Wave pools were the talk of 2016 within our humble community – Slater bombed everything out of the water when the curtain was pulled back on his Lemoore ranch; the Olympic debate over whether surfing will be on sea or in a machine and the launch of Texas' own Wavegarden all gave an artificial twang to our news agenda.
But how do you top Slater's wave juggernaut, especially after a roster of surf royalty slapped their approval on it? If you thought innovation then, correct. As, just in, we're now looking at new technology from the Wavegarden camp called The Cove, a diamond shaped facility that's superior to its lagoon-type predecessor (ie Surf Snowdonia/NLand) – or that's according to URBNSURF, Australia's Wavegarden licence holders who could utilise this new tech in their planned surf parks for Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.
It's Wavegarden 2.0. When asked for a comment URBNSURF's media team said the facility is able to produce, ''2.1m high barrels, with rides of 18 seconds in duration, at a frequency of 1,000+ waves per hour (i.e. one wave every 4 seconds)''. But it does raise the question, given the diamond shape of the pool and the frequency of waves, how does it deal with back wash?
However, the Australian claims that the likes of Julian Wilson, Josh Kerr and Ryan Callinan have tested a full-size facility in Spain and given it the thumbs up. If all these wave pools are built, could it be a huge boost for Australian surfing ahead of the Olympics? Even though the Olympics will take place in the sea rather than in a pool?
According to URBNSURF's media team: ''The 'Cove' is the latest evolution of the Wavegarden wave generating system and is due to be announced publicly in the coming weeks.''
How does it deal with back wash? That's under wraps at the moment: ''Apologies, but we are not able to describe the exact way this is dealt with until details of the new technology are released publicly by Wavegarden. Having ridden the wave a few weeks ago in Spain, I can confirm that it works well and back wash from high frequency generation of waves does not affect wave quality in any appreciable way.'' Sounds...positive.
I did ask why The Cove was chosen over the standard Wavegarden tech, the test facility of which still stands in Spain, presumably close to the separate Cove installation: ''There is no other technology like the 'Cove' that can match it in terms of wave quality, wave frequency, wave variability, guest capacity and cost. The 'Cove' has been built at full scale in Spain and was tested by the world’s best surfers last October.''
But how far has development progressed? ''The URBNSURF Melbourne development received planning approval in September 2016 and the capital raising for the project is underway, and proceeding well. There is a great deal of interest in the opportunity from Australian based high net worth, sophisticated investors, who also surf. We have another investor roadshow to the new 'Cove' facility in Spain planned for late January.
''The capital raising is being led by Melbourne based investment bank, Kidder Williams. Given we decided in mid-2016 to pivot to the latest Wavegarden 'Cove' wave generating technology, this required resubmission of our planning documents and the obtaining of a new planning approval. Consequently, construction of URBNSURF Melbourne is now due to commence in the first half 2017, with first waves likely to be produced by year end, and the facility open to the public in first half of 2018.
''A lease of a site at Sydney Olympic Park was signed in September for the development of URBNSURF Sydney. The development application for that facility is currently being prepared and is due to be submitted to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment in March 2017.
''Our proposal to develop URBNSURF Perth at Tompkins Park on the Swan River is currently out for public comment which closes on 27 January 2017 (for more info and to add your support to the campaign, click HERE). We are hoping to have the proposal come back before council for final decision in the first quarter of 2017. If we are successful in securing the site, we will then require 12 months for planning approvals and 12 months for construction.''
An exciting reponse to Slater's wave pool? It's going to be interesting to see how this all pans out.