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Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Slater makes waves ... literally


Slater, the consummate innovator.

What's next? That would be the most obvious question for Kelly Slater after he ran away with his tenth world title this year. Sure, he could stay on tour. He could go for 11, heck he could go for an even baker's dozen. But that's not likely. Or at least not when you consider the latest pursuit he's putting his name to. Like Rick Kane before him, Slater's looking to dominate the wave pool scene.

Announced today, Slater has launched the Kelly Slater Wave Company (KSWC), "a company devoted to making a world-class surfing experience accessible to the sport's enthusiasts across the globe."

"Until now, there hasn't been a man-made wave technology that even comes close to reproducing a natural feeling and world-class waves," noted Slater in a press release that went out today. "From the start, we've been committed to creating an authentic surfing experience. It's been a long and challenging development period, led by a formal scientific investigation, but we now understand how to generate and control the elements that produce ocean-type waves. Our technology can create a wave that suits anyone from beginner to pro level, and can be adjusted easily for everyone in between."

According to information provided from KSWC, a research team comprised of surfers, scientists and businessmen began work on the project back in 2005, and after initial tests built a "state-of-the-art research laboratory" somewhere in Los Angeles. "The wave is generated on the outside of a large circular pool, propagating onto an inner island where it breaks endlessly," describes the KSWC press release.

"The ring wave is a old invention produced by Chuck Schulibier, originally called the 'flying reef' or 'tunnel flow' generator," says Richard "Doc" Carnahan, a wave pool mad scientist that once built a standing wave in his backyard in Hemet, CA, with parts acquired from Home Depot, and who currently has six different projects in the planning stages. "It's not a wave in the traditional sense, rather more like a bow wake, like tanker waves. The wave breaks on the inside of a circular island and peels around. The size and shape kind of depend on the facility you're building."

Currently the only game in town for wave pools is Wave Loch's Flowrider, invented by Tom Lochtefeld in the early 1980s. Lochtefeld has since licensed over 100 instillations around the world, and the Flowrider pools have also become feature attractions on cruise ships. But in recent months Wave House, a flagship Flowrider venue located in San Diego's Belmont Park, has been at odds with city administrators over the terms of their lease agreement, and ultimately filed bankruptcy in early November. When reached for comment Wave Loch did not immediately return the phone call.

It's hard to say for sure where Slater's wave pool endeavor will go. To date nobody's been able to replicate the blissful perfection of taking off on a wave at Rincon or Kirra or G-Land, but if anybody has the dogged determination to get it done it's Slater. Currently no dates or locations for future parks have been announced, but KSWC is now fielding inquires from interested parties.

"This project has unlimited potential to add to surfing," adds the champ. "I'd like to see this be a sort of default wave for when the surf in the ocean isn't good, as well as a platform to help anyone advance from the level they're at quickly and easily in a safe environment. Our technology will allow everyone, no matter their age or skill level, to have a rewarding surfing experience."

And if he can bring surfing to the masses? Well, he'll have transformed the sport in yet another innovative and wonderful way.