Wave Pool Technology

There is no argument that Kelly Slater has changed surfing in HUGE ways during his lifetime. From board design to new maneuvers to unbelievable man-made wave technology, Kelly has worked hard to innovate the sport he loves.

Many pro-surfers around the world have now had an opportunity to test out the wave at Surf Ranch and there has been nothing but rave reviews, but what does this mean for the future of surfing? And, with recent advancements all around the world with artificial wave technology, can we expect waves in land-locked areas all over the world?

Since 1927, men have been trying to replicate ocean waves. Check out this amazing timeline of the progression of wave pool technology over the years. Read below for a run down of current technologies available today and how we are getting close to surfing no matter what the conditions are:

Kelly Slater Wave Co

The prototype was unveiled in 2015 and has been said by numerous surfers to be “the best artificial wave of all time”. Their first design was an endless-ring pool concept but later changed into a version similar to the Wavegarden.  Of all wave pool designs out there, Kelly’s is the longest ever created with a length of 2100 feet. It has been shown to create, almost perfect, thirty-second barrels. The first pool was built in Lemoore, California in an old water ski lake. KSWC now has a permit in a works for their next pool in Palm Beach, Florida. Adjustments in their prototype has now enabled KSWC to create sections on waves for maneuvers and a left-handed wave.

  • Wave generation: Hydrofoil Displacement
  • Phase: Prototype
  • Quality for surfing: Excellent
  • Frequency: 4-8/hour
  • Energy cost per wave: Unknown
  • Construction Cost: Unknown
  • Footprint: 10.2 acres
  • Projects: Future project in Palm Beach Florida; plans to open Lemoore location to the public.
  • Pluses: A near perfect wave with consistent ride that mimics the best ocean conditions.
  • Minuses: Cost per wave is said to be relatively high limiting this technology to most of the public population.
Wave pool Kelly Slater Surf Ranch Wave Company California Florida

Josh Kerr at Surf Ranch in Lemoore, CA

American Wave Machines/PerfectSwell

American Wave Machines has a sheet-wave technology, SurfStream and a wave pool concept, PerfectSwell. The technology uses 10 foot air chambers that displace water by transferring air pressure into wave energy. In theory, this set-up would enable a variety of wave types in the same lagoon at the same time. Waves change depending on how the chambers are sequenced. Pools average about 1-2 acres in size. AWM claims that these pools produce constant waves up to 10′ for up to 2,160 surfers per hour.  AWM has noted that it has parks in New York, South Dakota, New Hampshire, Canada, Peru, Russia and Sweden. Another four projects that are said to be in the works. According to reports, a resort in Sochi, Russia broke ground in 2013 but has not yet announced completion.

  • Wave generation: Pneumatic Displacement
  • Phase: Concept
  • Quality for surfing: Unknown
  • Frequency: Unknown
  • Energy cost per wave: Unknown
  • Construction Cost: Unknown
  • Footprint: 1-2 Acres
  • Projects: PerfectSwell wave pool are also said to be in the works for  Meadowlands Mall in New Jersey, Waco Texas’ Barefoot Ski Ranch (set to open this next summer), and the Skyplex on International Drive in Orlando (set to open sometime in 2018).
  • Pluses: If these numbers prove true, it would be  the most profitable technology in existence.
  • Minuses: The PerfectSwell Technology has yet to prove to work on a large-scale.
New Hampshire Surfs Up Wave Pool

Surf Up New Hampshire from AMW looks much like a flowrider system but new technology claims to have advanced.

Aquatic Development Group

Aquatic Development Group began in the amusement park industry. They create waterparks, aquariums, wave pools, etc. ADG bought the rights to Tom Lochtefeld’s Flowrider sheet-wave technology in 2014 and have used this technology to build several hundred  “wave pools” in waterparks all over the world.

  • Wave generation: Pneumatic or Hydraulic Displacement
  • Phase: Commercial
  • Quality for surfing: Poor
  • Frequency: 15/min
  • Energy cost per wave: Unknown
  • Construction Cost: Unknown
  • Footprint: <1 Acre
  • Projects: Many “flowrider” type venues around the world.
  • Pluses: ADG was able to supply this technology to waterparks around the world but failed when they tried to attempt a new prototype with the Ron Jon Surf Shop in Orlando in 2008.
  • Minuses: Best for high-capacity splash pool applications. They create small, weak waves that lack the steepness and speed for performance surfing.

Murphy’s Waves

Murphy’s Waves is currently one of the industry leaders with three or more somewhat “surfable” wave facilities. They are a  Scottish company. Their first pool was installed in 1989 at Disney World’s Typhoon Lagoon.  This technology uses a series of raised chambers that are pumped with water. It then uses gravity to force the water back into the pool which displace enough water to create a wave.

  • Wave generation: Water-Gravity Displacement
  • Phase: Commercial
  • Quality for surfing: Good
  • Frequency: 12/hour
  • Energy cost per wave: Unknown
  • Construction Cost: Unknown
  • Footprint: <1 Acre
  • Projects: Typhoon Lagoon (1989), Mandalay Bay(), Siam Park (2007), Wadi Adventure (2011)
  • Pluses: Some variability with the timing of the chambers so the technology can create a right, a left, an A-frame, or a closeout barrel.
  • Minuses: The waves short and somewhat difficult for high performance surfing.
Wave Pool Wadi Adventure Park UAE

Wadi Adventure Park in the United Arab Emirates

Wavegarden Lagoon

Wavegarden was introduced in 2011 with a lot of press. Their revolutionary hydrofoil-type  concept used a moving energy source to create waves of any length without causing the waves to lose power or shape. To date they three locations. The wave quality is comparable to Kelly Slate Wave Companies wave.

  • Wave generation style: Hydrofoil Displacement
  • Phase of Technology: Commercial
  • Quality of wave for surfing: Excellent
  • Frequency: 2/minute
  • Energy cost per wave: Unknown
  • Construction Cost: $10-15 million
  • Footprint: 5-10 Acres
  • Projects: Surf Snowdonia (2013), Nland Surf (2016), Wavegarden Northern Spain
  • Pluses: This technology can produce a right and a left at the same time. Wavegarden’s Lagoon technology is currently the only commercially successful wave pools suited for high performance surfing.
  • Minuses: The waves are smaller in wave height and not as hollow as Kelly Slater’s prototype. Parks in Wales and Texas have both been shut down for repair several times during operation due to issues with the pool lining. The Texas park leak caused substantial flooding in the area.

NLand Wave near Austin, Texas

Torrey Meister at Austin’s NLand Surf Park. Photo: Ellis

Surf Snowdonia in Wales

Wave Pool Surf Snowdonia Cornwall Newquay

Surf Snowdonia in Newquay, Cornwall.

Wavegarden The Cove

The cove is Wave garden’s second generation of technology.  The central pier and hydrofoil have been replaced by a central double-sided wall.  The wall has a modular electro-mechanical system that displaces water. This new technology allows the Cove to produce over 1000 waves/hour.  On tops of the mass production of waves, the cove design has largely cut energy cost. Waves are fully customizable and include peeling pointbreak-like surf and barrels.

  • Wave generation: Electro-Mechanical Displacement
  • Phase: Prototype
  • Quality for surfing: Excellent
  • Frequency: 17/minute
  • Capacity: 100+ (50 expert, 50 beginner)
  • Construction Cost: $15 million
  • Footprint: 4-10 Acres
  • Projects: URBN Surf (2018), Honokea Coachella Valley (2018)
  • Pluses: Far the most economically viable technology. The wave size and length are only limited by available land.
  • Minuses: Only one full-size prototype has been built and reliability is still being tested.

Wavegarden Cove 2017 (3 min) from wavegarden on Vimeo.

Waveloch

You could argue that Tom Lochtefeld is the father of artificial wave technology creating Flowrider in 1991. Although Flowrider became very popular with over 100 installs around the world, it was ignored by the surf industry since it did not feel like surfing a “real wave”.  The feedback only drove Tom to create real “surfable” waves. His concept surf pools have a promising design that uses a pneumatic air plunging system. However, obtaining funding to build a full-scale model has been difficult. Using a system of artificial reefs, the hope is to create hollow lefts and rights that reform into inside reefs.

According to concept designs, the pool could produce waves 2-10 feet in height. It is also said to produce one wave every ten seconds. This kind of capacity would make them extremely profitable.

Last heard, The city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands has reportedly partnered with Waveloch to build a wave pool into their existing canal system. Yet the project has yet to begin. Rumors have it that Tom has also tested a hydrofoil-boat concept that could turn any body of water into an endless wave pool.

  •  Wave generation: Pneumatic Displacement
  •  Phase: Concept
  •  Quality for surfing: Unknown
  •  Frequency: Unknown
  •  Energy cost per wave: Unknown
  •  Construction Cost: Unknown
  •  Footprint: 1-4 acres
  •  Projects: Rotterdam?
  • Pluses: Possibility for extreme profitability
  • Minuses: So far just a concept design.
Wave pool Waveloch Netherland

Waveloch concept design

Weber Wave Pools

Australian shaper Greg Webber has been working on wave pools since 2008. The technology he promises is similar to Kelly Slater Wave Company and Wavegarden models but in a circular model. His design has hydrofoil-generated waves circling a central pier continuously in the same direction. According to Greg, his hydrofoil design is superior because it creates a trough in the wave, which is how natural waves break. The design also incorporates the wave energy recycling concept that creates beginner waves simultaneously.

Looped linear wave pool from Webber Wave Pools on Vimeo.

  • Wave generation: Hydrofoil Displacement
  •  Phase: Concept
  •  Quality for surfing: Unknown
  •  Frequency: Unknown
  •  Energy cost per wave: Unknown
  •  Construction Cost: Unknown
  •  Footprint: 1-4 acres
  •  Projects: Queensland (?)
  • Pluses: Possibility for extreme profitability
  • Minuses: So far just a concept