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"Consider this: WaveJet will enable anyone, at any skill level, to get in the lineup and catch any wave without using any energy." Photo: WaveJet.com

"Consider this: WaveJet will enable anyone, at any skill level, to get in the lineup and catch any wave without using any energy." Photo: WaveJet.com


The Inertia

The progression of surfboard design throughout the years has come a long way. In the name of increasing performance, surfers and shapers have made many breakthroughs. For instance, the creation of “the gun” in the ‘50s facilitated big wave surfing, short boards and twin fins in the ‘60s and ‘70s eventually lead to the creation of the thruster in ’81, which took the best features of the single and twin fin systems and made them work tunefully together. And of course, we can’t forget the recent creation of WaveJet, a low-powered motor system that fits into a traditional-sized surfboard which eliminates paddling. Wait, what?

WaveJet was first introduced to the surf world in early January at the Surf Expo in Orlando, Florida. The twin lithium, ion battery-powered wireless system can be installed into the rear of most shortboards and long boards. Controlled via a wireless wristband switch, this invention is the first paddle-free surfboard. The miniaturized jet drive helps boards and other watercrafts travel at a pace around three times faster than paddling. It’s $4,000 price tag makes it unlikely that lineups will become crowded with them overnight, but if the price drops that might change.

Consider this: WaveJet will enable anyone, at any skill level, to get in the lineup and catch any wave without using any energy.

Before you write it off entirely, let’s look at the potential positives of WaveJet. The most benevolent utilization would be to get those who are physically disabled back in the water and surfing through foundations such as Life Rolls On and its flagship program, They Will Surf Again. Because WaveJet only requires the literal flip-of-a-switch to simulate paddling, the euphoric feeling of chasing down a wave and riding it independently can be recreated by those who haven’t surfed since their injury. WaveJet also has practical implications for water safety. If installed into a rescue board, lives would be saved more frequently and faster, especially in harder surf. Older surfers who are struggling to keep up might also find it useful to continue doing what they love with a bit of extra help. On more dangerous days, the WaveJet would allow lifeguards to patrol in the water without lugging around hefty machinery. The last and probably most far-fetched application of WaveJet is its potential to replace Jet Skis for big wave surfing. One flaw with this notion is that big wave surfers get towed in to critically-massive waves at around 30-40 mph, whereas WaveJet has been clocked at around 21 mph. That discrepancy in speed has major implications that can be simplified to life or death, so you won’t see guys charging 90 foot waves like GMac on WaveJet just yet. (Well…maybe you will. Check out this video of Garrett McNamara using his WaveJet on a 45-foot wave.)

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Even considering the potential positives, I think, for the everyday surfer, WaveJet holds little clout. Wouldn’t surfers in the lineup hate that guy? If I were burned by a motorized board, jokes would be made to say the least. I’ve never been “that guy” and I don’t plan to start by using WaveJet. Surfing is a simple sport – all you need is a board, trunks, and a ride the beach — and the WaveJet goes against that fundamental truth. If I can’t paddle out into a line-up, chances are, I don’t belong there anyway. Surfing ethics, and indeed the entire ethos of the sport is violated if inept, feeble surfers can catch waves beyond their limits.

As in life, there are no shortcuts in surfing. I would tell someone who doesn’t want to do any paddling to take up snowboarding. But as long as it’s used for the right reasons, like saving lives and getting the disabled back in the water, I encourage the WaveJet’s incorporation into the ocean. Only time will tell if it is a friend, fad, or foe.

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