A New Texas Wavepool, Designed By Jamie O'Brien And Cheyne Magnusson!
With air pumps and iPads for American Wave Machines' new surf park in Waco.
“We are going to get lefts that spit,” Jamie O’Brien tells Stab. “Rights that spit, ramps, and draining sections. We even made a wave that looked just like the wedge.”
While we've yet to see the prototype translate to scale, we adore the idealism.
Jamie's claims about the new American Wave Machines creation poses the question: How closely can a wave sculpted by man mimic that of the ocean? Isn't the fickle nature part of surfing's beauty? The wait, the ailing, and the myriad of variables that leave us reminiscing of “that day”? It is curious, that for this purpose – with all purism aside – we’re fascinated with creating a "perfect" wave, one ready at a switch flip. With 2015/2016 being the apex of surfing's man-made aspiration (so far), we’ve learned with Snowdonia in Wales and Austin’s Nland that wavepools are a maintenance nightmare.
Currently, in Waco, Texas (the go-to state for landlocked surfing), a company called American Wave Machines has a new "Surf Ranch" in production at BSR (Wakeboard) Cable Park. Here, Jamie O’Brien and Cheyne Magnusson are lending a hand in designing a wavepool that closely imitates the ocean. “They've brought Jamie and me on to consult about all things surf," Cheyne tells Stab. "And help out with the development of the project so that when it comes to life it'll be as authentic as possible for the surfing community."
"We want to make sure it's the real deal," says Jamie. "I don't want my name attached to something that's not. We've been to the space they're building it on, the whole area is surrounded by deer and wildlife. It's pretty amazing."
Rather than moving parts that generate the waves, a la Kelly’s Surf Ranch and the Wavegarden Technology, the Waco wavepool uses air chambers. "It's set up on a two-acre lagoon,” says Cheyne. “It’s surrounded by a white sandy beach with cabanas and the waves are generated by 24x 10-feet wide air chambers, resulting in 240 feet of wave-generating area.”
The technology behind AWM is called Perfect Swell – “The most authentic surfing experience outside the ocean,” as claimed by their website. “Wave quality, size, duration, and frequency can be controlled at the touch of a button via an iPhone or iPad, with no wait time for waves."
“One of the best things about this technology is you don’t have to wait for the water to settle,” says Jamie. In Kelly’s pool there's an eight-minute interval between waves. And for the cleanest ones, that time goes up to 14 minutes. “Because its technology uses firing air chambers, you can create six-wave sets and play with the intervals. Like when Pipeline is at a longer interval the second and third wave of the set are always the most hollow. Theoretically, the same effect will happen here, as each wave draws more off the bottom, they will hollow out more and more.”
“With the air chambers, you’re in control of the entire swell signature,” says Cheyne. “With an iPad, you can choose the height, direction, frequency and fire each chamber independently. This allows for a vast number of different waves. You can make a pointbreak, a beachbreak, refraction waves, or a mush burger if you wanted. If you fired all the chambers at once the lagoon would turn into one huge closeout.”
“Whatever you can dream of you can build with this," says Jamie. "Using the prototype we made waves ranging from points to hollow rampy stuff. I’m so excited to be involved in it.”
The defining issue with wavepool technology are tears in the lagoon's lining. These force the wavepools to be drained, closed, and repaired. This is the issue that has Nland closed until at least November. “The liner in our reef section has been compromised more so than expected by fin and nose cuts,” said CEO Doug Coors. Surf Snowdonia in Wales has also been shut down twice due to the same issue.
The Waco park has an industrial liner laid on top of clay. It will have a similar texture to a waterslide. “The unique thing about the property is that it is a watershed,” says Cheyne. “So should the worst happen, they can easily drain it and repair.” And presumably, without sacrificing millions of gallons – when Snowdonia closed down, six million gallons were lost.
The "Surf Ranch" is just the newest edition to the BSR Cable Park. As of now, the area features a wakeboard cable park, the world's largest lazy river and a massive waterslide.
"When Jamie and I visited, we didn't want to leave," Cheyne smiles. "It's basically a five-star summer camp for adults with all kinds of water activities. There's a restaurant, bar, jacuzzis, cabins for rent, all the amenities. The addition of the wave should be nuts."
"It’s not just the wave," says Jamie. "There’s a giant slip-and-slide, a cable wakeboard park, and a big lazy river. This place is set up already. All they're doing is adding the wave. I wanna go there for a month; I don’t usually want to go anywhere for a month. I want to go design some waves with an iPad and try them out. It’s just like being a little kid, man. This place is going to be 900 acres of fun."