More from the mind of Greg Webber
Last week I received an intriguing message from Greg Webber: “Wanna see my latest inventions?”
I couldn’t not chuckle at a mind that never sits idle, that perpetually reaches out over the horizon mapping new ideas and sketching them into existence. What would it be this time? Optimised surfboard contours? Fins perhaps? I know his latest flex fin set up, manufactured by Greg Trotter at SOAR, is getting great reviews. Or would it be an auxiliary to his still unbuilt - though close apparently! - wave pool caper?
And note, it wasn’t one invention, but inventions - plural.
With these thoughts collecting steam I was prepared to be surprised by Greg’s inventions, though his answer still took me aback.
“Floating artificial reefs,” said Greg nonchanantly.
And I had the same reaction I imagine you’re having right now.
“Take a look at the artificial reef being built at Palm Beach right now,” said Greg when I called him. “What’s that going to cost?”
“$20 million dollars,” I replied. This figure I know because we ran an article about the reef on Swellnet a fortnight ago.
“And will it work as a surfing reef?”
“I’ve no idea,” I admitted. “I imagine even the engineers won't know until it’s built”
“Well,” asked Greg, “what if you could build 100 surfing reefs for the same price? Or even better, you could build one reef for a hundredth of that price?” Capital outlay has been the stumbling block for many proposed projects. When a skate park costs $200,000 but a surfing reef $20 million it's obvious which way councils will swing to keep kids happy.
Greg’s latest inventions are essentially two versions of a floating artificial reef; one that augments existing waves by creating wedges, and another by creating peeling lefts and rights. Both are V shapes and attach to the sea floor in one place only.
The wedge is called the ‘V-Wall’ and is, as the name implies, a large V with the walls made from hollow concrete and reinforced with I beams. It attaches to the seafloor via an anchor, which both allows the shape to move like a wind vane into the prevailing swell lines, and also allows the structure to be moved.
“We’re also researching the degree to which these things may be classed as a vessel,” said Greg. “Because it’s just like a barge, it can get towed around. It’s a not a structure per se, because nothing is touching the seabed except the anchor.”
When I put it to Greg that the structure would be vulnerable to huge forces in the ocean, he was, not surprisingly, way ahead of me. The arms of the V meet at the fulcrum which is hinged and can shut to reduce resistance, or the hollow arms can be filled with seawater to sink the structure if need be. The water would be pumped out later.
To describe its effect on swell, Greg uses Whale Beach Wedge as an example. “The rock face that creates the wedge is only 50 metres long, and it creates one of the best wedging waves in the world. This structure can be bigger than that, and it can be shaped to find the perfect wedging angle.”
“Also, the resistance isn’t as much as you might think, as the walls are angled into the oncoming waves. They’re not sitting square on.”
Greg’s second invention is a floating artificial reef called the ‘V-Reef’, which is again made from reinforced hollow concrete, again in a V shape that’s attached to the bottom at the fulcrum, and again swivels into the prevailing swell direction (and also up and down with the tide). Though this time the structure would be attached to the bottom by a pile driven into the seabed and the wave shape is promoted by the submerged part of the reef. The pictures on the website help make sense of it.
Greg and Dan Webber's V-Reef
The other inventions are a shark net and chop stopper, though they’re less exciting than the reef and wall. He’s taken out patents on each of them.
In this new project, called Webber Reefs, Greg has worked with his brother Dan Webber. It’s not part of Liquid Time, Greg’s wavepool company, but a seperate business.
I’ve no idea of the practicality of these ideas: Would they work? Who would pay for them? And how will they convince someone to put a foreign structure in the nearshore zone? I mention all this and more to Greg. He’s not the least perturbed, he and Dan have got ideas, they present a solution, one that’s drastically cheaper than the alternative, and they’re classic cases of blue sky thinking.
So now they're gonna toss their ideas up into the air and see who reaches out and catches them.
Postscript: As of right now, preliminary talks have already begun with the V-Wall in Western Australia.