Stephanie Gilmore, Mark Richards, Gerry Lopez and co break surf historian's already tender heart.
As some of you know, my first take on wavepools was very End Times.
“We’ve traded magic for perfection,” etc.
It bothered me on a weekly basis to know that the last tuberide of my life will likely be this one, in which my inside-looking-out view was machinery, concrete, and wire mesh.
My thoughts have evolved, though.
The frenzied beat of the BSR-Waco pool is not unappealing. Mark Augias, EOS coding sharpshooter, lives near Bristol, UK, swears the pool there is a blast, and was all set to dress me in a rented wetsuit and fling me into the deep end during my upcoming summer visit—until COVID canceled the trip.
It is a wavepool age, old man.
Make your peace.
Then I read Steve “Longtom” Shearer’s takedown of the new Sunshine Coast Surf Ranch project, with its “six-star eco-lodge,” micro-brewery, training facilities, etc, and I again donned my neoprene Chicken Little costume. “It’s a real doozy,” Shearer writes. “A place where to save bushland and floodplain we need to bulldoze it, truck in millions of tons of fill, carve it up into a canal estate and stick in a water- and power-hungry wavepool that only a few will ever be able to access.”
Shearer included a link to the project (click here and hit “Play Full Film”), and that made things even worse, as it featured gushing Surf Ranch testimonials from Kelly Slater, Steph Gilmore, Mick Fanning, Shaun Tomson, Gerry Lopez, Tom Carroll, and Mark Richards—roughly two-thirds of my favorite living surfers—all of whom apparently hit the wavepool bong way harder and longer than I ever did.
There are hits, though, and there are Tommy Chong hits, and with that in mind I have ranked the Surf Ranch surf legend promo speakers in reverse order of disappointment.
KELLY SLATER. I cringe when he explains that Surf Ranch has created a “true surfing experience,” but it’s his wave, his business, his hustle. If your name is on the company letterhead, you get a pass.
MICK FANNING. I forget what he said, but it was anodyne and friendly and I really miss Mick on tour.
JOEL PARKINSON. Same.
SHAUN TOMSON. “People say, ‘artificial wave.’ I don’t think it’s artificial, I think it is man-made, like art.” I don’t remember the exact type of the logical fallacy deployed here, so I will just say to you, Shaun, that this is art. Upvote for the cowboy hat, though.
TOM CARROLL. A vague comment on how a Surf Ranch session provides great feedback on your equipment, which, freshwater isn’t saltwater so apples and oranges, but okay.
GERRY LOPEZ. “Kelly has created the quintessential perfect wave, and to be able to get that over and over and over again is really going to push the envelope of surfing.” I can’t be the only one who thinks that maybe Rory Russell was the real soul-monger of the two, right?
Surf Ranch runs that monstrous blue powertrain down the track once every three minutes. Half those waves are rights, like the one Steph is on. So 10 rights per hour, meaning that in a two-hour session (let’s allow for a few rail-digs) Steph is putting herself inside that same perfectly-controlled and scheduled hollow section about 15 times a day, and people have we not turned our unicorn into a donkey?
STEPH GILMORE. “The conditions are controlled, you can schedule everything the way you like it.” Steph’s famous Surf Ranch money shot is where she looks up halfway through a tube, all smiling and radiant, and gently runs her fingers across the lip as it flutters by overhead. This is where we’re getting played the hardest. This is where we’ve un-magicked the whole thing. Surfing is that beautiful, yes, but it is also difficult—which is a big reason why it is beautiful. Moments like that should be stalked, worked for, lucked into, bestowed, treasured. But do the math here. Surf Ranch runs that monstrous blue powertrain down the track once every three minutes. Half those waves are rights, like the one Steph is on. So 10 rights per hour, meaning that in a two-hour session (let’s allow for a few rail-digs) Steph is putting herself inside that same perfectly-controlled and scheduled hollow section about 15 times a day, and people have we not turned our unicorn into a donkey?
MARK RICHARDS. “The wave itself is better than any natural wave in the world.” I am heartbroken. “I never got to see the Beatles, and I never got to see Led Zeppelin, but I got to see the first event at the [Surf Ranch] wavepool, and that was just as good.” My broken heart is chained at the feet and thrown off a bridge.
(Editor’s note: Every Sunday, Matt Warshaw, keeper of the Encylopedia of Surfing, sends subscribers a longish form email describing his historical adventures of the week, with nods to contemporary events. It’s a fine thing to receive amid the tidal wash of emails offering clothing sales and discounted trinkets and, if you surf, it’s as essential as wax and, for three bucks or whatever it is a month, cheaper.)