In 1975, three kids from Santa Monica rolled into the Del Mar Skateboarding Nationals and changed the game forever. Stacy Peralta, Jay Adams, and Tony Alva had equipped their boards with polyurethane wheels. The new wheels enabled them to embrace a markedly different style of skating from the stand-up-and-pose aesthetic of the ‘60s.
The discovery of polyurethane wheels was the eureka moment in skateboarding, which was pioneered by the Z-Boys and led to a style renaissance which changed the game.
And now, Kelly Slater’s man made wave might be surfing’s great revolution.
Although skateboarding was developed by surfers, surfing hasn’t changed much since 1769 when surfing Hawaiians caught the attention of a sailor aboard the HMS Endeavour. Since then, surfers have seen boards get shorter and aerials become more gravity-defying — but most of surfing remains in reading waves, and waiting for the right break.
In the World Surfing League (WSL), great surfers can catch a crappy wave and lose major points, even if they might be technically superior to their opponent. Kelly Slater recognized this inherent problem with unpredictable swells, and decided to find a way to democratize wave priority. The solution? Creating the wave himself.
How The Man Made Wave Works
Artificial waves aren’t anything new. Wave pools have been around for years. But Slater hasn’t made a standard wave — he’s made a four-foot wave with a consistent barrel. For a surfer, finding the perfect barrel is a holy quest, and no other man made wave has managed to replicate the perfect structure for practicing aerials and shredding.
Slater hasn’t released the ins-and-outs of the wave technology yet. What we do know is that the wave took 10 years to build, and Slater compiled a team of scientists to help construct his artificial wave.
Slater, a lifelong environmentalist, has also chosen to power the man made wave by solar energy.
Noah Grimmett, General Manager of Kelly Slater Wave, released the news via press release:
“Our first site in Central California is 100% powered by solar energy through PG&E’s Solar Choice. This program allows Kelly Slater Wave Company to not only be a pioneer in wave technology, but also in supporting sustainable power initiatives as we act environmentally through an alternative to installing solar panels and fulfill our vision of building the best man-made wave,” said Grimmett.
Should Kelly Slater mass-produce the man made wave, we can expect to see solar powered surfing move to landlocked regions of the world. The unveiling of the wave, which you can watch below, takes place in a Californian lake.
For fans of pro-surfing, opinions are divided about how this could impact the sport. Some think that finding the perfect wave is the soul of the game, but others are keen to spend more time practicing tricky maneuvers.
We have yet to see how this will impact professional surfers, but it’s an exciting time to be a fan during a seminal moment in surfing history.