The Beach Boys had the concept in the 1960s: If everybody had an ocean, everybody would be surfing. Now it may become more than a sing-along, thanks to the artificial surf machine.
?It will never replace the ocean, but at the end of the day, the notion is, you can introduce surfing to Middle America,? said Dillon Moran, business development manager at Aquatic Development Group Inc. in Cohoes, N.Y.
Already, many waterparks nationwide and around the world have some surfing technology at their facilities, either as stand-alone features or in split-wave pools.
?With the boom of the indoor resort, there?s definitely a demand out there for it,? said Jacob Heuss, sales manager at Whitewater West Industries, headquartered in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. ?The market for these pieces is a supplemental amenity to a larger resort package.?
But adding a fun, skills-based activity can work for municipal facilities as well. The Republic Aquatic Center in Republic, Mo., for example, added a surfing simulator that sent the facility?s attendance soaring from 8,000 to 60,000 in one year.
With the growing demand comes a growing niche, as other companies and designers try to join the crowd of patents and technology already serving as a high entry barrier.
Engineers at ASR Ltd. in Raglan, New Zealand, have developed artificial reefs that can be replicated on a pool floor. The computer-controlled, movable floor found its way into the world?s first surfpark, currently being built in Orlando, Fla. This 110,000-square-foot outdoor facility will feature a football-field-size pool. The pool produces six waves a minute as high as 10 feet that travel for about 75 yards. That means surfers can ?hang ten? for at least 10 seconds. According to Moran, passes are already sold out.
Another company, American Wave Machines, has built a prototype that imitates standing waves in a river. This allows surfers to remain on a wave for a long period of time, practicing skills without being dependent on a system?s timing, said Bruce McFarland, president/owner of the Solana Beach, Calif., firm.
Some believe the concept of inland surfing will be even more popular in landlocked areas because it won?t compete with the real sport. ?You?ll create a whole culture around it,? said Andrew Thatcher, sales and marketing manager at Waveloch Inc. in San Diego. ?You don?t need to have surfers. If you build it, they will come.?
Moran hopes that the growing interest may even go so far as to bring surfing to the Olympics. ?If you?re able to drive a consistent wave time after time after time, you have the ability to host that type of competition,? he said. ?To create a ?surfatorium? that?s a long-term game plan.?