Pools for the People, right on. | Photo: KSWaveCo

From the milk-a-wave-tub-story dept: Are Kelly Slater wavepools the new socialism for the one-percenters?

Subsidies for wavepool builds, yes?

Last article on wavepools*, promise.

We all remember the Occupy Wall Street movement who wanted to, um, and um…. I have no idea, but whose main beef was that the culprits of the GFC: Wall Street bankers had gotten off not just scot free but had in fact been bailed out by the public to the tune of billions.

Privatising the profits, socialising the losses etc etc. They also popularised the famous and fabulous slogan decrying the bailed out suits as the “1%”.

We’ve also seen the stunning volte-face of the Kelly Slater Wave Company’s only operational wave system from the original pitch as a high-performance training centre to a cash cow corporate retreat.

That creates a few problems for the biz model moving forwards, as they say. Those golden, glorious words of three years ago where Kelly promised us that the tubs would “democratise” surfing look a bit threadbare now.

What we got is the opposite of that: a little playground for the rich and famous. Which is fine.

I’m an eat-the-rich guy by temperament and taste but a filthy capitalist at heart.

I love the hustle.

Nothing feels as good as making a tidy profit, especially from the fruits of your own labours. So we can’t really begrudge WSL and Kelly from changing tack on the biz model of the tub.

Even just a year ago, as the Founders Cup wrapped and wossle suits were high on the kool-aid, Nick Carroll identified the direction of movement as “not a country club for slightly chubby ageing rich people  but a serious mega-sporting facility designed to raise the next generation of young super-surfers”.

What was missing from that analysis, of course, was who pays? The tub ain’t cheap to run and even if you suck out solar power from a facility that could be powering schools or hospitals to run the green line the market still decrees the joint has a serious potential profit margin attached to it. Fifty-five thousand a day is a nice little earner, probably the best one the WSL owns now that the Facebook deal has been wound back.

The answer to who pays, if and when the KSWC does begin their aggressive global roll-out has already been answered, at least in Australia.

Us! Us being the antipodean taxpayer.

The reason George W Bush’s Sheriff Nation of the South Pacific can sustain three (oceanic) CT events with our piddly twenty-five million population while the USA with three-hundred-and-forty million can sustain none is because we put pro surfing up there with universal health care and education for all.

We back it with taxpayer money.

Socialised pro surfing is the greatest innovation in its storied history, more powerful and enduring than the backing of a Floridian billionaire.

Socialised pro surfing works!

Or it did until the rise of Brazil. Now it looks more and more like a dud investment.

But we can recoup.

Pro surfing’s Aus socialism experiment includes the Hurley High Performance Centre. High-performance Director Kim Crane confirmed to me that the centre remained committed to using wave pools as training centres, but that no training sessions were currently booked. When asked if Team Australia surfers were charged at the $US55,000-day rate for training sessions at Lemoore over the nine days they used in 2018 Kim said the rate was “significantly lower”.

Half a million Aussie dollars to train! Crazy cats!

The results from the training?

Two out of the three male CT surfers, Connor O’leary and Matt Wilkinson, dropped off tour.

I don’t want to bitch and moan. I love free health care and education for all. If we need to tap the taxpayer for a few million to get some Slater tubs up then so be it.

Calls to Andrew Stark, former CEO of Surfing Australia, a man spectacularly successful at getting the government investing in surfing, and who was hired last year by WSL to rollout the wavepools in Australia were not returned. I only wanted to ask him if the biz model had (officially) changed, where the first Slater tub would go in Australia (rumours of a build at Coolum were scotched by the Sunshine Coast Council) and who would pay.

How about a heavily subsidized build, discounted training sessions and a few free waves on the side for the rich.

Sounds like socialism for the 1% to me.

*Until next time.

Fuck Quit-Lit: “My fingers draw cutties along table tops during work meetings! And I’m going to be customer #1 at Melbourne pool!”

Dream comes true for brave little boy!

The dour outskirts of Melbourne will soon house Australia’s first fully operational, and publicly accessible, surf tub.

The URBNsurf pool, tucked in near Tullamarine international airport, is almost done. Its Wavegarden Cove tech is proven, so there should be no Yeppoon-style false starts.

The tap’s about to be turned. A church for surfing will be created. A bright red door for that grey industrial strip.

I’m gonna be customer number one, or as close as I can get to it. I’m a wavepool fiend.

I grew up a westy. Not quite Tullamarine, but relative enough to my home town. Greater than five minutes drive from waves. Surfing meant public transport, scabbed lifts.

I walked once. Mostly it was trips with dad, when he could manage it.

Years were spent oozing with jealousy at the kids that lived nearer the beach.

At night I’d dream of heavy rains or big swells and king tide. The ocean would surge inland, kicking up a playground of wave form along my home street. A right hander would coalesce off the roots of Mrs Downey’s fig tree. A standing left cascaded over the Griffiths Road lights. I’d have it all to myself, or with a couple of my other westy mates, ‘til the rain eased or the tide dropped.

A typical grom. Selfish, insatiable dreams. I was ungrateful for what I had. My envy moved mountains.

Jeez, I wanted to surf.

Nowadays, I’m a little more tempered, a little more grateful.

But I’m still selfish, and I still wanna surf. All the time. Fuck quit lit. I desire it. Long for it. My fingers draw cutties along table tops during work meetings. I get mind barrelled in the old lady’s fringe. I surf it all.

And those childhood dreams of mine have manifested into a serious wave pool fetish. I fucken love ‘em. Can rattle off names like ex lovers. Ocean Dome, Japan. Sunway Lagoon, Malaysia. Dubai. Lemoore. Waco. Yeppoon.

But I’m still yet to get artificially wet.

Until now. URBNsurf. A $59, one-hour flight away.

The thought of my first ride’s got me giddier than a junkie on payday.

But what’s it gonna be like? And how’s it stack up against the other pools flashing their wares?

The website Empire Ave shares my fetish. Like downtown pimps cataloguing the midnight strip they’ve done a write up on the different types of wave tech currently on the market. There’s no new information but it is nice to see them all stacked up together in a line.

(Note: they do omit City Wave, a glorified version of the Munich river wave. I once asked how much to set up a small one in Oz and the owner’s response was enough to make a working gal blush. Nein danke.)

There’s the first-generation pumps and dumps, old school tech. Think Rick Kane’s bath tub, or Taj and Parko Malaysian whip-ins. Easy to produce but v short with a weak ejaculate.

Then you’ve got the foil tech. Snowdonia. Surf Ranch. Sustained performance throughout the act. The story’s been told a million times over. But they’re expensive. Slow to reload.

There’s Plungers. Some freaky BDSM shit. The steam punk aesthetic is rad but the wave still dissipates quickly and bends away from the peak. Plus, when the plunger breaks costs skyrocket.

Most promising are the new generation modular systems: BSR, Wave Cove. Individual pistons and air cushions that propel the wave down the line but also allow the shape to be customised.

Barrels, open walls, ramps, pockets. Catering to the users every proclivity. (Except size.)

URBNsurf says there’ll be three sections at Melbs, a beginner’s foamy, an intermediate waist high ‘green face’, and then the outside Cove for the advanced. A refined man’s Waco. All in “iridescent blue” water breaking over a flexible cement pavement with a membrane surface. It’s even got a rip to carry you back out.

Most importantly it’ll pump out thousands of waves compared to a foil’s dozens. Cost per wave is greatly reduced ($7.50/wave v $250/wave, according to the Ave/Wavepool mag).

It’s a Cornucopia of wave form. My wet dream. I can’t wait.

But when that iridescent blue lip throws over my outside shoulder, will it be as good as my first?

Will that flexible cement pavement with membrane surface, rearing up from below as I rush down the line, engage and engorge the senses like a proper world-class reef would?

Or will it just be a dull an empty climax when compared to the real thing? A dry hump on an old pillow?

What’s the dawn of the wave pool epoch mean to you?

Maybe you’ve already dabbled? Does it compare?

And if you had a fist full of dollars and were looking for a good time, which pool would you roll the window down for first?

Eldorado: Proof the World Surf League is hitting prestigious middle-aged Dutch divorcee market!

Proof, if it was needed, of pro surfing's enduring, worldwide appeal…

Ever since Fred Hemmings kicked off pro surfing in 1976, the river of gold, the Eldorado of massive audience engagement, has always been presumed to live somewhere in middle America or Europe.

If these non-surfers can be engaged, so goes the reasoning, well, there ain’t no reason why pro surfing can’t be as big as NFL or the NBA: salaries in the tens of millions, cities and towns at a standstill as they watch Willian Cardoso examine the colourful reef fish in the Teahupoo channel, families sunk deep in their microfibre couches as they watch six hours of surfing over twelve non-elimination heats in day one, of four.

Earlier today, a BeachGrit fan from the Netherlands emailed an example of the audience the WSL is hitting, indicative, perhaps, of pro surfing’s bright future.

Ms Cornelia Van Helden is a middle-aged divorcée from the Netherlands…and…a fan of the WSL’s Facebook livestream, posting live during the Red Nose São Sebastião Pro Maresias, a minor WQS event.

The language is clumsy, says the reader, but the intention, the joy, is clear.

Cornelia writes: “So neat, surfing is a wonderful game” followed by a palette of flower emojis.


Great news, yes?

And, certainly not, as the reader suggested, proof the WSL might be fiddling with its audience numbers with various bots etc.

Chris Cote live behind the Wall of Positive Noise, with the biased judges (dressed in Surf Ranch swag).
Chris Cote live behind the Wall of Positive Noise, with the biased judges (dressed in Surf Ranch swag).

Question: Why does the World Surf League bring judges to Championship Tour events?

A real conundrum.

Of all the many and wondrous moments during the just wrapped Freshwater Pro presented by OuterKnown, my very favorite was when Chris Coté took us behind the “Wall of Positive Noise” and showed us the deadly quiet judges’ chamber.

There they all sat, so silent, so serious, staring at their computer screens and a large-ish flatscreen television in a windowless room. Maybe built as part of Surf Ranch’s existing structures. More likely one of those portable offices used on large-scale high-rise builds.


It was absolutely mesmerizing watching them punch out ill-gotten 8.32 after ill-conceived 7.56 but invited more questions than it answered.

For example, why in heaven does the World Surf League bring those judges to the contest sites and then sit them in a windowless room?  What in hell is the point of that?

They’re very clearly not watching the surf live with their own eyes and must never be. Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch would be the prime spot to roll that out and, as I’ve suggested, those judges should be riding The Machine itself. Looking into the surfers’ eyes as they perform down turn after down turn after foam climb after down turn. One of them playing a bass guitar spitting fire. Tell me that those judges’ taciturn faces and a bass guitars spitting fire, wouldn’t inspire high-performance motivation. Tell me that safety surfing wouldn’t disappear forever.

But no.

The judges are kept in a windowless room that might as well be in Santa Monica’s High Castle or at the most convenient large-scale high-rise build site.

They do not need to be there whatsoever and this peek behind the WSL’s “Wall of Positive Noise” made me sad. It made me feel that professional surfing’s owner and Co-Waterperson of the Year Dirk Ziff is getting bad advice from one-time Texaco rising star Pri Shumate and his President of Content, Media, Studios and Boneless Wings Erik “ELo” Logan.

Like, speaking of Boneless Wings, how have the two not pitched Buffalo Wild Wings on having the judges sit at one of those franchises, ordering hand-breaded tenders smothered in Asian Zing® sauce while throwing Kanoa Igarashi a 5.72? Or mini corndogs with a side of Blazin® dip while tossing Kolohe Andino a 4.93?

It would be a smash hit advertising campaign. Organic, now, viral, etc. The sort of thing that wins awards.

Or why not allow them to judge from the comfort of their own homes brought to you by Redfin where those same homes are also listed for sale below market value since the judges work for no market value since there is no market for professional surf judging?

Another slam dunk.

I could go on all day here and fucking Chief Marketing Officer Pri Shumate and President Erik “ELo” Logan are letting Da Co-Waterperson Dirk Ziff down.

But what do you have?

Where else should the judges go?

And Dave Prodan, I’m waiting your call. Can’t wait to turn our dreams into reality.


We're gonna need a bigger float.
We're gonna need a bigger float.

Revenge: Bloodthirsty mob kills “man-eating” shark, hoists it upon their shoulders and parades it through town!

An act of solidarity with beleaguered brothers across "the pond."

In what can only be described as an act of solidarity, townsfolk in Plymouth, England killed a “man-eating” shark over the weekend, hoisted it upon their shoulders, paraded it through town then chopped it up and ate it themselves.

As you well know, there has been an explosion of Great Whites just across the Atlantic in Cape Cod. The beasts have gratuitously stalked surfers, shuttered beaches, terrorized innocent children and created mass hysteria amongst a population used to Irish mobsters and alcohol-induced violence but unaccustomed to horrors from the deep.

As you should know, Plymouth, America is actually in Cape Cod and the landing spot of those brave Pilgrims in 1620 and so, some 399 years later the familial bonds remain taut.

As reported in the Independent:

A large blue shark was “paraded” through the street before it was butchered, cooked and served to the crowd at Plymouth’s seafood festival, prompting criticism from attendees and animal rights groups.

Photographs show the creature held aloft by two men, before it was used in a demonstration on the festival’s main stage.

The Ocean Conservation Trust, which runs Plymouth’s National Marine Aquarium, led the criticism of the weekend’s scenes on the city’s historic Barbican.

Helen Gowans, from the charity, said: “As an ocean conservation charity, we do not condone the eating of blue shark and were disappointed to see that a blue shark was shown off at the ‘catch of the day’ session, as well as being featured on the chef’s stage.”

Members of the public also reacted angrily to the shark’s appearance at the festival.

Those ungrateful “members of the public” would do well to remember how we Americans came and saved them in both World Wars and will also save them after Brexit when the United Kingdom edges out Puerto Rico to become the 51st state.

A real question for surfers, though, is how this act of revenge will play for us? Will an unsuspecting bro out for a little paddle be dragged beneath the waves and forced to dance a scene from Baz Luhrmann’s masterpiece Moulin Rouge, likely Lady Marmalade, for an audience of Great Whites before being torn limb from limb?

More as the story develops.