Watch: Leonardo Fioravanti Commands Swiss Wave Pool Until 1 AM During Alpine Surf Bender   - Stab Mag
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Watch: Leonardo Fioravanti Commands Swiss Wave Pool Until 1 AM During Alpine Surf Bender  

Imagine telling the waves what to do.

cinema // Oct 27, 2022
Words by Brendan Buckley
Reading Time: 2 minutes

At 9:15 PM on October 17, 2022, Europe got its first artificial air section. 

It was at the Alaia Bay wave pool in Sion, Switzerland. Leo Fioravanti jumped in the water while — about 1000km away — Wavegarden’s engineers started a graveyard shift. The next four hours consisted of a dialogue between a surfer and the waves he was riding, facilitated by some very smart computer people. 

I was fortunate enough to observe this process from an interesting perspective — in the water with Leo. 

Here’s how it worked: The engineers would send us a set of ten or so waves, which they’d designed with specific airs in mind. Leo would explain to a gentleman hovering on the edge of the pool what he liked and disliked about the waves. That feedback was passed on to the engineers at the Wavegarden HQ, who would tailor the next set of waves according to Leo’s thoughts. 

Wavegarden’s engineers could modify three major features of an air wave: the run-in (via the speed and steepness of the wave as it approaches the air section), the pop on the air section (via the speed, angle, and power at which that section would approach the main wave), and the landing (via very smart computer people stuff). 

Leo would get a certain air in mind, start trying it, and work with the engineers to create the perfect wave for that specific maneuver. They’d were damn good at it, especially after doing the same thing with surfers around the world in the weeks leading up to this.

Around midnight, a man approached us wearing a big jacket (it’s fucking Switzerland) and a serious face. Leo thought he was there to kick us out of the pool. Instead, he asked if we’d like them to put some music on the sound system. Leo requested ACDC. Shortly thereafter, with the music blasting, he landed the straight air you see at 2:16 — which he says was his favorite from the session. 

We didn’t stop surfing until just after 1 AM. Leo was wearing his Whoop, which said he burned 1900 calories in the four-hour bender. For context, though, Leo says a three-hour session in the ocean this week cooked 1700 cals. 

“This was my first time surfing an air section in a pool, and I loved it,” Leo told me. “It’s crazy being able to pick what air you want to do — backflip, oop, straight air — and get a wave designed for that air, and even choose the music you want to surf to. Imagine having a contest where you could do that. It’s crazy to think about what this means for the future,” he suggested. 

It’s hard not to. 

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