Surf Lakes rep Wayne Dart says that Occy's Peak is definitely smaller than the slab, but that's how their five wave tech was designed. All photos: Surf Lakes
Watch: Occy Tests Surf Lakes' "Full-Size" Wavepool In Yeppoon
Featuring surfing from Mark and Jai Occhilupo and an interview with Surf Lakes' media director, Wayne Dart.
Just yesterday, Surf Lakes revealed photos of three-time World Champion boogie boarder Ben Player arching his back under a voluminous cascade of water—the largest artificial barrel ever created, to our knowledge.
But with Surf Lakes finally pumping out waves at "full capacity," we were dying to know what their other four waves looked like. Was Occy's Peak firing cylinders left and right? Was the "Wedge" more like Newport or Iluka? Was there an air section to be sniffed?
If you want a refresher on how Surf Lakes' five wave system pool works, check out the video below. If your memory is like that of a blue whale on adderall, scroll straight to the photos and interview with Surf Lakes' media director, Wayne Dart, below.
Stab: Hey Wayne, long time no talk! I must say, it was rather confronting to wake up and see those photos of Mr. Player—the wave looks insane.
Wayne Dart: Oh yeah, as Ben kept saying, it’s the real deal this time. Very exciting.
We saw Parko get pretty pumped by that slab when it was about half the size last October. Have any non-prone surfers attempted the full-scale version?
Yeah, Jai Occhilupo had a go. Obviously, that takeoff is quite tricky, but he did make the drop and got a barrel that was pretty sizable. But generally speaking, Benny was the one who mastered that wave.
It seems like it’ll be great practice for air-drops at the very least. Did anyone get slammed out there? I’d imagine it’s pretty shallow.
Not really… like I said, Ben pretty much claimed that peak all to himself. Everyone else was on Occy’s Peak.
Ahhh gotcha. We’re really curious about the other four waves now that the pool is working at full tilt. How did they go?
Yeah look, the Island (slab) was the biggest. Occy’s is a little bit smaller, but it was also designed to be smaller. The heaviest wave is a Level 5 wave and obviously it goes down to Level 1, which is a beginners’ wave. Our technology is designed to cater to all levels of surfing, so Occy’s Peak, which is Level 4, is a little bit smaller and softer, but it’s so flawless it’s ridiculous.
Are guys getting barreled on Occy's peak or is it mostly just turns?
There’s good tubes for sure, on the right and the left. The right in the Yeppoon site is probably a little bit hollower than the left, and the guys were getting some epic tubes. There’s potential to get up to a six-second barrel with a carve at the end, but you’ll see that footage come out over the next few weeks.
Are there any waves with an air section?
The guys were popping airs on Occy’s right. The other waves we weren’t surfing at this point in time—we were mainly focusing on the Island and Occy’s Peak. They were the best by a country mile.
Now that we have the machine running at full capacity, we can go back and tweak the reefs so we get better value out of them. The Level 2 wave, which was the Beach Break wave, is looking like good fun too. Then there’s the wave called the Wedge, which is actually looking more like a longer point break. So there’s plenty of variety and plenty of air sections once it gets going.
So now that the machinery is working, you can make each pool floor different to serve whatever audience is expected, right? Like you could theoretically have five of Occy’s Peaks in one pool, if that’s what a developer wanted.
Yeah, and that’s the beauty of the whole thing. We’re able to cater to different levels and do it all at once. We can have surfers from beginners to experts all getting a wave that suits their ability at the exact same time.
When we were there, I think you guys were just figuring out how to work three-wave sets. How many consecutive waves can you run now?
Depending on the size, there have been four-wave sets, but for the larger waves we’re mostly doing two or three. Again, this is just a test facility, and we’re still working out the timing of everything. But there’s capacity there for six-wave sets. That’s what we’re aiming for.
When we ran the machine in October of last year, the reality, especially given that the technology had never been used, and it was the first time that 1,400 tons had ever been lifted up and down every six seconds in the history of mankind [laughs], there were obviously a lot of realizations that we didn’t really know how to drive it effectively. Since then we’ve gone back to drawing board on a few things—there’s been a lot more data analysis, with sensors placed all over the machine—and learned how to drive it more efficiently. So we’re getting up to more and more sets and pushing it to full height.
Yep, that’s right. When you’re looking at four-wave-plus pulses, the later waves are bigger because of the amount of water that’s being drawn up the face.
So six is the number of waves you’re trying to achieve in a set?
Yeah, ideally in a full commercial scale lake we’ll be looking at six-wave pulses. That will give us the 2,400 waves per hour that we’ve been aiming for. The next step is obviously then to step up the technology so that it is commercially viable. We’ve been working through those specs and we’re very very close to being able to roll that out.
And speaking of size, snobby surfers the world over have thrown barbs at Surf Lakes for their interpretation of an eight-footer. What's your official stance on that?
There are always gonna be arguments about size, but we’ve always said we were gonna get to that 2.4 meter face. We obviously know it’s not like an eight-foot ocean wave, but it’s the only way that we see we can gauge size in a wavepool is by the face. We don’t have buoys and so forth giving us data on peaks and troughs. But it’s a solid wave.
These armchair-hydrophysicists have also claimed that because the plunger creates swells in a ring-like fashion from the center of the pool, that the waves will be bending out to sea when they hit the reef. Is that true, in your experience?
What’s strange is that we found that the wedge break, which we thought would wrap into itself, is actually doing the exact opposite, and bending outward like you mentioned. But then Occy’s Peak and the Island do the exact opposite—they bend in on themselves to form a horseshoe through the inside, creating tubes and air sections. So there’s obviously still a lot to learn about this technology, but we're certainly on the right track.
And the wave is definitely not weak, if that’s what you were implying.