Photo: Surfer’s Path
I’ll admit that when I caught my first glimpse of the Wadi Adventure wave pool in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, I was intrigued. However, as the hype surrounding artificial wave parks has continued to grow, I find myself being less and less stoked at the idea of creating a predictable, sterilized surfing experience for the masses. Proponents of these artificial wave parks, which interestingly enough include some of the largest names in surfing, argue that creating a uniform, adjustable wave will allow surfers to perfect their technique when the ocean chooses not to cooperate. Greg Webber, surfboard shaper and owner of Webber Wave Pools, adds, “Imagine knowing that there is always room to park, there are more waves than surfers, and you can be in and out within 45 minutes. This is what I want to provide.” To me, this sounds like the ‘fast food’ version of a real surfing experience.
Earlier this week, leading artificial wave company Wavegarden released some new footage of various pro surfers ripping on machine-generated 4 foot peaks at the company’s test facility in Spain. According to their website, Wavegarden believes that “By eliminating nearly all inherent variables associated with surfing in the ocean, this revolution in wave riding can provide quality surfing waves all hours of the day and through all seasons.”
What Wavegarden, Greg Webber, and the rest of the artificial wave supports don’t seem to realize is that the “inherent variables associated with surfing” are precisely what make surfing great. For the life of me, I can’t quite understand why everyday surfers are unable to recognize these thinly-veiled “innovations of progression” for what they are – further attempts to commercialize of surfing. You think your local spot is crowded now? Wait until a crew of artificial wave pros decide to take their skills to the beach. It’s amazing how the same surfers who adorn their vehicles with “No Pop-Outs” stickers are likely to be the first ones in line for this aquatic amusement park ride. All of it adds to the growing homogenization of surfing in my opinion.
Luckily, when I woke up this morning, I saw that I wasn’t alone. Jamie Currie seems to share my same feelings about artificial waves and their detriment to surfing, especially when it comes to travel and discovery. “I don’t want to surf in a shopping centre. I want to work for it. I like forecasting. I like unpredictability. I love to travel and I love to explore. These elements are a huge part of what make surfing beautiful. So why do people feel the need to bastardize it into something completely different?”
My thoughts exactly. Take the mystery, the unpredictability, the exploration away, and you completely remove the essence of surfing. If the earliest pioneers and explorers of surfing had wave pools in their backyards, where do you think surfing would be today? Why is the surf industry so obsessed with anything and everything they can label as “progressive”? What is so wrong with the state of surfing as it stands right now? The way I see it, the more we focus on “progression”, the less we seem to get away from what surfing truly is – a surfer and the ocean.