Ben Mackay is the skater-surfer realising Greg Webber's decade-long dream…
Yesterday, I made a telephone call to Ben Mackay, the Queensland skater-surfer whose skateboarding fortune is helping to fund a Webber wave pool midway between the Gold Coast and Brisbane.
Ben, who is thirty-nine years old, made his cash riding a wave of retro-futurism with the self-designed Penny skateboard, which was named after his sister.
Ben says the pool idea came after another day stuck miles from the beach with four kids under seven. He lives at a joint called Loganholme a hotter-than-hell suburb bisected by two big highways.
Wouldn’t it be…something… if there was a wavepool nearby?
When you’ve made a significant hunk of cash like Ben it doesn’t have to be a dream, especially right now in this odd little epoch where every stone kicked over reveals another pool design.
So Ben, who surfs good enough to know the name Greg Webber, finds the Webber Wave Pools website and sends an email. Greg happens to be in Byron so Ben drives down, tells Greg, who’s had a couple of false starts with other companies, that they should work together on this first pool and “show your technology to the world.”
Why Webber and not Wavegarden or Slater? I tell Ben that I believe it’s very bullish to build a wave pool, to drop ten million plus without a working prototype? Did you even inspect the other designs? Isn’t there a grain of rash curiosity in there?
Ben tells me he didn’t have to, that Greg’s twelve years of working on it, the thousands of field tests, the live models, the testing at the Uni of Tasmania prove that his design works.
“There’s a back story going on for decades,” he says. “I went to Byron and we thrashed it out. Greg’s a good dude, he has a big vision. As a surfer the science felt right.”
Ben believes in Greg, believes in the design of a linear loop using a kelvin wake as opposed to a soliton wake to create the waves. The difference, at least in layman’s terms, is a soliton wake is created by pushing water; the kelvin wake comes off the back of the foil.
Bow wake (soliton) or stern wake (kelvin). One pushes, soliton, one compresses, kelvin. Greg and Ben believe kelvin wake is going to create the wave they seek.
The pool is going to sit on twenty acres of the land and will measure 271 by 140 metres.
The foil will do one loop, creating, say, the right; stop, reset, and come back the other way as a lefthander.
The design of the pool is going to be inspired by the wonderful Ace Hotel in Palm Springs. To that end, he’s engaged Brisbane architects BASE.
Right now, there isn’t a plan to include rock climbing or skate or whatever else is being wrapped into those other parks.
“We just want to make a brilliant wave. That’s our focus, our tunnel vision,” he says.
Cost per wave, per session?
“We’re not retarded. We’re commercially minded. Why would we push people away (with high prices)? We want to attract people. We’re normal human beings.”
So normal that Ben has been training five days a week at boot camp so he’ll have the legs to test, and test… and retest… his new pool.
“Massive training,” he says.