Wanna Blow Up Your Own Spot?
Can a dome-shaped rubber bladder turn your local closeout beachie into a wedgy A-frame?
To call the history of artificial surfing reefs underwhelming would be an understatement.
Previous attempts have yielded varying results, none of them good. Pratte’s Reef, in El Segundo, California, was a more-or-less non-existent closeout. A similar attempt in Bournemouth, England turned into an outright debacle when its sandbags unraveled, not only utterly failing to improve surf quality but also creating hazardous conditions essentially turning it into an expensive pile of sunken garbage.
Other failures have included Narrowneck, Queensland, Mount Maunganui Reef, New Zealand, and Kovalam Beach in India.
Responsible for the majority of the aforementioned bureaucratic boondoogles was ASR LTD., a now-defunct New Zealand-based corporation that believed the solution to surf starved zones were gigantic piles of sandbags. Despite early results that seemed promising, ASR’s projects were, without exception, wastes of money which left local governments holding the bag while their constituents raged.
Nevertheless, the notion that humans can improve surf quality through engineering is hardly a pipe dream. Ala Moana Bowls, Sandspit, Snapper Rocks, the Wedge, and Sebastian Inlet were all created, albeit inadvertently, by human meddling.
However, the ability to intentionally improve surf, to bottle and sell a deliverable promise of decent wave quality in garbage spots has, thus far, remained elusive.
Enter Troy Bottegal of WAVECO Pty Ltd.
Dubbed the AIRWAVE, Bottegal’s vision is a roughly dome-shaped rubber-weave bladder, anchored to the bottom by the weight of a colossal amount of sand, with the remaining void filled with air. They’re intended to be installed close to shore and will purportedly groom closeouts into fun, wedgy, peaks.
There is, of course, the unavoidable fact that the ocean is a powerful thing, and large swells can move massive boulders as if they weighed nearly nothing.
It’s a fact of which Bottegal is well aware, though he claims that the shape of the bladder will prevent it from being pushed around. Furthermore, he is realistic about the size of surf he hopes to create. There are no claims of stand up barrels, just a goal to create fun small surf in areas where sandbanks don’t seem to want to form.
“We’re looking at places that get, maybe, fifty to sixty percent of the swell that’s available,” Bottegal says.
To that end, Bottegal claims to have received interest from both Virginia Beach, and an unnamed city in Western Australia, to serve as test sites for the initial project.
“It’s really exciting we’ve got a city in southwest Western Australia that actually wants to put it in. Normally you’d have to convince people to put in a test project when it’s unproven, but these guys said, ‘Yep, we can do it.'”
It ain’t pretty, but maybe the waves it’ll make will be?
A two-meter Airwave prototype, fully engorged.
Bottegal hopes to crowdsource funding of the prototype, with the campaign rolling out sometime in early August. “As you can imagine we can’t offer a t-shirt or a steak knife,” Bottegal says, so he hopes that offering exclusive access to HD surfcam and drone footage will be enough to sweeten the pot and bring in contributors.
Based on the record of artificial reefs you’d be right to view the project with a fair share of skepticism.But, to be fair, if you’d told me ten years ago that there’d be firing surf in Meth-and-Cow Shit Country, California, or a region of Texas most famous for the flaming death of a cult, I’d have called you a filthy fucking liar.
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