Did Surfing Legend Kelly Slater Build the World’s Most Perfect Wave?
And what does it mean for surfing? As his technological feat is revealed, the surf world contemplates a game changer.
A perfect, head-high, barreling wave has just been discovered. It doesn’t depend on the weather, or the swell, or even the ocean itself—and it’s always flawless.
The first to surf it? Sporting icon and 11-time ASP world champion Kelly Slater.
And that’s no surprise because—with the help of a team of scientists, engineers, and designers—he built it.
On Friday, the Kelly Slater Wave Company launched its first teaser video, showcasing what it called the longest open-barrel man-made wave in the world. Without offering any details to the press, the company simply dropped a three-minute clip that claims it took nearly ten years in a secret location to create, as Slater puts it, this “freak of technology.”
But some Internet sleuths might have uncovered its secret via Google Earth.
Lemoore is a rural town in the heart of California that’s just over a hundred miles from the Pacific Ocean. Hidden in the brown and green patchwork grid of farmland, you can make out a dark blue, snowboard-shaped pool of water—possibly home to the world’s best man-made wave.
“My first thought was, that is f****** amazing—I wanna ride it. Period,” says surf filmmaker and visual artist Thomas Campbell. A lightning rod in the progressive surfing world, Campbell travels the globe to capture up-and-comers and seasoned pros alike as they shred and slide the world’s best and most exotic breaks.
But does the allure of a completely predictable, controllable wave in the middle of nowhere really capture every surfer’s heart?
“I don’t see wave machines as an end-all, be-all,” says Campbell. “Does it look really fun? Yes. Would I do it more than once or twice a year if it was available? No. Do I love being in nature and adapting to all its eccentricities? Yes.”
It’s easy to say that a wave like this will change the future of surfing. Pros will train better and more efficiently on seemingly endless, immaculate waves, and board technology will innovate exponentially.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Yet the culture of surfing is deeply embedded in a thousand-year-old tradition, one not easily separated from the coastal lifestyle. How will a wave in a tiny agricultural town affect the surfing world as a whole? (See our picks for the world’s 20 best surf towns.)
If the overwhelming online response is any indication, it will represent a sea change. Sporting black Neoprene, gloves, and booties, Slater displays his classic turns on the strange, sheet-glass brown water and sets up for the tube, logging more time in this artificial barrel than most do on an entire Indonesian surf trip.
Now that technology has matched nature in creating a perfect wave, who will get to experience it? Will only the pros get a taste? Will novice surfers ditch the beach and head to these landlocked wave pools? Is a chain of surfing amusement parks just around the corner? Or might this just be just one surfer’s dreamland—one he keeps for himself and a few lucky comrades?
Whatever lies ahead for the Kelly Slater Wave Company, the world is paying close attention.