Greg Webber prepares for his run
The weekend's Founders' Cup introduced a new competitive format for surfing. Much like the snow sports, each surfer had their run, got scored, with the last contestant aware of what the prior surfers achieved, and in turn what they must accomplish to win.
So join me in a little poolside fantasy...
No, no, no...get that out of your head. We're down deckside with Strider and Kaipo, Kelly Slater Wave Company had the first run in the pool, they were followed by Wave Garden, Surf Lakes was up next, with the little known American Wave Machines making a huge impression on their run.
And who do have left..?
The last contestant, the one we've all been waiting for, is Greg Webber. After a couple of misfires, Webber is standing waist deep in the water, paperwork in hand, ready...oh so ready, to get going.
Meanwhile, Swellnet sidles up for a (real life) chat.
Swellnet: OK, so how much of the weekends competition did you watch?
Greg Webber: A lot of it.
And your thoughts?
There's a degree of predictability about the type of turn that everyone was doing. And that is a slight disadvantage because it's actually the surfer that’s the variable while everything else stays the same.
That’s largely the point though: an equal canvas for everyone.
True, but then you end up with what we saw, a lot of similar surfing. If you can make the wave change, that's better than having it all come down to whether one surfer does a slightly different turn to the other surfer. It's all down to the surfer doing something different, whereas ideally the wave is also changing, so no-one knows what's going to happen.
Can Kelly’s tech be changed?
Yeah...a bit. It can be customised to a degree.
American Wave Machines unveiled their pool on the weekend. Thoughts on their tech?
They’ll be able to make changes to the wave better than Kelly, but not a lot better. They'll be able to alter the wave a tiny bit. And that's proven by the fact that they can make that section. They can muck around a bit.
If you studied the method that they've got, they've got these giant voids, so the void changes the swell a bit. In other words you've got a sequence and it's like putting your thumb on a piano keyboard and running your thumb along it. It goes, "Bum, bum, bum, bum, bum," and they all join together.
Now if you alter the rate at which each void does its thing, or alter the actual chunk of power that comes through it, then you can do some small degree of altering of the wave shaft. They'll make a little change to the swell and there'll be a small number of variations they can do.
American Wave Machines test pool with voids visible underwater
It seemed American Wave Machines harness the disruption of the first wave quite well, making a further two rideable waves that follow.
Yeah, it looks like it at first, but we’ve not seen five minutes of constant waves. We saw three waves in a row and the third wave was starting to get the rebound off the second wave. I’ve tested that a million times and you can do it and then you'll watch what happens after three or four or five waves. So they have a wave which is similar to Wave Garden and Kelly’s. It's still a soliton, it's still got a very high tube and it's going to struggle to actually have a wave rate over any period of time.
And these limitations are because you have the patent on the Kelvin Wave, is that correct?
Yes. They've got to use alternative methods that make solitons, that's how they get around the patent.
How does it feel watching all these other pools when yours is still theory?
It's great watching what everyone is building. The watching doesn't worry me because I know exactly what we're about to make and it's going to eclipse them all.
Webber Wave Pools, still just an artist's impression, but for how much longer?
Again, ‘cos you’ve got the Kelvin Wave patent?
It's partly that. It's the nature of how we make it, and it's also having a reverse current in the pool which means we can do things that no-one’s even looking at yet. Just straight off the mark, our tube is already better.
Well, one of the things that we saw at the weekend was that the tubes were so predictable they lost their mystique.
They will when they’re a high barrel that doesn’t change. But our barrel will naturally go below sea level and it’ll curve. There’re all sorts of subtleties we can achieve by just moving the hull up and down and changing the current.
But till then, we just have to take your word for it?
Yeah. That's fine. Very soon the thing will be built and I'm glad that we'll be the last ones, so that everyone's frothing about everyone else's waves. All that I know is that we can't be worse than any of them. Some people can customise a little bit, but only one company will have the all time barrel.
Well everyone’s had their run and we’re waiting for you.
It won’t be long now.