Would I like to surf Kelly's wave pool? Honestly, I am on the fence. The part of me that always wants to try new things, even if it’s just to have an informed opinion, says yes, hells yes. The converse side of my cynical psyche would rather drink bin juice than bow even half way to the utter tripe I witnessed in the Founders Cup of Surfing. It is not all bad however, as I said, I am on the fence. Let me pick this apart a bit for you.
When the surfing world first witnessed the clip of this beast-like artificial wave (the day after Adriano won the World Tour), we all plopped a bit in our pants. It was perfectly staged, play-by-play by one of the world’s most undeniable characters, surfing's very own Slats McWavepool. But we will get to that man later. It has been a long road from that day to the first televised, cash producing, Olympic style, country orientated, utter bollocks that I saw last week.
Firstly, let me say that the wave is a thunderous achievement of science and wave tech, that is completely without question. To watch the wave being not surfed is mesmerizing. The endless video clips that have been all over your flavour of social media have made the wave look tantalizing to say the least. But that’s what they were, clips, or ads, in a controlled environment with very clever editing overseen by Slats Mc Wavepool himself. This was, however, the first time the general public have been privy to the live, uncut and finished product.
In the interest of keeping this article civilized and contained in a non-rant and from a more factual and objective standpoint I am going to proceed as follows:
Disclaimer: all comments are true, and were said over beers in a controlled office environment.
The Bad Bits in no Particular Order
- The Adverts, at one point the Founders Cup was piping ads into the office after every wave. That’s wave, ad, wave, ad. We had all had enough after 5 waves and the comments were getting nasty. Things like ‘Shopping Mall Surf Ranch’ and ‘Let me know when the 27 seconds of surfing are on’ were being thrown around. Too much guys.
- It reminded me of watching gymnastics, scoring seemed all over the place, barrels started to be timed on-screen and then that disappeared. The whole team thing was weird (I know it is a test for the Olympics) but it was weird.
- Some competitors had got a lot more practice than others, that was clear. One might imagine that Kelohe on Slater’s own team may have got a bit more time in before poor Adriano who had to kind of learn as he went. A little bit of national nepotism going on there maybe.
- Is the barrel realistic? I know some waves break in a predictable way but from someone who grew up trying to bet barrelled and making it out of maybe 10% if I am lucky, this just was not realistic to me. It looked like a fairground ride.
- The never ending and obvious plugs to the sponsors, we are used to the occasional subtle mention but this was next level, going down to Kaipo in the Michelob chair, drinking beer on the beach they made. I mean WTF!
- Peter Mel, sounded like Donald Trump, I am sorry but he did. A couple of times I did a double take at the screen! (I am normally a massive Mel fan, so this was a biggy.)
- The time it took to reset the wave was and is a huge issue. Maybe it is better to watch some ads than look at the waiting surfer and listen to what the guys in the booth did not have to say. There was no commentary about the usual stuff, forecast, the local area, heritage, titles. I know it was not a World Tour event, but it was missed.
- John John looked like he did not want to be there, in fact he looked like he had a gun to his head. I would be very interested to hear his personal and private opinion of those two days.
- They had a CBS (American TV Network) anchor style lady doing the after heat interviews?!? This was later rectified with good old comfortable Rosy Hodge. We liked having Rosy back.
- It reminded me of watching an indoor snowboard slope-style event which are no where near as good as the real thing.
- It costs money and energy to make this wave happen, something we have free in the ocean. Waste of energy.
- It’s in Lemoore CA, which by all accounts is a while away from anywhere (260 miles from Trestles). This means a lot of travelling, cars, pollution etc from all those spectators.
The Good Bits in no Particular Order
- When it’s on, it on. I loved the way you could say to yourself. Tonight we are watching the surfing with some beers and you knew it would start at that time for those days. It makes a bit more sense of the slogan ‘It’s on!’ when quite often it would be ‘off’.
- It was a good test run for the Olympics, we can now see how it will work in that environment, a question that has been circling surfing for years.
- The different sections to the wave were cool. Just need to have an air section. Perhaps if they took a bit from Olympic snowboarding and used the slope-style format? Just an idea, feel free to use it Slats.
- The potential applications of this wave are astounding as far as surfboard design and testing go. So be able to test different aspects of board design in a controlled environment is something we really have not been able to do at this level before.
- No localism in the wave-pool, no hassling for waves and priority interference. There will be tactics but not as boring as sitting and watching someone with ‘Priority’ control the heat.
- No calling off competitions because certain competitors are scared of fish. (not saying this actually happens of course) ;)
Trying to wrap up this hot turd of a conversation I would like to add a few thoughts of my own.
Firstly, this was always going to happen, loads of other wave techs exist now and at least this format and design has the most winning surfer ever in charge. Slats McWavepool, is one of the most worldly, multi-talented, intelligent people on the planet, there is no doubt. One can’t help think that this is his ‘master stroke’, that he has been building to this crescendo for years. Does this spell the end of his professional career or the spark that will set him on a new tear through the WSL ranks?
Secondly, I am not sure that what I saw last week was something that should replace an event. I was despite myself, entertained. I got sucked in, I did but was the fact that I could count on it being on and had the night planned with some mates and beers? Not sure. What I am sure of is that it will not replace any event on tour for me. It’s not that it’s not as good, it’s just too different, not the same thing.
Thirdly and lastly, will it be successful? To this, I would have to say that it will. I think the people that watch will be of a different ilk, they may not even be surfers, but instead the guys and girls who might watch football or baseball. It’s all about the timing, knowing it’s on and being able to control and explain all the variables which is something we just can’t do with the ocean.
I have done a bit of ‘beach car park’ research in the last few days on my way looking for a clean wave, spoke to people in person and over ether based comms and wanted to ask opinions about what people thought. It seemed to me that the hardcore surfers were not impressed at all, full of scorn and neg vibes. What surprised me was the positivity coming from the groms, new surfers and non-surfers.
So will it work? The reality is that in the end only you will be the ones to make that decision. We would love to hear your thoughts on this ‘oh so discussed’ topic. Leave some comments or sling us a mail, we will publish the most artistic in a follow-up article.
As always it has been a pleasure, thanks for allowing me into you
consciousness for a short while.