More than a year ago, eleven-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater unveiled his man-made wave pool in a series of videos that stunned the surfer community. Slater continues to promote his revolutionary pool, inviting professional surfers to test out the artificial barrels. The latest legend to grace the waves is three-time world champion Mick Fanning, who was captured riding what seemed to be an endless barrel in the clip posted by the Kelly Slater Wave Company on Instagram.
Fanning is no stranger to the perfect wave, recently hanging up his competition jersey to explore waves and travel all over the world. His wanderings have brought him to Alaska, Ireland, and even Norway where he had the chance to surf under the Northern Lights.
It’s not surprising that Slater would invite Fanning to demo his man-made waves and see how the artificial experience compares to the world’s best waves. As we have seen with other surfers who have been invited Slater’s wave pool, Fanning was blown away by the experience. In a video released by the Kelly Slater Wave Company that captured the ride, Fanning quipped to the camera, “That was, like, real. It didn’t feel like a wave pool; it felt like a real wave.”
Slater first surfed at wave pools as a kid when they were more a novelty and not a serious way to experience challenging waves. He became obsessed with creating the perfect artificial wave ten years ago after learning about the endless surf-ring concept. “My mind became absorbed with the idea of creating a wave comparable to those found in nature,” said Slater to Surfer Magazine in a 2106 interview. I thought, “I have to do this,” he added.
Slater and his team started exploring the technology behind wave pools and found it severely lacking. So Slater set out to re-create the wave pool concept for himself. He hired a team of top scientists and engineers who were experts in wave generation and fluid dynamics. The team built a research lab and began developing their artificial waves in a 700-yard-long, man-made lake in the San Joaquin Valley of central California. It is a land-locked location that is 110 miles away from the Pacific Ocean.
Slater’s first videos of his wave pool sent shock waves across the surfing community. The videos show off the seven-foot high, near-perfect barreling waves produced by the pool. Though Slater has been tight-lipped on the technology behind his pools, experts believe he is using a hydrofoil mechanism to generate the wave behind the surfer. The waves produced using his technology are steep enough to practice maneuvers and fast enough to challenge even the top surfers like Fanning. “I’m 100-percent positive our team built the best wave that anyone’s ever made,” Slater said in a debut video of his wave pool. “It’s a freak of technology.”
Slater’s success has not gone unnoticed. The owners of the World Surf League, which organizes professional surfing competitions around the world, announced last year that it is acquiring a majority stake in the Kelly Salter Wave Company. WSL hopes to use this partnership to build a global network of wave pool training centers that “will democratize surfing and provide incredible training opportunities for athletes as well as aspirational surfers in areas with no ocean waves.” Slater reportedly is planning to build his first public wave pool in Florida in the coming year.