Does it offend you, yeah?
If I watch one more wave pool clip I think I will spew. The surf world has been marching to the beat of the wave pool drum for a while now. But enough is enough. Give me Pipe, Cloudbreak, big Hossegor and the high-performance skate park, Trestles. I do not want to drink the WSL kool-aid. Give me back real surfing in real waves without the chia seeds.
Since Kelly unveiled his creation the wave pool marketing hasn’t stopped. As speculation of its location grew, choreographed clips starring the King himself chummed up the waters. After the WSL hitched their cart to the KSWC last year we finally reached a crescendo over the weekend with a wave pool comp in Leemore in front of 5000 fans. Thus, offering an alternative future for pro surfing.
Being the hottest thing to happen to surfing since Gordon Merchant made boardies and Jack O’Neill created the wetsuit, investors are jumping on the latest tech. There’s UBRNsurf Melbourne, Webber Wave Pools, NLand Surf Park, Citywave and American Wave Machines Waco Texas. The latest looks and sounds like a legitimate wave that the average punter can afford.
It’s scary to think the machines are taking over. WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt told Marcus Saunders from Surfline at The Founders Cup that ‘just how natural it felt’ to have an event at a wave pool. I don’t know how many surfers would agree. The stadium, the landlocked location, the Americanisms slipped into the broadcast. I cringed when I heard Peter Mel describing ‘MVP’ performances. What is this NFL, NBA…? It only confirms the WSL’s interest in turning the sport on to new markets.
Maybe I’m not a fan because it feels elitist.
It’s reportedly $50K to rent Kelly’s tub for the day. Over the past week apparently that sold out eight times over. It’s also $10K per head if you want to surf the pool and those in Lemoore last week reckon 30 people were in the water paying those numbers for one day. Do the numbers. Kelly/WSL just cleaned up.
But just as Kelly stabbed Adriano in the back unveiling his pool hours after his rival clinched his maiden world title, Jamie O’Brien and friends did the same. As hangovers from The Founders Cup were still sinking in Seth Moniz showed what’s possible with the right section with his backflip at the Waco pool. A stark contrast to the safety surfing we saw at the WSL event where only Filipe Toledo predictably went for it.
The reality is Joe Public will never surf a KSWC/WSL pool. The price of admission is far too high. And judging from positive press in mainstream media, the ‘sold out’ event and the smiles all round from the WSL cronies, wave pools will be a huge part of the tour in the future. In addition, the WSL have cleverly locked down access to the pros, with VIP areas, and segmented seating based on ticket price, again drawing a line in the sand between the haves and the have nots. If a rich American is willing to fork out $10K a day for a few waves in a pool, the WSL must be thinking they’re onto something.
However, the biggest threat comes from other wave pools who undercut the market. The Waco pool is $60 per hour or $100 per day. Waves come every three minutes, in three wave sets. Oh, and Raimana won’t be screaming at you from a jet ski.
The wave pool race will continue to rage on whether we like it or not. But you’re never going to get a ‘mechanical failure’ in the ocean. Sure, the wind might come up, there might be a lull but you can always come back later, tomorrow or next week and paddle out for free.
Let the WSL alienate the core surfer I say. We’ve seen how that worked out for the surf industry looking for ‘fresh markets’. The Founders Cup was a novelty event, at a novelty wave and not the real deal.