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Wave Pool Revolution: The 5 Best Artificial Waves in the World (2019)

With Kelly’s wave pool firmly on tour and the opening of The Wave Bristol last month, let’s take a look at the huge range of artificial wave technology and designs making their way onto our instagram feeds today.

1. The Wave Bristol

Bristol, England

If you keep even half-an-eye on surf news, social media, or talk to any British surfer, you’ll know about the most exciting engineering development in Bristol since Isambard Kingdom Brunel. And no, for once we don’t mean one of the 29 Bristols in the US (don’t believe me? Check out this list).

The Wave Bristol opened its doors in October 2019 as Europe’s first public wave pool showcasing Wavegarden’s updated “Cove” technology. The system is capable of producing up to 1000 customised waves per hour; furthermore, the modular design allows sections to be added or removed as desired.

In typical British fashion, the first-ever left was ridden by one of Her Majesty’s swans during the testing phase; it was subsequently coined “Swannies Left

Wave Pool Tech Specs

  • Length of Ride: 180m
  • Wave Frequency: 1 wave very 3.6 seconds (maximum), or every 8-10s (day-to-day)
  • Wave Height: 50cm (1.7ft) to 2m (6.5ft)
  • Versatility: Multiple real-time wave condition settings allow a huge variation in wave-types, from beginner to advanced

2. Surf Snowdonia

Snowdonia, Wales

Another British entry, this wave pool was one of the first inland waves open to the public. The lake is situated beside Snowdonia National Park in the heart of North Wales, so riders are blessed with the breathtaking mountainous backdrop.

The Wavegarden technology used here is the predecessor to The Wave Bristol’s Cove system; it is smaller and doesn’t stand up as much as newer technology (definitely no barrels). Nevertheless, it still produces a rippable wave every 90 seconds. You can book a session from £35, with up to 52 surfers at a time.

Adventure Parc Snowdonia also have a huge variety of other adrenaline-inducing activities while you’re there (from climbing, to artificial caving, to a zip-line right over the top of the wave!).

I was lucky enough to catch a session in 2016, 1 year after it opened.

Be warned: I lost a fin by being stuck in the wrong place after my wave. Trying to duck-dive an oncoming set, I drove my tail directly into the concrete 1 foot below me… turns out the water level rises and falls dramatically to generate the next swell.

Wave Pool Tech Specs

  • Length of Ride: 200m (20 seconds)
  • Wave Frequency: 1 wave every 90 seconds
  • Wave Height: Up to 2m (6 feet) – actually slightly smaller, from personal experience
  • Versatility: Single wave type, but separate take-off zones for beginner, intermediate, and advanced surfers

3. Surf Ranch by Kelly Slater Wave Co.

Leemore, California, United States

Fun fact: apparently Kelly fell on the very first wave at the Surf Ranch, but the footage was never released (he should’ve left it to a swan)

This one needs no introduction. Kelly’s wave “broke the internet” when he first shared a glimpse of its potential. Now, after its second year, The Freshwater Pro seems to be a firm stop on the WSL world tour. Whether people like it or not is a different matter.

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That was fun @wsl #jw💯raw 📹 @peterkingphoto

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There’s no denying it promotes progression that we might not see every day in the ocean, but the repetitive format renders it one of the only events that I won’t religiously watch every heat recap

The $30 million development is not currently publicly available. In fact, the design is so secret that the 100-ton hydrofoils (travelling at 19mph) are covered by tarp so even drones can’t get a glimpse of Kelly’s enigmatic creation. Adding to the mystery, the entire complex is supposedly 100% solar powered (an ode to Kelly’s other brainchild: the completely sustainable yet wildy overpriced clothing brand, Outerknown).

Wave Pool Tech Specs

  • Length of Ride: 700m
  • Wave Frequency: 1 wave every 4-5 minutes (it takes almost 3 minutes just for the pool water to be calm again after the previous wave)
  • Wave Height: 2m (6.5 feet)
  • Versatility: Production of 50 different types of wave, while contours on the sea bed (can we call it that?) allow variation between sections (from barrels to open face)

4. BSR Surf Resort

Waco, Texas, United States

Another high-profile artificial wave, thanks to revolutionary events such as Stab High https://stabhigh.com/. With American Wave Machines technology and their “Perfect Swell” software, this wave pool looks crazily fun. Amazingly, the multiple chambers – which produce the wave using air-pressure alone – are fully customisable, and controllable by an iPad!

Although it offers barrels too, the wave culminates in an epic wedge-y ramp section (nicknamed “Freak Peak”) that has produced some impossible highlight reels from the world’s best aerial surfers. According to their website, “[the] waves are comparable to the cove section at Rincon or the famed bowls of Velzyland on the North Shore”; maybe more consistent, but I’ve never been charged 90$ per hour for a session at Oahu… then again, I’ve never seen it firing with less than 9 other surfers allowed in the lineup. Swings and roundabouts, eh?

Nonetheless, if the artificially turquoise water puts you off, you may be more sensible than you think. In 2018, a 29-year-old New Jersey surfer died after contracting a brain-eating amoeba at the park. However, a $1.5 million state-of-the-art water filtration system has since been installed, so hopefully the Naegleria Fowleri have found a new feeding ground!

Wave Pool Tech Specs

  • Length of Ride: 8-10 seconds
  • Wave Frequency: 1 wave every 24 seconds
  • Wave Height: Head-high
  • Versatility: 40 different types of waves, including the new “Freak Peak” wedge ramp

5. Surf Lakes

Yeppoon, Queensland, Australia

You would be forgiven for thinking this is a scene from the newest Mad Max movie, complete with gigantic mechanical plunger and smoke-billowing engine. But no, this is Australia’s answer to the wave pool race.

Surf Lake‘s feat of engineering isn’t just a pretty (albeit post-apocalyptic) face; with World champs Barton Lynch and Mark Occhilupo behind it, this behemoth was always destined to pump out some quality nugs.

The innovative “5 Waves” technology is capable of producing multiple types of waves simultaneously. This is thanks to the multidirectional design – something that is currently unique in inland surfing facilities. It is also the only artificial A-frame (a right and a left from the same swell line), meaning up to 240 surfers can each catch 10 waves per hour in the same session.

According to their website, “The waves break upon a variety of submerged reefs and shorelines. Each reef is contoured differently so as to allow the wave energy to dissipate and therefore create waves which break at different speeds and different shapes … The number of surf breaks generated by each single wave is only limited by the size of the lake and number of surf breaks.

Although the project is still in its research and development phase, this is certainly one to keep an eye on.

Wave Pool Tech Specs

  • Length of Ride: 8-10 seconds
  • Wave Frequency: 1 wave every 1.5 seconds (2400 per hour!)
  • Wave Height: Up to 2.4m (8 feet)
  • Versatility: 8 simultaneous varieties of waves, encompassing 5 ability levels

Bonus Entry: Newcastle FlowRider!

Heworth Leisure Centre, Gateshead, UK

Finally, here’s one for those of us stuck in the North East of England! Not everyone can afford to jet off to Texas each weekend, and we’re certainly not likely to receive one of Kelly’s Golden Tickets in the post anytime soon…

FlowRiders aren’t much like real surfing, but who can complain about a cheap option to get wet when Tynemouth is flat? (Book an adult session for £12 per hour, or take your kids for £10 per hour.)

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A true emotional rollercoaster

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It’s not as easy as it looks. (Disclaimer: the elite of DU Surf 2017/18 soon picked it up and shredded, as you would expect… *ahem*)

Wave Pool Tech Specs

  • Length of Ride: As long as you can keep your balance!
  • Wave Frequency: Infinite waves per second
  • Wave Height: 0.075m (3 inches)
  • Versatility: On or off (I recommend on)

So, there you have it. Urban Surfer’s 2019 wave pool round-up. I hope you enjoyed our pick of the top 5 most exciting and innovative inland waves around the world (so far…). But, even in this time of rapid artificial progress, freakish edits like Flow State by Russell Bierke show us that nothing can ever compare to the real thing.

~ Will (@willdavies11)

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