We come bearing gifts.
"They’ve Proved The Wavepool Can Be Done, But Maybe It Shouldn't...”
Ozzie Wright’s cult film knowledge raises concerns in Yeppoon.
Ozzie brought the crew a few presents upon his pool arrival—a box of beer for most and Diet Coke for Occy who's been off the piss for a few years now.
A man called Warrick, who claimed the title of Surf Lakes’ Site Manager, took Ozzie's beers at the entrance.
“Sorry mate, this is currently an alcohol-free zone. I’ll make sure to hold onto them for the boys inside.”
Yeah yeah, sure, Warrick.
After signing roughly 73 pages of release forms, Oz made his way into the pool site while Dylan, Dan, and myself were forced to remain behind the fences.
While we couldn’t see any water, the Surf Lakes wave-making mechanism was well within sight.
Allow me to paint the picture.
Over the fence and in front of the mountains sits a perforated buoy-like structure with a massive circular base. The whole thing rusted beyond comprehension.
About 20 meters to its northwest is another elevated structure, this one holding oversized pipes, a large metal cask, and an adjacent metal box.
Then we heard it.
And the circular base rose.
The adjacent box let out a massive plume of smoke and the circular base dropped out of sight.
The process repeated and then we heard a “Yewwwwww!”
Holy hell. What is this?
Mad Max has been the most common comparison point for Yeppoon’s wave-making machine. Its crude, rusted aesthetic certainly helps the analogy, but it’s the four giant smoke plumes that really seal the deal.
This machine is wildly industrial and looks unlike anything found in Waco or Lemoore.
We asked Warrick, the site manager, what was the deal with the all the smoke.
“It’s compressed air. The box it comes out of is esentially a big muffler, stifling the noise of its release” Warrick revealed. “And it uses an incredible amount of pressure. The plunger [circular base] is filled with rocks and weighs around 900 tons. The whole structure is close to 1,400 tons. That’s more than three jumbo-jets.”
According to Warrick, they still hadn’t pushed the machine to its full capacity. The plunger was being raised less than two meters from water-level; it’s max theoretical height is four.
We watched this process five or six times, which happened across a span of thirty-odd minutes.
“When they get everything sorted,” Warrick explained, “they’ll be able to run six-waves sets every minute.”
It was infuriating to know that, just beyond Warrick’s apple-chomping, laid Australia’s first wavepool sending historic waves to shore.
We realized that awaiting Friday’s entry would be impossible for our overly-curious minds. We got back on the phone with Surf Lakes media correspondent, Wayne Dart, to discuss our options.
“Surfing Life has had Wednesday and Thursday booked for six months,” Darty told us. “We can’t really have you infringing on their time. That wouldn’t be right.”
“But the pool has four takeoff spots,” I reasoned with Darty. “Regardless of what ASL is doing in there, it’s unlikely they’d need to utilize all the breaks at once. So don’t you think it could be possible that we share the pool, assuming they have priority over whichever peak(s) they prefer?”
“How about this: I’ll give you Ray’s number and you can ask him yourself.”
Five minutes later I was on the phone with ASL’s Chief Editor, Ray Bisschop, who was relentlessly accommodating.
“Yeah mate, of course that’s alright,” Ray said. “There should be plenty of waves to go around – no reason we can’t share the pool. And, just so you know, I don’t see us as competitors – we’re both in the business of promoting surf culture, so if anything, I see us on the same team.”
Had the roles been been reversed, I’m not sure Stab would have been so welcoming to a rival/fellow surf pub. So we must thank and commend Ray for his uncommon generosity.
While Ozzie visited the pool, Dyl, Dan, and I slipped away to The Strand, where we mingled with ASL and their roster of Mitch Crewsy, Felicity Palmateer, Connor O’Leary, Laura Enever, and Korbin Hutchings. Several hours later, Ozzie emerged at our table, distraught.
“How goes it, Oz! You get a few?”
He hadn't. The waves were still tiny.
Ozzie went on to compare Surf Lakes’ wave-making machine not with Mad Max but instead “Donkegin” — the lake-dwelling, metal-monster antagonist in Frog Dreaming, a cult horror film from the '80s.
While the rest of us were unaware this film even existed, the more Ozzie told us about it the more it made sense.
Similar to the Surf Lakes wave-maker, “Donkegin” was a rusty mining tool left to rot in an abandoned quarry. In the film, Donkegin haunted quarry-goers with its terrifying sounds and occasional emergence from the water (see 1:22:26).
Further comparisons to the film included a pool-adjacent cliff from which – by local admission – Aboriginal Australians were once pushed to their unrightful deaths. In Frog Dreaming, an Aboriginal man is seen looking down at a white boy from a cliff overlooking the quarry (see 58:40), clearly upset.
Lastly, and perhaps most ominously, Oz encountered four dead (and certainly not Dreaming) frogs heaped together in the pool’s parking lot.
This bizarre list of connections made Ozzie uneasy. He then informed us that he would return home the following morning, without having caught a single wave in the pool.
As the project leaders, it was mine, Dyl’s, and Dan’s job to make sure that didn’t happen. Without Oz, this story wouldn’t make sense. But deep down, we couldn’t help thinking he had a point.
Despite all assurances that the wave would be pumping out head-high lines "tomorrow", we were starting to become skeptical.
And now with this series of inauspicious signs revealed, we had to consider Ozzie’s far-flung theory—could our Yeppoon mission be cursed by the spirit of Donkegin?