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Digging In The Crates

Are you getting excited for Lemoore? The waves on tap. The schedule that runs to the millisecond. The continued repetition and predictability enabling a new world of performance and innovation. 

Or does the thought of that glorified rural dam fill you with an existential dread for the future of the sport? A wrong turn. A sacrilege. A complete sellout of surfing’s soul.

It’s a debate that’s been raging since Kelly smoked de Souza’s world title with his first Ranch vid. There’s been enough column space dedicated to it to fill Yeppoon from end to end. 

No matter where you sit, it seems a uniquely modern problem. Like robots stealing your job, or what happens when you find your ex on Tinder. 

But the spectre of wave pool tech, and what it means for surfing, has actually been looming over the sport for decades. 

We’re still seeking answers to the questions posed.

--

Allentown, Pennsylvania. Blue collar, USA. Where the founding fathers hid the Liberty Bell during the American revolution. Subject of Billy Joel’s eponymous hit song. Imagine a factory worker, wrapped in Stars and Stripes, Pabst Blue Ribbon can in one hand and hot dog in the other. You couldn’t get anymore middle American if you tried. 

But in the ‘60s and ‘70s the town was hit with an economic slump, like many other parts of the country.

“Well we’re living here in Allentown, and the factories are all closing down,” sang Joel when his song was released in 1982. 

So, in what was a novel but not altogether unsuccessful attempt at doing something pretty bloody different, the town played host to the Allentown Pro - the first ever major surfing tournament held in a wave pool. 

And for a brief couple of days Allentown, 100 miles from the closest coastline, was the centre of the surfing universe. 

A fledgling Waves magazine devoted 16 pages to the comp, with none other than future ASP head honcho Graham Cassidy the author.

So how was it? 

The world’s top competitors were drawn there by the then-record prize purse of $25,000. But the waves themselves were objectively shit. Universally derided by the competitors, even the judges found it difficult to differentiate between turns on the small, repetitive canvas - gutless, waist high lumps that barely lasted ten metres. Flare became the name of the comp. Who could contort and extend their top turns while still maintaining flow? 

Tommy Carroll, it turns out, with some of the best combinations seen "not just in a wave pool, but anywhere!"’ Given his short and stocky build and piston-pumping legs, it’s no surprise. Diminutive Derek Ho was the other finalist. Meanwhile the likes of large-framed Shaun Tomson, Elko, Wes Laine, Willy Morris etc floundered.

But it was still a spectacle. From the article: 

"Everyone agreed the (closeness to competitors) was the jewel in the crown for Allentown. It was almost tactile. Spectators were in seventh heaven. This facet could well make wave pool competitions a winner in the future as ‘keep the customers happy’ becomes the credo of pool surfing."

Sounding familiar? I wonder if they had paid $599 for VIP tickets?

“I was beaten by a technical fault,” grumbled Shaun Tomson.

The Allentown goofyfooters had a slight edge on the naturals in terms of performance capability. On their forehand they were actually able to grab the wall and and gain an extra push in their waves. It might not sound much but it was enough to decide results, as Shaun found out. We saw the same thing happen at Lemoore last year when a faulty setting meant some of the lefts in the early rounds were smaller than others (plus some claimed that Kelly’s waves were hollower). It's almost heartening to know that even in an environment where chance and probability are meant to be removed “life finds a way,” to quote Jurassic Park. 

Even though modern day wave pools are incomparable to the slop Allentown dished out, the comparisons to Lemoore don’t just stop at the water’s edge: 

“If the weakness of the surf was the butt of fun and criticism, the lack of opportunity to practise was an even greater bone of contention. At the seaside, competitors pick and choose when they have workout sessions. At the pool, competitors had to put up with only one 20 minute practise session a day. For once, the trialists were better off than the seeds - by virtue of competing, they got more time in the pool."

It’s still an issue the Ranch, with its limited wave production, hasn’t fixed. 

But the brass were still frothing. Graham Cassidy gushed:

“Wave pools are a phenomenon sweeping North America. They are introducing people, many of them uninitiated, to moving water. The belief of ASP boss Ian Cairns is that familiarity breeds contentment. Turn on millions of interior living Americans to the joys of surfing and suddenly you have many more fans of the sport. More fans means more demand for surfing programs on television, more clout with sponsors, more growth for pro surfing."

Right? Dirk, Sophie and the WSL team are betting (part of) the house on it today. But if the trajectory of Allentown is anything to go by, they should be wary. 

To lure the dissatisfied surfers back, organisers promised to return the next year with a bigger prize purse. But they never did. Allentown dropped off the map completely, surfing-wise at least. And its fair to say the competition didn’t exactly reinvigorate the county’s economy. 

A dazzling flash of brilliance, for sure, but the symbiotic relationship of fans > coverage > clout> growth envisioned by Cairns never developed past infancy.

Should the ghost of Allentown be taken as a warning for others looking to hitch their wagon to wave pool tech? Will Lemoore follow the same fate? 

Can the battle of middle America ever be won? Do we even want to fight it?

And will the argument around the soul of surfing ever be settled? 

Check back with me in 2050.

// SURF ADS

Comments

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 10:26am

If I’m paying $599 fora personal experience it’d want to be a hell of a lot more tactile than watching from a few metres away.

For six hundred dollars I’d be thinking glass coffee table , a Clydesdale, a cat o’ nine tails and you’d assume that two girls would provide their own cup at no extra charge.

As for Allentown , surely the finalists of Carroll and Ho were built for more entertaining outcomes than wiggling around in that little pool ? Top heavy like a lawn dart.

https://youtu.be/EQlgrw31St0

Just never look them right in the eyes !

derra83's picture
derra83's picture
derra83 commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 10:27am

Trying to think how a horse, a whip, two girls and, what? one cup, all fit together.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 11:46am

If you honestly don’t know what “ Two girls , one cup “ represents then consider yourself very lucky.

derra83's picture
derra83's picture
derra83 commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 1:07pm

My memory isn't the best, perhaps its PTSD, but I recall at the time there being lots of fibre and thinking the owner of that particular stool must've been eating hay. Can't remember seeing a clydesdale but if there was it'd be the only thing that makes any sense in that video.

channel-bottom's picture
channel-bottom's picture
channel-bottom commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 12:43pm

Best to google "two girls, one cup"

You might not want to do that from work, up to you though.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 10:29am

"Wave pools are a phenomenon sweeping North America."

How many were built back then and what happened to them?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 10:35am

Keep in mind the byline.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 10:39am

yeah, yeah, but how many were actually built?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 10:54am

The following year, '86, The Blue Thunder wavepool opened in Edmonton, CA, and "brought surfing to the prairies".

Canada is North America, right? Though not sure if two pools constitutes a phenomena.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 11:06am

So how many we got now?

In North America?

For a thirty year old phenomena it sure is slow to get off the ground.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 11:13am

Here you go, courtesy of 'WavePoolMag', the sites of all 14 planned, proposed, and open wavepools in N America.

None of them near the coast of California.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 11:19am

fuck planned and proposed.

there are human settlements planned and proposed on Mars further ahead than planned and proposed wave pools.

How many actually open for business, right now, in 2019?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 11:25am

Fuck, I don't know. Like Sid, WavePoolMag is into wavepool boosterism for obvious reasons.

2.5 pools in operation? Lemoore, Waco, and the N'Land one that's transitioning to KSWC.

stan1972's picture
stan1972's picture
stan1972 commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 11:03am

We know they're tryna sell the sport out and increase crowds but we watch it anyway. More fool us.

Anyway whens the Freshy Pro start?

Surf Ads's picture
Surf Ads's picture
Surf Ads commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 11:49am

Are you gonna watch Lemoore? With the time difference and predictability I don't think I can summon it.

stan1972's picture
stan1972's picture
stan1972 commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 12:14pm

Nah not live, but they'll get my eyeballs. Really not sure why, I turned it off last year because I was bored of it, but it's not like the waves will be any different.

Maybe stuck in ocean thinking? You watch a bit more and a bit more thinking the conditions will get better.

tux's picture
tux's picture
tux commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 11:55am

They gotta fix the format if they want to make it interesting something like Snwobaord half pipe or skate vert where you get three runs and the highest score at the end is the winner....

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 12:32pm

EOS has some great video of Allentown, from Ticket to Ride (Steve Soderbergh). Though you need to be logged in.

https://eos.surf/video/entry/1985-world-professional-inland-championships/

Surf Ads's picture
Surf Ads's picture
Surf Ads commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 9:30pm

that's great.

kneepete's picture
kneepete's picture
kneepete commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 12:50pm

Surfing and pools.
Gooses and eggs.

daisy duke kahanamoku's picture
daisy duke kahanamoku's picture
daisy duke kaha... commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 2:10pm

The ad man in me sees a lot of missed opportunities beneath that clear blue water.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 3:32pm

There's a lack of advertising all around the park now that you mention it. Place looks like Canberra.

Timmy49's picture
Timmy49's picture
Timmy49 commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 3:14pm

The only way to score waves like Lemore, each surfer has to nominate what they are going to do on each wave before they surf. Similar to aerial snow jumping or diving. Non completion lower scores. That would make it interesting.

surfstarved's picture
surfstarved's picture
surfstarved commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 3:14pm

So what's the forecast for Lemoore Craig? Any big swells in the offing?

Don't let the bastards grind you down

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 4:16pm

Just finished our event forecast, you can find it here:
https://www.swellnet.com/form-guide/2019/freshwater-pro

epictard's picture
epictard's picture
epictard commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 4:36pm

Ha!

johnruciak's picture
johnruciak's picture
johnruciak commented Wednesday, 18 Sep 2019 at 8:33am

brilliant

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Monday, 14 Oct 2019 at 9:54pm

Allentown Aerial Flyover of Park & Wave Pool
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXvQcGPl9nU

Pro Comp Promo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9SLqDIwCzw

1985 Comp Wrap
https://surftwenty.com/allentown-1985-an-oral-history/

1985 Full Comp Draw & Results
https://www.worldsurfleague.com/events/1985/mct/2479/world-inland-champi...

History of Park
1884 (Original Vert Wave Pool) Pause [3:25]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwsnVothhjU&t=102s
Wavepools

Note: Big Thanx to Bronzed Aussies who released old school Wave Pool goodies.
All these releases came off the back of Kanga's Book...swellnet says thanx...Stoked!

Wave Pool Rules
1930's Swimmers.Tubes,Paipos,Boardriders,Raft,Row Boat all in one UK Wave Pool

1969 Corky Carrol does USA Big Surf as Boardriders, Mats & everything pile up
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=168&v=AOO8LXUUYEU
1986 Blue Thunder Indoor Wave Pool Canada allows Kayaks to surf.
1989 First legropes were at opening of Typhoon Lagoon (Unauthorised?)
2008 Leggies + Kneeboards @ Siam Park
2010 SUPS @ Siam Park + 2011 (Bodysurf +Boards)
2013 Cable surf-wake Boards @ Big Surf
2014 Jetski Tows > Sail Boarderz
2015/6 New surf parks begin bans on Bodysurfing in Lineup!
[Kelly's Legrope rules] No tricks > walkin < swtchfoot. (No Loggerz/Skimmerz/SUPS)
2019 Waco Freak Peak & Acid Drops unleash surfers to free up Wave Pool surfing
2018-9 Naturist Club regular events @ Wave pool Canada (25,000 petition against)

ojackojacko's picture
ojackojacko's picture
ojackojacko commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 9:12pm

one thing i learned from watching some of lemoore last year - that i kind of knew already - was how much i’m prepared to sit and watch the ocean, even on screen and even on replay. another thing i learned - that i didn’t know already - was how much less willing i am to watch surfing for any period of time without the ocean involved

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Wednesday, 18 Sep 2019 at 8:27am

+1

wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443 commented Wednesday, 18 Sep 2019 at 9:20am

Agreed.

There sure is something therapeutic about watching the ocean, whether from in the line up or the shore. Heck, even from a car when's it's howling onshore.

Well, for me a anyway.

A constructed wave environment might be worth a buzz, some hype and grommet froth if ya surfing with a bunch of mates, for free. But, shelling out big coin to partake with a heap of others. No thanks.

As for watching others in the pond. Novelty wears off quick for me. Fuck, all this clips dropping on Instagram on the lead up to the pond event have already done enough to drive me to surf left over north east windslop!

And, I enjoyed being in the ocean.

Whales.

Dolphins.

Shark.

All good. All part of the experience.

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 18 Sep 2019 at 8:25am

Did my own digging in the crates last night, pulled out a few mags from the same era, an ASL yearbook and Tracks, both of which ran dystopian narratives with the emergence of wavepools.

Back then it was sewage pollution - the issue du jour on the East Coast - that would trigger the End Times, and wavepools got tangled up in the apocalyptic messaging, portrayed as chlorine respite from the sickly ocean, a plastic facsimile straight from the pages of Brave New World. Protect the ocean, they said, or pools will be the only place we can surf.

Well-meaning but uninformed and naive.

On some level it's worth considering that we've projected our current fear - being overwhelmed by Chinese bastards - onto new technology yet again. 

The notion that with the advance of wavepools we'll be swamped by kooks from emerging surf nations might prove to be as overstated as the fear of apocalypse-grade pollution.

Maybe it's just a typical response. Human, all too human etc.

Surf Ads's picture
Surf Ads's picture
Surf Ads commented Wednesday, 18 Sep 2019 at 9:32am

Yep from nuclear annihilation to climate change the sword of Damocles is never far away.

Interesting though. Pollution was a pretty real issue back in the day. Remember the 'mysto surfer' barrel in a gas mask cover of Waves?

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Wednesday, 18 Sep 2019 at 8:32am

I don't worry about having trouble with people who have learned to surf in a pool. I'd wager that if that's where they've learned to surf then they're gonna find it almost impossible to surf in the Ocean. It takes a lifetime to figure out some spots.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Wednesday, 18 Sep 2019 at 9:08am

You know what Spuddups, that's mostly a vain assumption we have as surfers.

Just about every east coast and even Vicco surf spot is easily surfable by kooks with very limited ocean knowledge.
Indo, even moreso.

Not saying it will happen but this idea that once pool surfers hit the ocean they will be sorted out quick smart is a self-comforting myth.

Sure, they won't be out riding random, close-out beachies, but almost every good surf spot that features a reliable or semi-reliable bottom contour is very easily worked out under 6ft by kooks.

wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443 commented Wednesday, 18 Sep 2019 at 9:23am

Some surf locations more so than others though. The pass at Byron vs say Kirra or Lennox? For a wavepool warrior, I struggle to see them get many waves in true 6ft surf at the 'superbank' let alone make the rock off and paddle out at Lennox.

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Wednesday, 18 Sep 2019 at 9:47am

true, but anything under 6ft is easy.

And that's 99% of the time on the east coast.

I was shocked by the numbers of absolute beginners, or just above it, in the Mentawaiis.

I met a couple of Germans there, who lived in Munich and surfed the Eisbach river wave.
Barely surfed the ocean and they were both nailing set waves all over the place.

Sure there will be tricky ocean line-ups that baffle people but these are the minority not the majority and most of the trickiest lineups are shit surf anyway. Random close-out beachies on an outer bank, for eg.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 18 Sep 2019 at 10:05am

The only solution then is to encourage the mongrels, show the new folk that we're not as helpful as Raimana, or as friendly as Tarquin, the sun-kissed assistant down at Snowdonia. None of this 'give a wave, get a wave' malarky, just take every wave and scowl at the fresh-faced tailgunners for even having the temerity to glance at a set.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Wednesday, 18 Sep 2019 at 12:17pm

even the euro-babes?

we could let them have a wave, surely.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 18 Sep 2019 at 12:47pm

That would be a sign of weakness. This reversion to an earlier time that I speak of runs the gamut from Chiko Rolls to depilation.

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Thursday, 19 Sep 2019 at 5:06am

I see where you're going with this Stu. Sounds like a good plan. Make every session like the '78 Stubbies. Dog eat dog. That'll scare off those side-winding, bush-wacking, horn-swargling, cragger-crocker wavepool fools once and for all.

mattlock's picture
mattlock's picture
mattlock commented Wednesday, 18 Sep 2019 at 10:18am

Ha ha Stu. Stink-eye for ever.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Wednesday, 18 Sep 2019 at 12:12pm

Worse than finding your ex on Grindr?

Btw, stink eyes don't work for me. I've been blessed (or cursed) with a naturally friendly face. People say I have a kind face.

The kind you wanna punch.

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Wednesday, 18 Sep 2019 at 12:24pm

Anyone can up their game , Zen. Even the most cherubic pacifist can morph into the set- jawed , clenched-fist paddling super freak .

By committing to continuous improvement and coached by a strident education through viewing a master at work - Mel Gibson in the Lethal Weapon series- youll be sitting solo on the peak in no time .

https://youtu.be/7dw45dGMGNY

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Wednesday, 18 Sep 2019 at 1:57pm

Free fake Superbank, Pro's Penthouses, Ice Addicts, Buoys, Nets + 500 chem slabz
vs...$80 fake Wavepool with mountain scenery +15 chem slabs...tbb needs a sec!

NLand banned basherz & Surf Lakes wanna cordon off basherz with the soft washerz.
Holy Jesus! That means being harpooned at superbank crowns tbb as a Martyr or not!

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Wednesday, 18 Sep 2019 at 7:25pm

Ha ha classic movie

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Wednesday, 18 Sep 2019 at 11:56pm

One of my best friends lives about 100 metres from that very house where the movie was filmed,

Its in an area caled Anmore in Vancouver BC. Very nice area to live in,

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Thursday, 19 Sep 2019 at 5:19am

After careful consideration of the comments posted on this tread I have decided to do a 180 on my position regarding the possible influx of wavepool kooks into our ocean line-up. They are an existential threat to surfing as we know it. In the mean-time the surf's pumping today so I'll put off thinking of a solution for the time being.

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Thursday, 19 Sep 2019 at 9:06am

Fat chance, Spud. The gears will ticking even as you surf.

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Saturday, 19 Oct 2019 at 11:31pm

Swellnet crew applauds surf mad PT's joint release with 'The Wave' Bristol
Another Bronzed Aussie Bookend Bonus from the downunder wave pool guru.
1984 Peter Townend's exhibition at "The Wave" Geauga Lake Amusement Park Ohio.
(Wave Pool held 7.6ML x 120m long)
Great shot of The Wave + Sweet shot of PT getting Air. (Nice!)
swellnet crew Thank Wavepoolmag for sharing.
https://wavepoolmag.com/1984-surf-trip-lands-fear-and-loathing-crew-in-o...