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“Wavegarden just went Betamax!”

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Are Wavegarden execs really standing on building ledges, crying?

Earlier this morning, the Seattle-based surf historian, former Surfer editor and once-a-week-lovemaker, Matt Warshaw, wrote me a short email.

“We need to do a back and forth on Kelly’s wave machine. I feel dizzy.”

I replied, “Matt I feel dizzy, too, maybe a little chilly. Do you see a dystopian future? ”

The following back and forth ensued, with Warshaw even suggesting the desirability of the Slater pool as a WSL event. After all, said Warshaw, “If you had a choice yesterday between Pipe or Kelly’s wave, world title on the line, you’d take Kelly’s wave.”

The bit at the end of the vid where Kelly parks in the tube, all I could think of was, I’ve never seen anything like that except maybe Barra. And Barra is hot and sticky and crowded, and where’s my passport, and where do you stay, and who’s renting the car, while this wave . . . fuck! I don’t know. Do I want to surf it? I don’t know. Yes. Yes, of course I want to surf it!

BeachGrit: How do you think Kelly’s wave compares to Wavegarden?

Warshaw: Wavegarden just went Betamax! Wavegarden execs are standing on office building ledges, crying, looking down at the sidewalk! How does it compare to that pool you surfed in Dubai?

BeachGrit: Not Dubai, but Malaysia and the Canaries have felt my touch. Malaysia was terrible, Tenerife was something else. Do I want to surf Kelly’s pool? I’ve never wanted anything as much…how about you old man?

Warshaw: There used to be this place called Big Surf, in Arizona, this big toilet-flusher of a wavepool. Maybe its still there. This huge three-story tank filled with water, and somebody would press a button, and water gushed into a pool and made this rolling shitwad of a wave. Big Surf was in a couple surf movies in the early ‘70s, and the whole point was to laugh at it. Nobody wanted to actually ride it. Same deal with the FlowRider. Then the pool in Japan, Ocean Dome I think it was called, that was better, then a few pools after that were crap, then the early Wavegarden clips, I remember thinking, Ohhh, they’re getting closer. But not until 10 minutes ago have I ever actually wanted to surf an artificial wave. The bit at the end of the vid where Kelly parks in the tube, all I could think of was, I’ve never seen anything like that except maybe Barra. And Barra is hot and sticky and crowded, and where’s my passport, and where do you stay, and who’s renting the car, while this wave . . . fuck! I don’t know. Do I want to surf it? I don’t know. Yes. Yes, of course I want to surf it

RonJon_wavepool

BeachGrit: Surfing just changed, you think?

Warshaw: I do. Absolutely. Like, put a big red before-and-after mark in the timeline. For starters, just to take the easiest topic, since we’re all thinking about contests after yesterday— do you put a wave pool on the WCT schedule?

Kelly Slater wave pool

Kelly Slater at the Ocean Dome wave pool, Miyazaki, Japan. Closed since 2007 due to inflated operating costs.

BeachGrit: Do you?

Warshaw: Wavegarden just went Betamax! Wavegarden execs are standing on office building ledges, crying, looking down at the sidewalk!

Warshaw: How do you not? If you had a choice yesterday between Pipe or Kelly’s wave, world title on the line, you’d take Kelly’s wave. But its making me a little crazy thinking about it.

BeachGrit: What about the idea that this is the opener for a dystopian future of inland jocks finally putting paid to the myth of surfing being for evolved souls?

Warshaw: Twenty years ago a lot of people were saying, and I was in this camp myself for a year or so, that surf-cams and high-tech forecasting were about to suck the magic out of the sport. But that was nothing compared to what Kelly just did. Wow, Kelly just kicked surf forecasting in the nuts! We praise the adventure and exploring and culture and things that come with wave-hunting, but those are cheap virtues, when there’s no option. What we all want, first and foremost, is the good wave. Now there IS an option, or will be soon, are you still going to go halfway around the world to chase a swell, and risk a surprise crowd, or a rogue bit of shitty weather, or 10 other things that’ll mess the surf up? Or you going to book your time at the pool? I’d still probably choose travel but I’m not as sure about that as I was when I woke up this morning. And probably a majority of surfers just flat out will take the sure thing and go to the pool.

BeachGrit: Did you like the timing of the release? Our little buzzy bee world champ and Pipeline Master enjoys limelight for exactly…one day.

Warshaw: Nah, I don’t think that has anything to do with the timing. They filmed on December 5, and Kelly’s been sitting on it since then. He would have been dying to drop it. Anybody would. Nice of Kelly to wait until Pipe was finished, actually.

BeachGrit: Where do you think it is? Real cold, near a major road, you’ve got a handle on US geography?

Warshaw: Not a clue. I was thinking it was some other country. I’m sure we’ll know by tomorrow.

BeachGrit: Where’s it gonna be in a year? In 10 years?

Warshaw: One year from now, my guess is they’re going to be programing variations and even flaws into the wave, so it doesn’t look so antiseptic. Then I guess the biggest thing is figuring out the economics and scalability. Ten years from now 90% of us will be within a half-day’s drive of a Kelly Slater signature wave. Fuck, I’ll be to old for the Barra model.