Pat O'Connell
This is the one-time professional surfer, and dearest friend to Kelly Slater, Patty "Cake" O'Connell. Y'ever seen a man-made wave this sexed up? | Photo: KSWaveCo

Why the Olympics Won’t Use Wave Pools!

And maybe Hossegor and Trestles for the 2024 games?

I’m not here to throw shade on Kelly Slater or his miracle of technology. I want to explain the reasoning behind the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee’s decision to hold surfing in the ocean.

The International Surfing Association (ISA) proposed Olympic Surfing to be held in a wave pool or at Shidadhida Beach. They didn’t specify if the pool was to be Kelly Slater Wave Co, Wavegarden or another company’s design.

Both committees watched the jaw dropping videos of Surf Ranch, visited the Japanese beachbreak in winter, and went with the latter.


The committee that spends billions erecting stadiums around the world wouldn’t budge throw a little green at a pool? Surprised me too.

Surfing Magazine went as far as to write  a opinion piece entitled “Olympics Surfing Should Be In Wave Pools”. Much of it based on a popular assumption that surfing didn’t qualify as an Olympic sport because the ocean is an uneven playing field, and therefore you can’t crown “the best surfer in the world” after one surf contest, even it is in pumping waves.

While I agree with that statement, judging or crowning the world’s best surfer was never a concern to the IOC according to ISA President, Fernando Aguerre.

“It had nothing to do with judging, but rather the ability for there to be waves in future host cities. The IOC decision was to approve surfing for 2020. For 2024, Los Angeles and Paris have expressed their interest to have surfing included. No talks between those cities has been about man-made or natural waves”.

(Lower Trestles and Hossegor, although not in the city of LA or Paris, are proposed sites for Olympic Surfing in 2024.)

It all seemed to coincide perfectly. Kelly Slater releases the video of the artificial wave on December 5th, 2015. Same year the the ISA grows to having 100 Surfing Nations with Iran’s inclusion. I thought both were equally important for the successful IOC bid in Rio de Janeiro on August 5th,2016.

So why did the IOC decide to go with Shidashida over Slater’s synthetic perfection?

At the heart of it, wave pools aren’t a proven return of investment.

“More than anything”, says Fernando Aguerre , “it must have a proven business sustainability model”.

The Surf Ranch is mouth-watering and the interest surrounding the technology is very real, but Kelly Slater Wave Co and the World Surf League (WSL) haven’t  built one for commercial use yet.

The likelihood of Kelly Slater Wave Co/WSL sanctioned events at a casino or resort are probable. Only a matter of time until an investor makes it happen. Fingers crossed it won’t be Trump but until the kinks are worked out, the IOC can’t justify building one. Kelly’s wave pool is like the 11-time world Champion, without equal. But much of the financial side of his pool is unknown.

Kelly Slater hasn’t given an outright price for an elite-level wave pool. In an article with BloomBerg,  Kelly Slater says that his prototype could be scaled to fit any body of water, for a price.

“The cost of a system will depend on many variables, most obviously the size of the pool and the foil. “If you said $2 million you wouldn’t be wrong, and if you said $20 million you wouldn’t be wrong either,” he says. “It’s like a buffet.”

Let’s imagine the IOC was drop 20 million dollars for the barrel buffet. The Surf Ranch sits on 20 acres of dust in Lemoore, California. The cost to clear that much land in Tokyo might be more than the pool and technology itself.

But unlike a buffet, Kelly’s pool isn’t “all you can surf for $14.99”.  We don’t know a price per wave estimate or even if Kelly’s pool is a 2 million or a 20 million dollar version. We do know that it’s solar powered which aligns with the Olympics stance on sustainability.

Let’s imagine the IOC was drop 20 million dollars for the barrel buffet. The Surf Ranch sits on 20 acres of dust in Lemoore, California. The cost to clear that much land in Tokyo might be more than the pool and technology itself. But costs aren’t the only concern.

In the videos of Surf Ranch, the wave is a dream, not a drop of water out of place. But we don’t know what it would be like to run a live event in one. For instance, after each wave, the foil needs to be reset. How long does that take? How long does it take for the turbulence in the pool to settle after each wave?

Let’s say, to make the wave all perfect and glassy like we see on the videos, that there is one wave every ten minutes. Would a heat consist of two waves apiece and last 40 minutes? Downtime between waves is bad enough in the WSL viewing experience. Imagine waiting for the bubbles to go flat in a pool.

And we’ve only seen Kelly’s pool offered as a right. Would we expect the IOC to award  backside and frontside gold medalist or to build two pools adjacently?

Tokyo 2020 runs from August 7th to the 23rd. Surfing will have the duration of the games as a waiting period for swell. With only 40 allocated competitors split evenly amongst the sexes, Olympic Surfing will take only two days to complete.

The odds of getting two fun days at Shidashida during early typhoon season are good, (it was pumping this year) and if need be, the event could go mobile. There are plenty of options close by on the Chiba peninsula. Shidashida is renowned however, for being Japan’s most dependable beachbreak.

Located one hour from Tokyo by car or train, Shidshida has held World Qualifying Series contests and Pro Junior events since the 1990s. A wide beach, the location is ideal to handle crowds of visitors.

Fortunately, for those competing and spectating, the waves for the Olympics could be fun. Check out this WSL clip of a Qualifying Series event at Shidashida during a typhoon swell. Conditions look better than Huntington Beach did for the US Open of Surfing.

Surfing being voted into Tokyo 2020 Games was a monumental shift, but it  doesn’t secure a permanent slot to future games.  Kelly’s wave pool is our ticket to landlocked countries and that’s exactly where the IOC should build them.

Introduce surfing to a place where it wouldn’t be possible. Building a pool when the coast is an option, sets a precedence for host nations to uphold. Olympic Surfing might be considered too costly to run if that’s the case. The IOC has to be certain that what they build will benefit the host nation’s economy and Japan’s history tells them that the wave pool craze doesn’t last.

Until Slater showed off the Surf Ranch, the wave at Ocean Dome, part of the Seagaia Resort, was the internet’s most sensational wave pool. This video of Owen Wright and Julian Wilson, was the only glimpse we saw of Ocean Dome’s potential, but nine years later it never stops looking like a good time.

But what the video doesn’t show is that Ocean Dome was expensive to operate and close to a good surf spot. Both were factors  for the pool going flat forever in 2007 due to bankruptcy.  Slater’s wave is better, but without proof of its commercial success, it’s too big of a financial risk to the Japanese economy, and that’s the ultimate decision maker when it comes to Olympic politics.

Phyllis seen here smoking down the line...
Phyllis seen here smoking down the line...

Spark one: Best ever prize for surf champ!

A gift that kept giving!

It says on the World Surf League’s website that John John Florence has won $389,500.00 so far on his championship run. And what do you think has he has purchased? Maybe a single family home in Tulare, California just a short drive away from Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch? Maybe a bottle of Chateau Margaux from Thomas Jefferson’s personal stash?

Do you think he wishes he won packs of cigarettes instead of money? That is what Australia’s Daily Telegraph reveals that the country’s first women’s champ won! Packs of Craven A’s! The champ, Phyllis O’Donnell is 79 now but not bitter about her unhealthy gift.

“I used to smoke so I didn’t mind so much. But I gave that up 30 years ago now…” she tells the paper.

Do you think the World Surf League will draw inspiration from the past and award future champs cartons of Camel Blues once Samsung officially implodes and the Ziffs get bored?

Or do you think they will award Camel Crushes instead?

We are the best! Aren't we?
We are the best! Aren't we?

Holy shit: Surfers are the worst!

A wonderful snowboarder tells us how we look!

(This story first appeared on LodgeGrit. Are you like Matt Biolos? Do you like snowboarding better than surfing? Then LodgeGrit is the place for you too! It’s also anti-depressive!)

People talk shit on snowboarding. It’s an unfortunate truth, but it is the truth. But why? Sure we wear silly outfits when we snowboard but, like, it’s to keep us warm and dry (for the most part, some though are just bad and deserved to get made fun of…) and sure we are attached to the board, but you know what, who cares? It’s the best.

One thing though is that if you work in snowboarding, you probably live in SoCal. And if you live in SoCal, you probably have to deal with surfers. Now snowboarding might get made fun of, but holy shit are surfers the worst.

And here’s why:

Surfers are a bunch of Christopher Columbuses!

The bastards think they’re the shit because they’re the “original” board sport*… Well you know what bleach blond bro from San Clemente?

You didn’t invent shit! You’re just a cultural appropriator!

We as snowboarders know that we didn’t invent shit. We’re just doing our thing and love it. And if you’re down you’re down.

*If you’re Hawaiian you get a pass on this one…

Surfers just wear neoprene or shorts. Running around the beach with your bros in a skin-tight suit!

Sick lol. Sure we may not wear the coolest outfits when we are snowboarding but at least we can wear it to the store to buy some beers when we are done.

Surfers are fucking assholes!

Have you ever met a group of surfers? Well, prepared to get vibed out harder than you have ever been vibed in your life. Since we, as snowboarders, have been getting ragged on for years we are a pretty nice bunch. Granted, if you’re a kook you will get vibed out. But, like, it’s easy, just don’t be a kook.

They think they can do whatever they want cause they’re surfers!

“Oooooooo I surf and know a lot about surfing so let me start a snowboard site cause if I know about surfing I must know about snowboarding oooooooooooooo…”

They’re all so tan and buff and get chicks!

Ok I guess that part is pretty cool, but seriously fuck them.

Fuck them all.

Some fuckers are crazy. Anthony Booth Armor has been blowing up instagram recently with his guerilla assaults on OC cliff jumps. Roofs, rocks, whatever. Dude's a lunatic, full-on death wish shit. But I'm not judging him. We all make strange decisions. Are driven by complicated needs. And his videos are entertaining as hell. You get to watch him ninja into spots before ceding his carcass to gravity.

Crazy: Stud Jumps into Newport Harbor!

Dude's a lunatic, full-on death-wish shit.

I had a vicious fear of heights for a good portion of my life. It sucked. Any sort of lofty view would start my heart pounding, palms sweating. Sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Reoccurring dreams wherein I’d be hanging off the edge of something high, wake up ravaged from a night of tensed muscles and terror.

Really wish I could write it off to something cool. L’appel du vide. But it was just cowardice. A fear of falling, not fear that I might jump.

Breaking point came during a trip to the CN Tower in Toronto. Glass floor on the observation deck, I stepped out onto it to prove I could.

My mother-in-law thought it would be funny to jump in the air, stomp on said glass floor.

Flipped my panic switch, went into meltdown mode. Shameful behavior on my part.

So I made an effort to beat the fear. Face it where I could. Lean out over cliff edges, jump off shit into water. Took a few years, but it eventually took.

Try and try and try, eventually fear goes away. Always does. Corny as hell to say, but when you face it fear goes running.

I still get butterflies at times, but I’ve learned to love the thrill. Hop off something high up, fun second of falling. Splash. Repeat.

But there’s a line. Beyond a certain height, maybe fifty or sixty feet, shit gets too real. You can land awkwardly, really fuck yourself up. I’m not looking to get crippled, just raise my heartrate.

But some fuckers are crazy. Anthony Booth Armor has been blowing up instagram recently with his guerilla assaults on OC cliff jumps.

Roofs, rocks, whatever. Dude’s a lunatic, full-on death wish shit.

But I’m not judging him. We all make strange decisions. Are driven by complicated needs. And his videos are entertaining as hell. You get to watch him ninja into spots before ceding his carcass to gravity.

All as illegal as hell. Only a matter of time until he got popped. Wore a mask, went for anonymity, but couldn’t resist an insta name, @8Booth, that was close enough to his real one to destroy plausible deniability.

He was arrested yesterday for trespassing.

Hardly a serious offense. But his shit was hip and got a lot of attention and, if I were him, I’d be worried about being made an example of. Property owners don’t want kids going splat. A slap on the wrist ain’t hardly a deterrent.

Slater president
A Slater presidency would be super passive aggressive, but very healthy, paranoid but winning and…ageless! | Photo: @thesurfinghobo

Vote: Trump, Clinton or… Kelly Slater?

Let's imagine a Slater presidency!

How much do love politics? It is the best dance! A most wonderful tableau! And who would you like to see as President of the United States?

Donald J?

Hillary Rodham?

What about Robert Kelly Slater? Yesterday, the very good Instagram account @thesurfinghobo posited the question: Right, so who would vote for this dude in less than two weeks time if they could? 


“He was born in Syria!” you shout.

“Birther!” I shout back. “Our Robert was born in Cocoa Beach!”

And what would a President Slater administration look like?

Let’s imagine!

Super passive aggressive! World leaders would get smiled in the face then stabbed in the back. “Just met with #angelamerkel she was almost as pretty as #queenanne but #notquite.”

Very healthy! Massive chia subsidies would allow for that magical seed to be served in inner-city lunches. Minorities would soar on vitamin rich wings!

Paranoid! There are massive conspiracies out there too vast to talk about here. Know what I mean? But yeah. President Kelly would get to the bottom-ish.

Winning! America would become Amer1ca again.

Ageless! Because of the chia subsidies!

It sure would be grand. Vote Robert K Slater as a write-in and never go hungry again! (Chia!)