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STANDING STILL: Developments In Artificial Waves

| posted on July 22, 2010

Super fun Ocean Dome Japan. The engineers cranked it up for this video, but cost issues have closed the doors on this wave.

The murky development waters in the world of wave pools, surf pools, and water parks just got a little clearer. In the past, there have been a lot of promises, but very few deliveries. And this is understandable. This world involves unique technologies and lots of opportunity, but also big time fiscal investment that often times turns into a monetary hemorrhage. The Ron Jon surf park fiasco is a prime example. Lots of promise, but investors are left with a big hole in the ground and a bigger hole in their wallets. The WaveHouse in San Diego is one of the only bright lights in a room filled with flickering promises. But now American Wave Machines (AWM), a Solana Beach company, has hit the light switch with its standing wave technology: SurfStream.

To the average surfer, technologies in the Wave Pool industry are a bit confusing. Reef breaks, beach breaks, cobblestone points are concepts we surfers can easily wrap our imaginations around, and we have, a thousands of times over. But wave pool technology is foreign.

Let’s see if we can’t break it down for you. First off, if we can’t go ride it today, we won’t discuss it. We’ll take a wait and see approach. What concerns us is what is available to us today. There are other wave pool possibilities and even wave generators being planned for lakes. All exciting and I can’t wait to ride them, the operative word being “wait.” Today, right now, at this very instant, there are three types of waves we can ride: sheet, traveling, and standing. Here’s a primer:

1) Sheet flow – A sheet of water follows the contour of the bottom, usually a wave shaped surface. This type of wave is ridden with a skimboard and is generally a single rider format. No adjustments can be made for size or shape of wave. The Flow Rider is a classic example of a sheet flow wave. If you’ve ever experienced the fun at the WaveHouse in San Diego, you’ve ridden on a sheet flow wave. Super fun barrels, nevertheless, but not actually surfing.

2) Surf Pool traveling wave – A propagating gravity water displacement wave that breaks as the bottom contour becomes shallower. Surfing and other types of wave riding is the norm and the wave size and direction can be adjusted. Because you need such a large pool and massive quantities of power this type of wave, although perhaps the most realistic, is cost prohibitive. Case in point, the recent announcement closing of the Ocean Dome Japan surf park.