Slater wavepool covers
Almost thirty years separates Kelly Slater's first wavepool cover (Surfing, 1988) and his latest (Surfer, 2016)… 

Revealed: A History of Kelly Slater’s Pool!

How about we meet the intellectual muscle behind the tank? A Jamaican! Adam Fincham!

Earlier today, it was revealed the WSL had bitten off a majority slice of Kelly Slater Wave Co, something Chas Smith wrote about four months previously. 

Bloomberg Businessweek, who have an inside track with Slater and the WSL (which knifes me to write ’cause Kelly and I’ve been on a similar trajectory in surf for the past twenty something years, although his forward, mine backward, and you’d think there was a little residual love there) announced the reveal with a history of the pool.


Slater cover surfing 1988
Did you know Kelly Slater’s first magazine cover was taken in a pool? Bloomberg says Surfer, but was it was slightly sexier sister mag Surfing.

Who’s the brains behind the joint? A Jamaican!

Adam Fincham was a research professor from the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, at the University of Southern California, when Kelly came knocking in 2006, swinging his idea of a barrelling man-made wave.

Fincham had worked mostly in Europe and didn’t know who Slater was. But Fincham “pulled together a team of colleagues and undertook a pilot study in 2007. They decided that, yes, it was possible.”

Two years later, Fincham was director for science at KSWC, working out of a lab in Culver City, just of out of LA, and using a 1/15th model scale for testing.

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 12.50.45 pm

In 2014, KSWC bought a hunk of land in dusty old Lemoore, a hundred miles or so inland, to test the concept. Why Lemoore? It’s cheap. Half-a-mill for twenty acres.

And, then, the testing, the visiting pros, the visit by the WSL’s Kieren Perrow who said, “I think every surfer at some point has probably dreamt of having a wave like this… People have been trying to achieve this for a long time. I wasn’t sure I would ever see it.”

In the Bloomberg story, its writer Josh Dean describes the pool in a way that’s not obvious from the clips we’ve been drip-fed.

“If you watch any of the videos, shot exclusively by KSWC-sanctiond personnel, they’re carefully cropped so as not to reveal much of a hulking, whirring ram as it’s dragged along a rail under the water. (The hydrofoil is separated from surfers by netting.)… (Kelly) slips into the water and paddles out to the middle of the lake as a cable that runs the length of the hydrofoil housing goes taut, sounding as if someone is whizzing along zipline. Then, in the distance, it begins. A head-high swell rises up suddenly and grows in size as the hydrofoil gains speed. Slater glances back over his shoulder and paddles fast, matching his speed to the wave’s and, as the swell hits the point which the lake’s bottom – by depth and contour – forces it to break, Slater is up, tucking into a barrel that curls perfectly and never breaks…

“The wave is more powerful in person than on film, without question. Slater makes it look easy, but even he wasn’t prepared for the speed; back in December, he missed his first puddle. Another pro, he says, fell on his first three attempts.”

A quote buried in the story is instructive about the WSL’s intentions, now that it owns the majority slice.

“We will always have a majority of the surf contests take place in the ocean,” says WSL CEO Paul Speaker.

A majority

Read the story here. 

For another kick, watch as the Today show visits the pool! The shot of the reporter, Nat Morales, doing a piece to camera on a jetski while Kelly surfs in the background, gives the viewer a revealing view of the shape of the pool’s wave.





Kelly Slater Sherman

Welcome: To our brave new world!

The man behind the biggest potential paradigm shift in surfing history is the man behind Kelly Slater.

And have you digested today’s news yet? Have you let it curdle in your heart, in your soul? Rick Kane, almost thirty years after winning his Arizona wave tank trophy, might be able to compete legitimately on the World Tour!

First let us clear up a little bit of business. As reported here exactly four months ago the same money behind the WSL also is rumored to have funded 100% of Kelly’s wave pool venture. If you know KS then you know he does not like to part with his millions even in the hope of making may millions more. Lend a name? Sure! Purps, OuterKnown, Mama Chia, etc. So what happened today was a rich man last named Ziff simply parking both of his surf toys in the same garage.

The true genius in all this, I must say, is Kelly’s long time manager Terry Hardy. He positioned the fifteen time world champion as the face of surfing’s biggest potential transition ever without theoretically moving a dime. Let us assume the wave can get bigger, that its cost is not prohibitive, that it is not an energy drain not seen since Hummer marketed a fleet of family vehicles. Kelly Slater will go down in history as the single greatest force in our game but also an innovator on the scale of Dr. James Naismith. Maybe.

They are talking about the “democratization of surfing.” I personally find that distasteful. I don’t want the unwashed masses to surf. Let them eat cake etc. But if it really does get democratized? Kelly will be put on a two-dollar American coin!

Do you think Laird is sad? He tried really hard to be surfing’s paradigm shift with his GolfBoard and hydrofoil and Step into Liquid and living forever. Do you think John John is sad? He parted ways with Terry last year. What glories might have been in store for Blonde (lack of) Ambition?

There are still many questions regarding KS Wave Co. and how it fits in with the WSL but this day belongs to Terry Hardy.

Watch out world! Here comes trouble!
Want two days of getting sprayed by Slater in his pool? Who doesn't!

Just in: WSL buys Kelly Slater Pools!

For eight dollars and a bar of wax!

Did you see this coming? Was it always in the works? (Of course it was! If you visit BeachGrit you’ll remember we broke this very story 4 months ago!) The WSL announced today that it is buying the Kelly Slater Pools biz! Here is the entire press release. Commentary and analysis up next!

– WSL Holdings, the parent company of the World Surf League (WSL), today announced an agreement in principle to acquire a majority stake in the Kelly Slater Wave Company (KSWC). The partnership between the WSL and KSWC will be dedicated to promoting the growth of high-performance surfing around the world. KSWC’s revolutionary technology creates a number of possibilities for the future of the sport. The WSL and the KSWC envision the build-out of a global network of WSL-branded high-performance training centers utilizing this wave technology.

For Kelly Slater, the 11-time world champion, the creation of this wave technology is the realization of a lifelong dream and a 10-year project, and today’s announcement brings his two worlds together. “While surfing for me will always be about adventure, travel and the ocean, this wave brings a new opportunity to the sport without taking away the soulfulness that attracted many of us to surfing in first place,” said Slater. “Surfing great waves in a controlled environment adds a new dimension, as there is no hassling for waves, no stress over who got the best wave – they are all good. Everyone can relax, have fun and focus on improving their surfing.”

“It’s beyond my dreams that this wave will be a canvas for the global advancement of this great sport in partnership with the WSL,” he added. “It will democratize surfing and provide incredible training opportunities for athletes as well as aspirational surfers in areas with no ocean waves.”

The WSL sanctions and organizes the highest-level professional surfing competitions for men, women, big wave, longboarders and juniors.

“The WSL proudly represents the best in men’s and women’s competitive surfing globally, and the amazing man-made wave technology developed by Kelly Slater and his team is a revolutionary innovation that has the power to dramatically enhance every aspect of our sport,” said Paul Speaker, CEO of the WSL. “We share the same vision and passion for growing high-performance surfing, and are beyond excited to work together under one roof to bring the sport to levels and places never before possible.”

KSWC technology creates an opportunity for surfers to practice and develop ever-higher levels of performance in a repeating environment, with unprecedented opportunities for surrounding camera and sensor arrays providing immediate and perfectly accurate feedback on their progress. This is the first repeatable man-made wave that convincingly delivers the power and shape of ocean waves most sought after by accomplished surfers, including a hollow barrel allowing for long tube rides. While high-performance surfing is the core mission of both the WSL and the KSWC, the wave technology is flexible and can also create variable waves for beginner and intermediate surfers.

WSL Commissioner Kieren Perrow recently visited the first KSWC site, and said the wave surpassed his expectations. “Up until a few weeks ago, I had never ridden Kelly’s Wave, and when I did, I was blown away by the experience,” Perrow said. “It is incredible to see this wave in action – it has more energy and power than I expected and this technology holds a lot of potential for the future development of surfers just starting out and those already competing on our Championship Tour.”

While competition in a man-made environment will offer previously impossible opportunities such as the creation of surrounding spectator environments, as well as certainty of scheduling, WSL CEO Speaker emphasized that nothing could ever replace the magic and mystery of world-class competition in the ocean. “We do believe that all stakeholders – athletes, fans, broadcast and corporate partners – will be super energized by the advent of Championship Tour-level competition with man-made waves,” he said, “but the ocean will always be our home, and the great waves on our tour will always remain the backbone of our competitive schedule.”

Speaker added: “No firm plans have been made for the inclusion of a man-made wave-based competition. We will be evaluating all the possibilities in the coming months with the Commissioners’ Office and the WSL athletes.” WSL Holdings is the parent company of the World Surf League (WSL). The transaction is subject to the negotiation of mutually agreeable definitive documentation, among other customary conditions. Both WSL and KSWC will continue to operate independently as separate entities following the closing of a transaction. Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed.


Parker: “Shit Show wrecks at the Wedge!”

Is anything more comedic?

Mike Lucas has been doing an admirable job documenting SoCal swells in the last year or so. Good stuff. Plenty of Wedge footage, snagged all that Seal Beach carnage a few months back. Puts together some clean little edits.

I’ve never been able to fathom the appeal of taking pictures of surfing. Moving or otherwise. Sitting on the beach all day, watching other people have fun. It’s crazy!

Not knocking it. They’re doing god’s work. Definitely ain’t for me.

My favorite thing about him is that he dumps his raw stuff on the web. The header clip is nice, but I really love the 18 minutes of unculled video he shot that day.

Really does a better job of capturing the vibe. Shit show collisions, hoot and hollers, the roar of the surf. The filmer chuckling when people eat shit. Puts you in the moment. Gets you there.

That’s the goal, right?

Mason Ho the Eddie
It don't matter if it's two or twenty feet! Little Mason at The Eddie. | Photo: WSL

Can anyone get enough of Mason Ho?

The latest instalment of License to Chill, Island Oscillation… 

More Mason Ho?

Yes, please!

Can anyone get enough of the kid?

Creative approach, barrel slayer. As much as I love seeing him in heats I really prefer his edits.

So surf stoked, plays the happy card real well. Nothing but butterflies and rainbows going on upstairs. I’m sure he’s deeper than that, but the public persona is great. Like a big loveable labrador retriever.

What’s the name of that NS hell wave he loves so much? Right between Logs and Rockpiles. So fucking shallow. I’d call it unsurfable if I hadn’t seen so many killer clips.

Random fact: I went to elementary school with ...Lost filmer Joe Alani. He was in my younger brother Cody’s class.

Other random fact: Rory Pringle’s first name is short for Riordan. Mine isn’t. Just plain ol’ Rory.

Johnny Boy Gomes once threatened to kill me. He was working as a private surf guide for some Japanese tourist and the longboard he middle-manned for his client was taking too long. When he came back a few days later he picked up the freshly polished board and accidentally smashed the nose into an overhead pipe. Then demanded we fix it for free.

I don’t really miss Oahu.

Kauai’s better in nearly every way. But you just can’t beat the awesome reality of living on the Seven Mile Miracle when there’s swell in the water.