Wavegarden redundant? The Betamax of surf? Maybe not!
Don’t expect well-reported stories from newspapers during the Christmas-New Year period. No one’s there. No one’s picking up a phone to check sources. No one’s doing much except rewriting stories fed to ’em.
Yesterday, The Australian‘s Western Australian bureau chief reported an “exclusive” headed Olympic surfers to get a home break with artificial waves. It was the sort of story you’d stitch together in five minutes from a press release while you shovel leftover cake down your throat.
Usually The Australian tosses its surf-based stories to my ol pal Fred Pawle and you get a sharpened eye on it. Fred’s on holidays. Saw him hacking a little left ten minutes after I read the story.
It took me a few reads to understand what the “exclusive” was about. One normally impeccable surf news site thought it had just announced three wavepools for the use of Australia’s Olympic contestants.
While in America the Olympic conversation around surfing has been short and kept to the niche, Oz is preparing to take their national pastime to the bronze, silver and gold frontier. And if Australia’s already taking steps towards artificial training grounds we wonder what clandestine movements are being pushed forth in the beloved totalitarian countries.
That ain’t happening.
Essentially, it’s a story designed to reheat interest in Wavegardens for Melbourne, Sydney and Perth via Wavegarden’s new design called The Cove. Wavegarden aren’t stupid. As Matt Warshaw said when the Slater pool (partly) revealed itself in December 2015, “Wavegarden just went Betamax! Wavegarden execs are standing on office building ledges, crying, looking down at the sidewalk!”
So this is it. The Wavegarden reboot called The Cove. Smaller footprint. Better design. Apparently.
Never heard of it? Yeah, me neither. That’s ’cause the details aren’t being released until February.
So I rang Ryan “Callighan” who was quoted in the story as riding the new tank in October.
“It’s pretty… crazy,” said Ryan, before tapping out to call someone to find out if he was actually allowed to talk about it. He said he’d signed a waiver not to take photos. Not real sure about talkies. It was midnight in Europe when I called Ryan so he told me we gotta wait till Wavegarden’s media people wake up to see if we get the ok or the not ok.
And reheat interest means, are those three pools really happening?
One year ago, I reported the banker-turned-surf-entrepreneur Andrew Ross promising he’d sprinkle Australia with the fairy dust of wavepools. I had a little fun with the corp-speak on the website which made Mr Ross so sad he won’t come to the phone to talk to BeachGrit anymore. Later, there was the comic scenario of being offered an interview with Mr Ross by his PR gal, saying yes, then being told he was having dinner then immediately flying overseas.
Everyone, including us, reports the press releases from URBSURF, formerly Wave Park Group, a little too breathlessly, although by the time of the third announcement we were getting a little worn down.
(Read that here.)
Construction of the Melbourne pool was supposed to start in the back half of 2016 for a late 2017 opening. Then it was an early 2017 start for a late, late 2017 opening.
So I started calling councils, then Melbourne airport who owns the land where the tank is going, to see if the approvals had gone through. Turns out Melbourne is still a dream. A beautiful dream, sure, but no shovels have hit the dirt yet.
I called the PR gal, Sasha Jones, who deals with URBSURF’s press enquiries but was told she was overseas too and could only reply to emails. Did you know portable telephones are an Australia-only phenomenon?
Is this a new design? Yes this is a new shape of lagoon which got its very first run worldwide in the Oz today. We are waiting for the Spaniards to release the full package of information in early February we hope.
Can you tell me when work begins at the Essendon site? Melbourne is still in heavy fundraising mode, but we hope to break ground in the first quarter of this year.
And is Melville any closer? Perth is also still a work in progress, although not a guarantee. The City of Melville has the site advertised right now for expressions of interest for alternative uses and URBNSURF is getting a lot of positive feedback about Perth’s interest in it being located there. But it’s still a process and we have to wait patiently until late January when that next hurdle can be jumped.
And, the follow-up questions.
You mention fundraising. Are you still chasing investors? How much do you need to raise? How much is left? The capital raising for URBNSURF Melbourne 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. It wouldn’t be appropriate to provide more details at this point.
Last year you said, Melbourne was going to start its build in the latter half of 2016. Then early 2017, with a late 2017 opening. Is this still likely to happen? We decided in mid-2016 to pivot to the latest iteration of Wavegarden wave generating technology, which has only just become available to exclusive partners and has not yet been revealed publicly. This required resubmission of our planning documents and the obtaining of a new approval. Consequently, construction 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.
What stage, exactly, is Sydney at? Have approvals been lodged? A lease of the site at Sydney Olympic Park was signed in September. The development application is being prepared and is due to be submitted to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment in March 2017.
Can you tell me anymore about The Cove design? The Cove creates a variety of wave types in a smaller footprint than the Lagoon. These include up to 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). There is no other technology like it that can match wave quality, frequency and variability, guest capacity and cost. The Cove has been built at full scale and was tested by the world’s best surfers last October.
(The world’s best surfers are Ryan Callinan, Julian Wilson and Josh Kerr, by the way.)
I wondered what Greg Webber, a vocal critic of the Wavegarden and Slater Wave Co “soliton” design, would say.
Well, first, the wave-rate increase is a good thing, he says. It means it’ll make it easier to swing a profit. Second, unless it deals with the inherent problem of a fat wave face, it’ll be squashed when the Webber pool debuts.
“Kelly and Wavegarden still have an inherent issue with their patented technology,” says Webber. “They’ve gotta stick to what they’ve patented or there’s no protection and their investment.”
His own pools, he says, are close to reality in New Jersey and Florida.
And when that happens? “They’ll give up,” says Webber. “I know it’ll smash them. We’re going to make stuff that’s going to finish the rest of them off. I’m completely certain of that.”
(Note: There’ll be an update of this story if Ryan Callinan’s lips are unsealed…)
Webber Wave Pools – Soliton Wave vs Kelvin Wave Technology from Webber Wave Pools on Vimeo.