Kelly Slater’s Wave Pool

By Jay Vilarrubi-Smith

By now we’ve all seen the videos. Kelly Slater, in pure Kelly Slater fashion, has built the perfect artificial wave.

The kind of perfect artificial wave that’s been dreamt of for decades.

Until now, the world has had to settle with the artificial ‘waves’ that you see on the cruise ship adverts. But Kelly’s bombshell, furthered by the acquisition of it by the WSL, has taken this thing to a different planet.

A perfect wave has been created, and it can be dialled up at the click of a button.

Already, the talk has turned to when we are going to see a world tour event at the wave pool, throwing up endless amounts of speculation of where this will leave the future of competitive surfing.

The truth is I don’t know how to feel about it.

Part of me loves the idea of seeing John John and Julian Wilson trading perfect waves one after another. I certainly don’t enjoy watching them grovel for points in some three foot Brazilian close-outs.

But then I think about how long I could sit and watch two hundred consecutive air reverses or how many times I could see Gabriel Medina claim another five minute barrel before I close my laptop for good.

When I imagine how the future of competitive surfing might change, the only thing I can sort of foresee happening is a different branch of surfing emerging.

Kind of like the divide between half-pipe skating and street skating. Essentially the same sport, but one is performed on a consistently similar ramp and one is more free and dynamic.

In a recent interview with The Inertia, WSL Vice President of communications, Dave Prodan said:

“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.”

And these two points are the ones which will cause the most prominent difference of opinion.

On the one hand, the ocean, the sense of travel, exploration and connection with Mother Nature is what surfing really is about. Is the fact that you can just press a button and have perfect waves really surfing?

Yet on the other hand, the ability of having on-demand perfect waves means that the boundaries of what is possible in surfing is going to go through the roof.

No longer will surfers have to wait for the right conditions before they can push what is capable – they will be able to do so every single day.

If artificial waves such as this start to pop up all over the world, the simple air reverse will soon look ancient. The new ‘mind blowing’ backflips and occasional 540’s will be the norm. Who knows what would be next.

It’s of course too soon to make any concrete assumptions because frankly it still feels a bit unreal. A few three minute YouTube clips is all we have of Kelly’s artificial wave.

Yet one thing’s for sure, 2016 could be the year that the future of competitive surfing is changed forever.