Artificial reefs have long been on the forefront of surfers’ minds. Not only can they help the environment, they can (theoretically) create waves. A man named Troy Bottegal, from Perth, Australia, has an idea – and it’s one that might just work. While I’m no scientist, from an incredibly simple point-of-view, this looks like it has promise. Bottegal’s idea is to throw a big plastic bubble onto the seafloor, then inflate it. His plan is to place it in place where waves normally close out, and as swell passes over the giant bubble, it’ll (hopefully) form waves – surfable ones.
Of course, there are a few questions. For instance, how exactly do you tether a gigantic bubble to the sea floor? Bubbles float. The bigger the bubble, the more buoyant, and the more buoyant, the harder it is to keep down, especially when the anchor is sitting in something that shifts so easily, like sand on the sea floor. According to Troy, they’ve created a type of helical sand anchor which is strong enough to hold down a 40 foot boat in a category three cyclone. If there’s video of that test, I’d love to see it. They’ll use twelve anchors per installation, and because the anchors are installed at the bottom (like most anchors), they’ll be free from turbulence.
So why not just fill it with water? According to Bottegal, if the inflatable reef were simply a giant water balloon, the energy from the swell wouldn’t act in the same way as it does when it hits something solid. The energy would just travel through the water inside the bubble and out the other side. The wave’s energy wouldn’t push up and over it – instead, it would act as though the structure was just a piece of floating rubber, and ignore it altogether. Filling the structures with air makes a solid swell break, forcing the energy in the wave to bend around it and creating those oh-so-sought after waves.
Keep in mind that this is something that hasn’t been tried yet. Troy and his partners have fired up a Kickstarter campaign to get enough funding to try and make this a reality. “I need your help to fund the manufacture and installation of the world’s first AIRWAVE (TM)at a beautiful beach in Perth,” Troy wrote. “I have permission from the local council, a dive team and sail manufacturer and I am ready to go. All I need are sufficient funds. I have the drive to do the rest.”
If this actually works, it could mean a whole lot for surfing – more waves equal less people. Places that previously just had giant closeouts might be places that now have giant, perfect barrels. If you’re as curious as I am, check out the Kickstarter campaign, and throw Troy and his team a bone, if you feel so inclined.