A surfer and a scientist teamed up to create the perfect wave


Surfers travel to the most remote corners of the world to find the perfect wave. However rare and fleeting– when conditions are just right, the results are magic. But these waves weren’t created by nature. They were made inside a wave pool in central California, nearly 200 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean. It’s the result of a collaboration between a fluid mechanics specialist, Adam Fincham, and 11-time world champion surfer, Kelly Slater. Wave pools for surfing date back more than fifty years but even the best have paled in comparison to ocean waves. Under lab conditions, a wave a few centimeters tall can be predictably modeled using linear equations. But scaling up, Fincham and his co-workers had many other factors to contend with– from turbulence to oscillations of the entire water body, which is called seiching. Scientist’s fine tuned wave shapes with Slater’s input, lab-built models, and supercomputers often running weeklong simulations. They applied their findings to an artificial lake originally made for water skiing that stretches 700 meters long and 150 meters wide. A slab of carefully shaped metal called a hydrofoil is attached to a contraption that’s the size of a few train cars. And with the help of more than 150 truck tires, runs down a track. A cable pulls the hydrofoil at up to 30 kilometers per hour for the length of the pool, sculpting a wave that can stand more than 2 meters tall. The wave shape changes as  it passes over contoured reefs along the bottom of the pool. Giant gutters serve as dampers to reduce seiching and limit bounce-back from the pool walls. Recently, some of the top professional surfers in the world were invited to the Surf Ranch to compete. Rides can last for 50 seconds and the wave alternates between faces to carve on and barreling sections. Stephanie Gilmore, six- time World Surf League champion, stayed in a barrel for an astonishing 14 seconds. The Surf Ranch is a prototype and is not open to the public. But its developers plan to build resorts around similar wave pools at landlocked locales. And the ability to adjust the wave could provide a controlled way for beginners to learn and for professionals to train. If these visions come true, Kelly’s wave could fundamentally alter the surf world and, artificial as it may be, redefine the search for the perfect wave.

60 thoughts on “A surfer and a scientist teamed up to create the perfect wave”

  1. regular Science Magazine channel subscribers need to be aware that this concept is considered by many surfers (mainly those who are blessed with epic surf close to where they live) to be heresy, blasphemy against the sea god Huey, and a crime against nature.
    So, its going to get a bit feral.

  2. If a surfer falls, is there any danger of the foil running them over? I suspect not, but curious how that risk was addressed? Every surfer in the world covets a chance to surf this wave. Kelly and his associates have proven science and personal dedication can deliver sucess!

  3. Kelly Slater is an inspirational person. Even as an old surfer who saw the rise of competitive surfing from the start, and rejected it wholeheartedly, I watch his surfing style and class with amazement, he is a true waterman. That is the ultimate surfer to surfer acknowledgment of respect.

  4. I wonder how big they'll be able to make these man-made waves. I wonder if they'll be able to get into the 10-12ft. range and be barreling like a pipe wave or Indo wave or something like that.

  5. I over saw and ran a olympic sized pool and the cost are staggering thus the desolate test area. Combining complex moving parts, electricity and water + insurance, maint = very high rates to surf. IMO only profitable in a high tourist area 7 days a week, 18 hr days. Wish em luck.

  6. American waves machines produces a more natural wave that can be adjusted on the fly to produce a variety of wave types. This tech feels like you're surfing a boat wake, not a natural wave.

  7. People who don't like wave pools,be happy,if there is people surfing in pools, the ocean is going to become less crowded

  8. Some of the best surfers in the world may be living in land and we might never get to see them, or they even ever know they can surf. With these kinds of inventions/realisations we can make those things become a reality. Build them everywhere across the world, make the waves scaleable from 2 foot to 8 foot and people will come from everywhere to ride them, every day all day all year.

  9. I'm glad…. Less people coming to the beaches and learning how to paddle out or even be fit enough to paddle out. More waves for the old'school ocean surfers.

  10. Now combine Kelly's wave with The Venus Project city design.
    20 waves wrapping the circle city, all day, every day, every city. Yewww!

  11. As artificial and perfect waves become commonplace, “ocean only” surfers will become the surfing worlds equivalent of a read climber.

  12. There is a resort in Snowdonia Wales where they have a pool similar to this but it's two sided. I don't think it's as predictable or precise as this but it is really cool.

  13. An surfer and an scientist… yea fuck no
    You allso need an
    Engineer
    Arcitect
    Planner
    Funding
    Producer
    Construction workers
    Material deliverers
    And so on

  14. This could be good for training if you make it randomize some of the variables about the wave to simulate the ocean. Then surfers would be able to practice even when the ocean waves aren't so good.

  15. It is a very hot day in Bikini Bottom, and the Krusty Krab is seeing no business. The employees are annoyed being in the restaurant because of how hot it is and the fan stops working. To get some customers, Mr. Krabs moves his business to the middle of the sea at Goo Lagoon, where he, Squidward, and SpongeBob meet up with Patrick and Sandy. Patrick then tries to get on the board on which the grill is, but ends up tipping it vertically into a wave, sending them off to separate places: SpongeBob, Patrick, and Squidward end up on an island with young surfers, Mr. Krabs is stranded in the middle of the Dutchman's Triangle (which he identifies by red waterspouts, raining doughnuts, and still waters), and Sandy ends up on a small island in the middle of nowhere. SpongeBob, Patrick, and Squidward come across the locals, who claim to be junior college dropouts and take them to a hut made of bat droppings (guano), where they learn that the only way back to the mainland is by surfing. SpongeBob, who does not know how to surf, starts panicking.

    Meanwhile, the Flying Dutchman accidentally rams into Mr. Krabs on his way home from the grocery store and spills his groceries. As a result, the Dutchman then tries to get money to get more groceries from Mr. Krabs by stealing his cash register (which he now calls Cashy), and a fight brews.

    While this is happening, SpongeBob, Patrick, and Squidward receive lessons from the locals, but struggle to focus, until they are told to head downriver to see Jack Kahuna Laguna (aka JKL), who was supposedly last seen upriver. After a while of enjoying the sights, SpongeBob stops to retie his shoes but stumbles upon the cove where JKL was last seen. Patrick and Squidward follow him further and discover JKL, who they watch surf for 2 and a half hours. He later starts a fire and tells them to look into it, claiming that doing so will show them the secrets to surfing, but Squidward refuses, saying it is ridiculous.

    Meanwhile, Sandy thrives by building a 5-star hotel, a helicopter, a steam-powered generator, a cappuccino shop, a coconut-milk-powered car, and a control tower, but decides to head back home. Meanwhile, at the Dutchman's Triangle, the Flying Dutchman gets hold of the cash register, but accidentally releases the tray, which hits him and sends him to Davy Jones' locker, where "Davy Jones" is revealed to be the real-life actor of the same name.

    Back with JKL, the latter continues to teach SpongeBob and his friends how to surf, but during the middle of the final lesson, JKL leaves to head towards a temple, and SpongeBob and his friends follow. It begins raining as soon as SpongeBob and his friends hit the top, and JKL tells them that every 1,000 years or so, the planets align in such a way that the perfect wave forms, known as "the Big One," and that this time has come, and SpongeBob and his friends must ride it back home, or else be trapped on the island forever. SpongeBob and his friends are also told by JKL that the Big One requires a sacrifice to stay "alive" for the whole trip and that one of them will not return. SpongeBob and his friends head off to the Big One, but immediately, it eats up Patrick and Squidward's boards. SpongeBob allows them onto his board, when Mr. Krabs shows up and gets swallowed by the Big One, but JKL shows up and rescues him. Mr. Krabs then accidentally drops Cashy into the wave. JKL jumps into the wave to recover it, and as a result gets absorbed by the Big One, sacrificing himself allowing SpongeBob and the others to get home safely. SpongeBob then surfs them back home while playing a tribute song to JKL's sacrifice.

    Meanwhile, Sandy crashes into Goo Lagoon in her helicopter, where the beach visitors mistake her for an alien. SpongeBob, Patrick, Squidward, and Mr. Krabs wash up a few seconds later, soon followed by JKL who somehow survived the Big One and they welcome them back home with a luau. JKL gives Mr. Krabs Cashy, and the episode ends with them dancing at the beach.

  16. Wouldn't it be great to riding those Big Waves with iPod / Phone in waterproof case strapped around your waist connected to large Bluetooth speakers / not headphones / attached to the front of your board blasting your tunes while you're riding the wave in the pipe listening to Van Halen's Me Wise Magic, Pleasure Dome, Source of Infection, Right Now, Dreams. Great music and being in Total Harmony with Nature. The Ultimate Ride. Some Computer Geeks have to help create The Ultimate Board where computer technology calculations / GPS timing while inside the pipe to help a Bluetooth connected microprocessor inside the board to throttle the board faster / slower adjusting the rear fins. Computer Geeks to the Rescue. A Nobel Prizes is at stake.

  17. Damn, that looks awesome. Perfect waves. If you can't get to the coast, this isn't a bad Plan B if you are lucky enough to leave nearby.

  18. It's only a matter of time before someone engineers the seafloor along a dead stretch of ocean shoreline and creates one of the most amazing surf parks in the world.

  19. I've known Kelly many moons, glad to see him after so many years of being a Lil not giving to the community to just all out giving with whole heart, shit I remember growing up watching him, he has made good on himself and family, communities around the world and all of us from cocoa beach we love ya bro. Glad to see him trully so happy.. Bless

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