Raze The Plunger
Five years ago, Aaron Trevis, the Founder of Surf Lakes, built the first full-scale version of a Surf Lakes lagoon. The pool, which was built at Mulara, just outside Yeppoon in central Queensland, was actually the fourth version of the Surf Lakes idea.
Beginning in 2013 with a 1:25 model, then in 2016 when both a 1:10 and a 1:5 size model were built on farmland, the idea was scaled up to full size in 2017. The proof of concept worked and Surf Lakes subsequently fielded enquiries from interested parties around the world.
Then, earlier this year, Surf Lakes announced they'd been granted development approval to turn the Mulara site into a commercial facility. Wave-starved local surfers rejoiced and began counting the days till they too could paddle out The Slab or Occy's Peak. Yet nine months after the first announcement the site is seemingly no closer to hosting paying customers.
What's happening up there in Yeppoon?
"What people need to understand," explains Brad Hutchins, Surf Lakes' Marketing Coordinator, "is that the site was only ever meant to be an R&D facility." In that sense, it's just another model like the previous ones - albeit full-scale and able to pump out multiple head-high waves.
"When it was constructed," continues Brad, "the specifications were for a limited lifespan; just enough to serve its function, and it's done that well."
Indeed, recently Aaron Trevis spoke to Wave Pool Mag detailing the life cycle of the plunger and the pool.
“The current system was designed for 150,000 cycles,” said Aaron, “and it wasn’t even painted because it was deemed not worth it because of its short shelf life."
If you've heard stories about mechanical downtime with the plunger, then this explains their cause.
"The commercial one will be far stronger, far more robust," continued Aaron. "So same concept. But it’s a totally new model, designed to have fifty million cycles at full stroke.”
So long story short, the current plunger will be razed, the pool emptied, and the whole lot built back to new specifications. Also, Brad said the park aesthetics will be different to the current setup. "The machine noise will be attenuated, and the steam - which is actually compressed air and which some people have grown to like - will be significantly reduced," explained Brad, adding, "the plunger will also be covered, though we're not sure with what yet."
The reason for the delay between the announcement and any action is that, first of all, there's a considerable amount of ducks that must be lined up, and secondly, COVID scheduling woes have exacerbated those difficulties.
"I can't give you a date we'll begin work", admits Brad. "But very soon I hope. Once we begin it'll take 18 to 24 months till it's finished."
Once the turnstiles are spinning, Surf Lakes foresee a number of projects dropping soon after. Right now, they have 22 projects around the world at various stages of the process - some mere agreements to work together, others zoning approval, while Mulara is on the cusp of construction.
“The hold up for us has been getting the first one commercialised," Aaron Trevis told Wave Pool Mag, "which then de-risks it for everybody else, because everybody wants to be a fast follower. They don’t want to go first."
Just as the current Yeppon pool is a proof of concept - proving that waves can be made - the first commercial pool will also prove that it's a viable business.
The R&D doesn't stop, however, with Brad suggesting Surf Lakes may hold onto some land near Yeppoon for yet another proof of concept: making XXL waves in a lagoon.