A $600,000 dollar electric wake boat is currently being developed that can produce a head-high barrel behind it. Utilizing “the biggest wake surfing hull ever built,” and a metric shit-ton of ballast, the so called “Gigawave 350 GW-X” boat, according to its inventors, should be able to produce a wave that could rival Kelly’s in terms of simulating ocean conditions. Two young inventors have started a crowdfunding campaign to design this new inland surf machine so there’s really no timeline for when it could be on the market. Which is to say this is all hypothetical (for the record, given the imagery, I wasn’t all that impressed with the barrel to begin with).
So what, you might ask? What does this say about surfing? Where does it all fit? Well to me, it’s further proof of my theory that the COVID surfing craze had more to do with the rising popularity of surfing in the past four to five years than it did with the pandemic. The pandemic only pushed more people into the water because, well, we all needed something to do to keep our minds off the pandemic. Hear me out. Surfing was already booming in popularity well before we knew what the word “Coronavirus,” meant and brands have been selling the surf lifestyle for far longer than that – selling people on the idea that surfing is in fact, “cool.” We, as media, have to accept some blame for our part of the problem as well. Start having too much fun and people are going to want in on the action. It was only a matter of time before people caught on to the activity itself as well as the lifestyle that surrounds it.
Well, the pandemic hit and we were still having fun, while less-lucky landlubbers wallowed indoors. Not to mention the fact that surfing was plastered all over the media as surfers were chased out of the water by police and we had to scream to the high heavens about how important and beneficial surfing is just to be allowed to do it without fear of arrest.
I spent the early lockdown days of the pandemic in a small beach town in California. The wave I surf is in the next town over, a 15-minute drive around a lagoon or a 20-minute bike ride through a gated community that also has access to the wave. Before the pandemic, the wave was pretty popular, and could be crowded on a weekend. During those first couple months, the sheriff was threatening to ticket anyone driving to the beach, significantly reducing the crowds, and forcing me to take my bike. For a few blissful weeks I had the wave largely to myself, provided I went through the trouble of biking down with a surfboard and was willing to forgo the luxuries of car surfing (see hot water bottles). Once people realized the sheriff was all bark and no bite though, every weekday felt like a weekend with crowds showing up for anything but the flattest of conditions. When I was back home a month ago, I noticed a sign hanging at the entrance to the break that read, “Be nice, everyone is a surfer now.”
What does that long-winded story have to do with the fact that people are willing to fund an electric wakesurf apparatus that looks like those “Ride the Duck” boats? I think both are indicators of the fact that interest in surfing is here to stay and that interest has been steadily increasing for years. Surfing was always popular, people just had more time with the pandemic to do it more. Riding waves used to be a fringe activity, something we have trouble explaining to friends and family, and they have trouble understanding, especially when we’re frothing over videos of a swell halfway around the globe. Those days aren’t over, but they’re dwindling for sure, and incredible new gadgets like this wake boat will serve to push interest in wave-sliding – whether it’s in the ocean, a river, a pool, or the back of a boat – even further. Here’s my glass-half-full summation: hopefully, inventions like this and the hundreds (maybe thousands?) of wavepools and man-made river waves spreading across the globe will ensure that there’s enough for everyone – though it’s going to take a whole lot of wavepools and artificial structures to do that. But one can always hope.