Surfing goes custom made

Surfing goes custom made

28 September 2021 Off By Facto Edizioni

/ More powerful computers allow the production of pools with artificial waves identical to those present in the oceans. The surfing industry is already tasting the opportunities /

‘The Ultimate Surfer’ is a new reality show on the American broadcasting channel ABC, that brings together 14 professionals and aspiring surfers at a location in California. Here the guests will practice, learn, challenge themselves but also engage in alliances and strategies to outdo other competitors. At the end of the 8 episodes series, the winner will earn the title of ‘The Ultimate Surfer’ and will have a chance to compete on the WSL Championship Tour, the sport’s top event. The show has been labelled a sort of “Survivor on surf board”, and if the analogy is true and considering the popularity of ‘Survivor’, the show will not only retain a large audience but also make surfing popular among consumers. Kind of what ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ on Netflix did for chess. 

Even without the show, however, surfing is growing in popularity. In fact, the show can be the result of the growing interest toward this discipline. It is not a coincidence that surfing was included in the recent 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo for the first time. What makes surfing interesting for amusement parks and leisure destinations is that the technology already allows the production of waves on demand, with different shapes, different level of difficulties and at a cost that is lower than systems that rely on hydrofoils, namely huge metal plow-shaped contraptions pulled along a track that runs the length of the pool and push and pull the water to form swells. This is the technology, for example, that powers the waves of the pool at the Surf Ranch in Lemoore, the stage of the new TV show. The facility was developed by Kelly Slater, an 11-time world champion. The waves in this pool are considered by observers to be the best and priciest on the market but they allow surfers to perform their moves, like big turns and aerial maneuvers. The facility has been used as a training ground for professionals and as a competition site for the World Surf League. Occasionally the facility is also rented out to private groups. 

The pool size is 2,200 feet by 500 feet or about the size of 5 football fields in length. Each wave runs for 45 seconds, and the size can be set between 3 to 6 feet. The waves are programmed to come every 3 to 4 minutes, and they are identical every single time.

Waves in large pools are nothing new as they have been around since the ‘60s and today they can be experienced in leisure parks and even cruise ships all over the world. FlowRider and FlowBarrel, created by WaveLoch, are among the most popular systems, out of about a dozen other companies, but these waves are not ridden on a surfboard. Instead, users jump on a smaller board that’s more like a skimboard.

Tom Lochtefeld is the brain behind FlowRider, but his goal was always to create the perfect waves for surfing. Today, after selling FlowRider’s IP and technology to WhiteWater, Lochtefeld if the founder of a new company called SurfLoch and thanks to a partnership with Siemens and the transition to digital technology, he has been able to make his dream come true. 

Making precise waves requires the coordination of several components which include the power source, control panels, distribution to the different motors which powers the blowers that move air and water through a combination of power and vacuum. This fills up the so-called “caissons” (a technical term indicating a sort of custom designed concrete chambers) which open in the pool, sucking the water up and then pushing it back out into the pool. That formation of water creates energy, which propagates out as a waveform. The technology allows break up the process into different caissons that are managed individually by a central controller which allows the creation of multiple patterns and wave shapes. 

With computers getting more powerful and faster, the right software can generate more patterns, and this is what SurfLoch wants to do with the help of Siemens. At the core of this technology is the Siemens Xcelerator and the Digital Enterprise portfolio which include software such as NX, Simcenter, Teamcenter and Mindsphere, as well as automation software such as TIA Portal or Sinamics controllers. In other words, the software behind the new generation of wave makers can perform 10 trillion calculations a second and can create new wave shapes, amid infinite permutations.

This will allow a facility to attract surfers at all levels, from beginners to experts. Prices range from $50 for beginners to about $90 for experts. Traditionally designing and building a dedicated surf park could cost anywhere from $10 to $30 million. But because the cost of computing is decreasing, SurfLoch said that they can package and deliver the technology everywhere in the world at a cost that makes building the wave pool an economically-viable investment. SurfLoch has delivered its first system at The Palm Springs Surf Club in the Coachella Valley, California. This is a test facility at the former Wet n’Wild Water Park site and they were able to retrofit the existing wave pool with…

Continue reading Games & Parks Industry September 2021, page 50

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