Opinion | Wavepools Are Anti-Surfing

Huey, get your hat and coat

I am, apparently, the only person in the world who really can’t get excited about a man made wave. And I’m not sorry.

Sometimes I go to a lonely place, by myself. It is a nation with a population of one. I am in lonely exile in the land of I have no interest whatsoever in wave pools.

Apparently, I am the only person I’ve ever met who has such beliefs. Everybody else, ever, is apparently deeply in both love and lust with the wave pool.

Friends, colleagues, members of the general surfing public, pros, ams, etc etc, all are enthralled by the wave pool proposition.

“Wavepools are the shopping mall just outside the ring road, the packet instant cappuccino powder of surfing experience”

When that first clip of man made, celebrity pro schralped 40cm peelers first went online several trillion hits were amassed the first thirty seconds.

Now, nigh a decade on, they’re popping up all over the world. Kelly Slater built one, which despite the initial froth is about to be eclipsed by new tech from the mob whose offering his pool was initially said to have made redundant. And the fervour keeps on coming.

I even worked the Red Bull event in Wales as a commentator last year (incredibly, I managed to put my principles aside in the interest of Red Bull’s day rate). Did I came away converted? or perhaps views hardened (once the money’d cleared)?

Nope. I came away pretty much exactly the same. Moderately disinterested.

Because despite the clamour, the froth, the excitability, I cannot join the fawning. I cannot wonder about ‘what might be possible’. They leave me cold, like dudes doing triple back flips on motorcross bikes in an arena tapping their heels or whatever it is.

Because, to me, the wave pool is anti-surfing.

Perhaps it’s due to the lack of salt brine, that intoxicating ionic mist known to promote that euphoric feeling of the ocean dipper inner. Probably not though… they could easily fill one will seawater, right?

Perhaps it’s the removal of the ‘daddy’ effect, no it is greater-than-me and stronger-than-me, no I-must-submit humility of the ocean swell rider. Unlikely.

Perhaps because there is no marine life, no marine death. No cliff, no dune, no guano covered jump off rock. No horizon, no weather, no ephemeral beauty nor ugliness, no glass off, no moon rise, no symbolic return to the primeval soup, no… nature.

Wavepools are the shopping mall just outside the ring road. It is the packet instant cappuccino powder of surfing experience. Just add tepid water.

It is the utilitarian perversion of everything that ever appealed about going for a surf, to me at least. A plastic replica of one of nature’s great spectacles.

Incredibly, despite surfing’s general masquerading as an eco-friendly (or at least eco-empathetic) nature-revering pass time, today’s great excitement is for the artificially generated surfing wave. Wave by generator, i.e. wave by carbon.

Huey, get your hat and coat.

Forgive me, but getting past the fog of time-honoured cliché, wasn’t the very hook of the whole thing, that you weren’t in control?

Wasn’t that the thing that made getting a decent wave so amazing was that it couldn’’t be repeated on demand? The no two waves the same, no guarantees, master the ride but never the ocean etc etc, wasn’’t that quasi masochistic relationship with big blue the one reason it happened to take over our lives?

Possibly not, maybe it was that we just liked sitting out the back floating and looking back at the world from a different angle. Whatever.

If I wanted to go to the pool, I’d go swimming. If I wanted to repeat the same manoeuvre ad nausea on a geometrically repeating transition, I’d go to the mini-ramp.

If I needed to ‘train’ for surfing (I never will), I’d go surfing… in the surf.

But please, don’t let me spoil your fun. After all, it’s all about ‘fun’ right? Any way you can get it. I am clearly just a luddite weirdo, missing the point.

Design the greatest wave machine ever, Macaronis on demand if you want. See where you can take it.

But I’ll still trundle up the beach on the shittiest day of the year.


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