WaveJet is one of those things that I’ve always wanted to try, but I’ve been leery of trying because I think if I try it, I’ll immediately turn into some kind of ridiculous kook, like Cinderella at midnight. You know why I think like that? Because I’m subscribing to the opinion of everyone else who thinks like that. They’re the ones who will undoubtedly be throwing Internet feces at me from the comments section.
I’m a pretty lazy surfer. I want things to be easy: maximum reward with minimal effort. That said, I think that laziness (and money – and how money makers make money off people’s laziness) is one of the biggest problems, not just in surfing, but also in all of Western society. But still, how much does paddling suck?
Enter WaveJet. Do you know how freaking fun it is? Sure, it’s kind of cheating. But it’s only cheating if you’re competing, right? They wouldn’t have let Evel Knievel enter the Tour de France, would they?
So on a bright, beautiful Friday morning, we made our way down to the south side of the Venice pier to meet the WaveJetters and their van in a parking lot. We hugged and high-fived then laughed about some trivialities for a few minutes while the boards came out of the van and lay in the parking lot empty of their propulsion systems. They had brought a variety of boards: a 6’ 6″ quad set-up, a 6’ 6″ thruster, and two longboards – a 9’ 0″ and a 10’.
WaveJet began after the CEO gave tow-surfing a shot in the late 1990s. He loved it, but according to their website, didn’t like the “hassle of renting or buying a PWC.” He began experimenting with propulsion systems that were lighter than the four-stroke propeller driven refrigerators that have been pushing boards around since the ’60s. In 2007, he got a patent for one of those experiments then refined it again and again, getting new patents along the way. Now they’ve developed a system that is not only light enough for the average person to walk around with but makes paddling pretty much unnecessary.
So here’s how it works, in very simple terms: water gets sucked in then pushed out by two aluminum impellers, giving you around 20 pounds of thrust. On a longboard, that’s enough to stand up on without a wave underneath you, which feels weird and looks even weirder – like some kind of surfing Jesus. You wear a little controller on your wrist with something called Seatooth (think Bluetooth and you’ll get the idea), and then push a button when you want to get pushed into a wave. You can shut it off using the wrist button, or if you fall off, it shuts off when it gets more than ten feet away so you’re not left stranded in the impact zone while your board makes its way safely to shore.
I’ll admit that I thought about the reactions of others in the water on non-WaveJet boards (peasant scum!), so I asked Jordan Voloshin, WaveJet sales and marketing coordinator and all-around nice guy, about adverse reactions and whether he’d been vibed in the water. “You know, a lot of our clients aren’t surfing in places where it’s going to matter all that much,” he said, armlessly moving through the water like he was being towed by Pinocchio’s Monstro. “A lot of people are more interested in it than concerned with it.”
And, at least at the south side of the Venice pier, he was right. No one cared. People were much more interested in it than anything else. Of course, we weren’t assholes; we didn’t sit deeper than everyone else, we didn’t steal waves, although we totally could have with our new found cy-boards – we just stayed in our little group and laughed at one another’s amazement, catching waves that we shouldn’t have been able to catch and making sections that we shouldn’t have been able to make.
Since it’s rare to see one of these in the water on an average day, I wondered if the WaveJet was his go-to board, and if he used it every session. “Well, not every session,” he told me. “But if I only have a half an hour and I want to catch a lot of waves, then it’s perfect.”
I do have a few gripes, though, despite how fun it is to make the best thing in the world easier. For me, the shortboard was rendered almost too heavy by the propulsion system. It was difficult to turn on and even harder to paddle into anything without using the jets. The longboards, while amazingly fun, were so heavy they felt dangerous, especially in the hands of someone with little experience steering an angry halibut. But my biggest gripe – and this is the one that would keep the WaveJet out of the hands of the masses – is the price tag that comes with the convenience. A shortboard will run you about $4,400, while a longboard is around $4,500.
While I’m not completely sold on the WaveJet’s applications in the shortboarding world, I can see a lot of benefits in other water-related sports, and so does WaveJet. For lifeguards, this just makes so much sense. I’m not exactly sure why it’s not already at lifeguard stations everywhere that can afford it. Disabled surfers could (and do – just look at Jesse Billauer of Life Rolls On) gain an enormous amount of independence. And of course, for the guy who just doesn’t like paddling and wants to catch more waves (who ISN’T that guy?), it’s amazing.
And you know what I say to all those people who hate it? Try it.
(In the interest of full disclosure, WaveJet is an advertiser on The Inertia. These are just my thoughts on a day of WaveJetting, and not some kind of thinly veiled advertisement. Just so you know.)