Ultimately, nothing will satisfy my curiosity (and yours) about Kelly Slater’s wave like surfing it. The thing looks, smells, and (probably) tastes like a dream. But until then, we’re relegated to asking questions and pondering. Yesterday morning, in another monumental development for the sport, the Olympic Committee approved a recommendation to include surfing in the 2020 Olympics. One final vote remains in August before it’s official, but according to sources close to the Olympic bid process, the outlook is optimistic. Rumors also abound claiming said Olympic games will take place in a wave pool to mitigate concerns around inconsistent surf in Japan during the summer. With the WSL acquiring the world’s most impressive artificial wave just a week ago, it seems like everything is going exactly according to plan, Pinky and the Brain-style. But as it turns out, the wave pool Olympics rumors are just that. Rumors. According to ISA President Fernando Aguerre, should surfing be included in the 2020 Olympics, the competition will almost certainly take place in the ocean. Which makes sense in the context of surfing. That’s where 99.9999999% of surfing takes – and has taken – place. But that doesn’t change our bloodlust for information about Kelly’s wave. Not in the slightest. So I caught up with World Surf League VP of Communications, Dave Prodan, via email to get the skinny.
When do you anticipate the wave pool will be available for the public to use? Do you know where the next pool will be built or what the rollout strategy might be? Curious if you have any insight around admission/membership costs?
The KSWC will be making an announcement on next steps in the near future. For now, the continued focus of the technology is on refining training potential and applications with the world’s best surfers.
With the development of a perfect, artificial wave, surfing seems to be evolving in an unprecedented and fundamental way. The impact to surfers – in the context of surfing – could potentially be likened to something as profound as giving humans cell phones. Big changes in behavior. A whole subculture – or superculture – of wave pool surfers might result. Or it could be nominal. A tiny niche/novelty. Given the acquisition, I’d assume bold ambitions, but where do you see wave-pool surfing fitting into the surfing ecosystem in say 10 years?
It’s an interesting question to consider.
I think all involved (especially at the WSL) agree that the ocean, and specifically surfing in the ocean, is the ultimate benchmark for performance and that will never change. The sport is incredibly fortunate to have such a dynamic playing field in which to push the limits of human performance.
In my opinion, the full realization of this technology’s potential is around opening opportunities for the introduction to, and development of one’s, surfing in places where it was previously impossible.
In 10 years time, the next Kelly Slater or Stephanie Gilmore or Gabriel Medina may not come from a coastline. Admittedly, I think any future success in the world of surfing will continue to require a comfort in and knowledge of the ocean. The skills learned in a pool would have to be applied in the ocean as that will remain the ultimate proving ground. That said, we could see world-class surfers emerging from previously-unconsidered places and developing at unprecedented speeds thanks to this technology.
Where does the wave pool business fit into the WSL’s workings?
The Kelly Slater Wave Pool is now owned by WSL Holdings, the parent company of the World Surf League. We remain independent entities but are now sister companies.
Are wave pools realistically capable of doubling/tripling/quadrupling/quintupling/sextupling surfing participation numbers?
Depends on the application I suppose. I think it certainly allows for the sport to be opened up to a whole new class of fandom, whether that’s through experiential interest (having tried the pool and wanting to see what the world’s best do on tour) or just seeing friends and family and pros at the local pool and becoming interested in the sport via that avenue.
Reports seem positive that surfing will be included in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. There has also been speculation that the competition would take place on an artifical wave. Can you confirm/deny/provide insight into this development to the best of your knowledge?
The WSL has been working closely with the ISA on the bid to have surfing included in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo and, if included, that the world’s best surfers are featured in the best possible way. The IOC Executive Board recently recommended surfing, alongside baseball/softball, karate, sport climbing and skateboarding to be included in the Tokyo program. We’ll all learn more details soon.
If surfing is formally included and an artificial wave were used, based on the recent acquisition, I’d imagine the competition would take place on a Kelly Slater Wave Co. wave.
I think one of the major benefits of artificial waves is creating something that is relatively consistent and a more even field of play, so to speak. This could lend itself to the Olympics, but the inclusion of any sport and the guidelines for that sport are ultimately overseen by the IOC. If the IOC were interested in including surfing in the Olympics and desired the use of artificial waves, I think the current global consensus is that the KSWC is the best option.
(UPDATE: According to ISA President, Fernando Aguerre, any Olympic surfing competition in Tokyo would take place in the ocean, not on an artificial wave.)
Can you share the acquisition price?
Both entities are privately-owned and financial details are not made public.
Are there any more acquisitions for WSL on the horizon?
The WSL has no acquisition announcements planned at this time.
When can I give the KS Wave Co project a spin? My birthday is in March. I’d rather not, but I can wait until then if necessary.
Any time you want. Just ask your friend Kelly 😉