We live in the future. It’s Jetsons-type shit, if you think about it: palm sized squares that act as tethers to the everything of the internet, phones, and cameras. Hoverboards are pretty much here, if still a little experimental, and the so-called global village is getting smaller and more cramped every day. We can do things now that, just a few short years ago, seemed impossible. Take, for instance, surfing. We no longer need an ocean to ride good waves. That’s crazy.
I don’t have much interest in surfing in a wave pool. Sure, I’d love to give it a shot a few times, but I can’t see myself building a life around it. Of course, a perfect wave is a still a perfect wave, and the one that Kelly Slater and company just dropped on the world is exactly that–and you’d be hard-pressed to find a surfer that can honestly say they wouldn’t like to have a go at it.
When WaveGarden pumped out a few waves in their test pool, the surf world started talking. While there were a few other viable options, for years man made waves had pretty much been shit. The very first one opened London, England back in 1934. There were others, but the first notable one in the next few decades was Arizona’s Big Surf opened in ’69, in the mid-’80s Tom Carroll won a surfing event in Pennsylvania, and there were numerous other “surfing” spots that required the hand of man: Typhoon Lagoon, the Ocean Dome, and Sunway Lagoon, to name a few. But they were all terrible. WaveGarden changed that. And Kelly Slater–like he usually does–just turned the volume way, way up. Man made waves are here to stay. We’re probably looking at the beginning of surfing’s great divide: where events and more action-oriented surfers surf in pools, and the so-called “soul” surfers (as much as I hate to use the term) stick to the ocean and all of Mother Nature’s wonderful vagaries. But wave pools are a good thing, whether you’re a die-hard contest fan or the souliest of soul surfers. Here are five reasons why:
1. They’re a real form of crowd control:
You want something to ease the crowds? Throw a few good waves far from the ocean. “Go back to the valley, man” will be a thing of the past… the Valley crowd won’t have to make the drive anymore. With any luck, in a few years, inlanders will have their annual passes, surf happily on wave they like, and stop moving/traveling to the coast. Line ups will become less crowded, and you will get more waves, whether you’re in the ocean or a pool.
2. And a new industry is born:
This is the beginning of what will probably become a gigantic industry. WaveGarden technology is already sprouting up in different pools all over the world, and at each one of those, a whole little industry is blossoming. Jobs will exist where there were none before. Throw a pool in the crummiest dirt-poor cesspool of a town, give a few of the locals a job staffing the place, and watch the town turn into something it wasn’t before. Money makes the economy go ’round, after all.
3. Exercise for the American blob:
The United States is in the middle of a health crisis. As a population, we’re turning into an unhealthy, unhappy lumbering mass, sweating our way to the buffet in our sweatpants with chafed thighs. According to the American Cancer Society, “Modern life in America has led many people to eat more unhealthy foods, eat bigger food portions, and be less active. As a result, the number of Americans who are overweight or obese (very overweight) has been rising. About 1 in 3 American adults is now obese, and another 1 in 3 is overweight.”
The fattest states in the US are Mississippi and West Virginia, while the healthiest are Hawaii and Colorado, both of which have a population that goes outside and actually does shit. Put a few wave pools in Mississippi and watch those cholesterol-ridden teens shed the pounds, get some vitamin D, and turn into healthier, happier people. That’s good for everyone.
4. Change is good:
In the last few decades, surfing in the midst of a change. Progression is the name of the game to many surfers, and except for a few old curmudgeons lamenting the loss of the old days, it’s a good thing. If you don’t want to do airs, don’t do them. If you enjoy soulful carving, do that. Don’t rain on some else’s parade for something they like and you don’t… you just sound like Grandpa yelling at the cell phone. Like the old saying goes, “the only constant is change.” Embrace it. While perfect, peeling waves pour out of a pool, the progression of surfing as a sport will grow exponentially, and it will be fun to watch. Shit, in a decade or two, the best surfer in the world might be born and raised in Ohio.
So whether you’re in the ocean camp, the wave pool camp, or the I don’t care camp, wave pools are a good thing. Economy boosting, health promoting crowd control. What’s not to love?