave is powered by a train like cart that pulls a large hydrofoil at speeds of 30 km/hr down a 680m long pool. Alike most wave pools how the wave forms relies on the level and gradient of the ground below.
The Waco Wave Pool is a true freak of nature because everything is so well hidden. Created by AWM (American Wave Machines) and labeled PerfectSwell Technology. This tech can generate infinite types of waves by firing off its range of 10ft wide air chambers in unique sequences. For this type of wave pool the possibilities are endless which is why it has become so popular in the world of aerial surfing.
Surf Lakes is totally different again, introducing a “5 Wave technology” that is able to create 5 different levels of waves from beginner to advanced simultaneously around a circular lake. The final version or full capacity of this design is projected to cater for up to 240 people in one session, which from a commercial standpoint is hard to beat.
The Wave is a wave pool destination with a 200 m surfing lake at its centre. It generates 1,00 waves an hour and is designed for surfers of all levels. Waves are generated by a Wavegarden Cove wave generator located at the central pier of the lake. Surfing lessons are available for all family members. Costs for surfing lessons include surfboard and wetsuit hire.
The Wave, Bristol opened on October 2019 with an additional wave pool site, The Wave, London in scheduled for 2023.
Urbnsurf features Wavegarden Technology which allows them to create waves of varying weight, shape that allows them to cater to surfers of all levels. It can generate up to 1000 waves per hour, but a typical one-hour session consists of 10-12 waves on average. There is no definite lineup of wave types in each set, which makes surfing here interesting.
Surf Snowdonia has the distinction of being the first commercial wave pool using Wavegarden Technology. Waves are generated by dragging a foil through the water, using Wavegarden technology, it is capable of generating advanced, intermediate, and whitewater waves. It is located in 300-meter lagoon divided by a pier which contains the wave generator.
The Siam Wavepark holds the distinction of having the biggest waves in the world. Located in Tenerife, Canary Islands, the park was opened in 2008 and features several water attractions.
That depends on what type of waves you like to surf. The flawless tubes of WSL Wave Ranch look pretty enticing as does going for broke on a Waco ramp. Let’s break it down via the stats.
Surf Lakes have reportedly produced an 8ft slab named “The Island” potentially after the infamous reef slab at Shark Island on the NSW coast of Australia.
The Texas Wave Pool, given its infinite ability to create perfect ramp sections. Proven by the best free surfers in the world during the STAB High contests.
The hollow, near 1-minute long tube of the WSL Wave Ranch is so far the winner. But the proposed Wavegarden Coves are going to be close rivals.
Surf Lakes if it can deliver their full-scale version promoting a massive 2,400 Waves per hour for 240 surfers in the man-made lake.
It's pretty hard to lock it down to one and again it's going to come down to your preference in wave type. The Wavegarden Cove technology is essentially a combination of the WSL Wave Ranch and the Texas Wave Pools - Perfect Swell Technology. Using modules comparable to the air chambers of Waco, to push a wave out that’s more similar in style to the one at Lemoore. But what makes this maybe the best tech overall is the aesthetics of the pool itself with no giant train or plunger visible, just a pool filled with crystal clear water.
One of the major differences between surf pools and wave pools is their size. Surf pools are generally smaller compared to their wave pool counterparts mainly because of the larger wave generators found in wave pools.
Both technologies are primarily designed to let people enjoy surfing in a controlled environment. However, another big difference is the types of waves they generate. With bigger, more powerful wave generators, wave pools are capable of generating different types of waves. In fact, some wave pools are capable of creating 8 ft waves.
While everything seems to be stacking up against surf pools, one major advantage is that surf pools create standing waves. No more waiting time between waves. Perfect for beginners and even advanced surfers trying out new tricks.