POOL SURF­ING'S BIG RIP­PLE

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Game-chang­ing ideas don't get much big­ger than the wave pool. The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less when per­fec­tion is avail­able on tap. For starters you won't have to wait: for lows to spi­ral, banks to form, winds to swing, tides to drop, or even the sun to rise. If a me­chan­i­cal future is fully re­alised you'll be able to dial up a ses­sion like your book­ing a squash court. Six-week flat spells will no longer in­flict men­tal an­guish and you won't risk di­vorce or un­em­ploy­ment when the swell fi­nally does ar­rive. In a wave pool many things will be ob­so­lete: drop-ins, crowds, sharks, reef cuts, has­sling, snaking, club­bies, blue bot­tles, heavy lo­cals and sewage pipes. You'll be able to get the wave of the day unim­peded – again and again and again. You won't even have to live near the coast. You could be a chlo­rine surfer in Alice Springs. For pros the wave pool of­fers the per­fect train­ing ground – a re­peat­able sur­face to push per­for­mance lev­els through the strato­sphere. Ma­noeu­vres we can't even imag­ine would be­come fea­si­ble. For the ASP pro­grammable per­fec­tion means events could be run in big cities on week­ends and at­tract a much big­ger au­di­ence. While wave pools have been around since the 1930s no one has taken them much be­yond a nov­elty ex­pe­ri­ence. Greg Web­ber hopes to in the very near future. Con­struc­tion of Web­ber's first full scale model is sched­uled to be com­pleted on the Sun­shine Coast by late next year. He's promis­ing a pool that will de­liver 15 sec­ond rides and wave heights up to 1.75 me­tres. If he pulls it off and sim­i­lar wave pools spring up around the world it will be a true revo­lu­tion for surf­ing. But even when me­chan­i­cal per­fec­tion ar­rives it's likely to be con­tro­ver­sial. Wave pools may cleave surf­ing neatly in half. Not ev­ery­one will be lin­ing up to pay for their next wave, many will be aghast at the very idea of ar­ti­fi­cial surf­ing. But there's no rea­son why the two can't co­ex­ist. Ocean surf­ing may even take on a bit more grav­i­tas as a re­sult. We may learn to ap­pre­ci­ate all the gifts a pool can never de­liver. Panel dis­cus­sion: will it ever be pos­si­ble to make a bet­ter bar­rel than Kirra?

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