Watch: Testing Wavegarden’s Best Pool To Date with Jacob ‘Zeke’ Szekely
Surfing’s Dennis Rodman takes a trip across the Pacific.
You’ve likely seen that Korea has recently been graced with its first fully-functioning wave pool.
The crew over at Wavegarden have been tirelessly toiling away on the product they called the Cove in recent years. While serving up fun-sized wedges and walls, they had yet to tap into the territory of their competitors with a world-class air section—until now. Whether it was a bathymetrical phenomenon or they were merely waiting for the South Korean Govt. to sign over the air rights for the space above Wave Park (located 30 mins from Seoul), they have built a section worth your attention.
To test out the new section, they called upon the battle-tested and self-proclaimed “King of Wavepools”, Jacob “Zeke” Szekely, who was not disappointed. Outside of the sons of the Wavegarden founder (12-year-old Hans and 14 year old Kai, both of whom rip) Zeke was the only surfer to come from overseas to test out the new wave. We grill him on that, the alternate Beast 2 section, and when we’re going to see a finger-flip in the ocean, below.
Stab: How did the opportunity to go to Korea and test this pool come to you?
Jacob Szkeley: You know it was actually all thanks to Josh Kerr. He’s good friends with Wavegarden founders Karen and Josema (Odriozola). They had asked Josh to organize a group of guys to go—Josh was actually gonna go, but he told them I was their guy and that I’d get the job done. They mentioned they were trying to get other guys like Italo, Bronson, Filipe etc. but everything fell through in terms of quarantine guidelines and visas for them, it was a bit tricky but stoked it worked out.
And what was that first session like?
Karen and Josema’s two sons Kai and Hans Odriozola got to surf it for like a week before me. I showed up and once all my tests cleared I got to leave the hotel. They had a driver pick me up and take me straight to the facility. When I got there they were already running the air section, so I got to hit it for like an hour before they got some local Koreans in the water.
How were the locals?
They were sick. A lot of longboarders and then two or three Koreans who had traveled to surf. They were doing proper cutbacks and hitting the lip on the 3-wave set. They’re all stoked on surfing—the surf scene’s blowing up out there right now. After that first session, there was a bunch of press that was there and I got interviewed by like 12 different news stations before who had probably never seen surfing before.
Did you have a sense of what this wave would be like, in terms of length/size etc. before going?
Kerrzy told me it looked pretty sick, then they sent me a video right before I hopped on my flight, which was great ’cause at that point I didn’t fully know what I was getting myself into. From the clip it looked insane, but it was kind of hard to gauge how the section was made, how you can hit it, or how big it was. When I got there I was really blown away by how big and long the wave was—when I was taking off it was overhead.
What’s the scene like around the pool?
It’s insane, it’s like a mini Tokyo. There’s a huge shopping center and mall around the pool, and it’s all surrounded by skyscrapers. They actually put the pool on this thing called Turtle Island, and you have to cross this little bridge to get on there. It feels like a Southeast Asian version of Disney World, where Typoon Lagoon is. There’s a fake cruise ship in the back and they’re building one of those massive tidal bath wavepools too, it’s nuts.
So now to what everyone wants to know, tell me about this air section.
They made the section by actually anchoring an obstruction to the bottom of the pool. Depending on how fast you race to the section and if you go outward or inward rotation you can choose to land in different spots. There’s also kind of a softer point if you hit the section early and project out and clear the section like you see Kai and Hans doing. I would do a turn or try and stall at the first point of the wave to try and purposefully hit the section as late as possible. To be honest, I’ve never been good at alleyoops and the fact that I was able to stomp a couple full-rotation ones on that section was amazing to me. It’s pretty sick for variations of tweaked straight airs as well.
So in theory, if they move the anchor it could get even better?
Yeah, they haven’t set anything in stone yet. They could even make it shallower.
Can they flip it and make it a left?
Yeah, there’s a left on the other side. We only got to test it for about an hour on the last day. Unfortunately the wind was kind of going into the right the whole time so we wound up pretty much just going right but the left does the exact same thing.
Whereas Waco is almost like a hip in a skatepark and comes at you a little sideways, how would you say this one compares? It looks like a bit more of a crumbly ramp?
That’s pretty accurate. It’s more of just a straight wave with a crumbly lip coming at you, but it’s a pretty perfect lip to tee off on. I’d say it’s like a rifling right point with a perfect lip—like a longboard was trying to drop in on you and then pulled back last second.
So like Lowers with Ashton on the shoulder?
[Laughs] No, way more hollow and way faster. I was pumping my little legs off to get to the end section. I’d say it’s almost like Kirra, a racy Kirra wave with a crumbly lip at the end.
The last couple waves of this edit look almost unpredictable, wobbly and gurgly—like you’re surfing a wave that’s just a bit too low tide. As a viewer, this looked the most like an ocean wave I’ve seen yet. Would you say the same from your perspective?
Pretty much. That’s the barrel wave—they called it the Beast. We made a Big Beast too that was a little bigger and moved more water around the pool. I was taking the third wave of the set, which moved the most water around the pool, and I found another good section at the end of that, coming out of the barrel and hitting that lip right away. If you position yourself low in the barrel and come straight off the bottom and hit it, it projects you out pretty good.
Overall those waves are insane. I’ve never really been able to do a turn and get barreled like that over and over and over again. Kai and Hans would do an air reverse, then pull into the barrel, then come out and be throwing alleyoops or things like that. It definitely did have a little sense of unpredictability. If you wanted to you could pull in and get really deep, but then you wouldn’t be able to do an air when you came out. So you just have to play with it.
You think the pools’ Stab Highable?
Easy, as it is right now it’s already there. First session I landed six of the craziest airs I’ve done.
So you’ve landed a fair amount of viral tricks in Waco and now Korea. What would you say to the critics who claim you’re merely a ‘pool’ surfer?
I kind of like it to be honest. I love the wavepools dude, I back the wavepools. I have so much fun and I’m just grateful to have a title like that. To be able to travel halfway across the world and test a pool as amazing as the Wavegarden’s pool in Korea was a dream come true. I back it, I’ll let them say whatever they want.
Will we see a finger flip in the ocean soon?
For sure, I’ve been working on it quite a bit. I landed one and just didn’t ride out that clean, then the next day landed on my fins and was out of the water two weeks. I’ve been working on no grab too, just flickin’ it, so…
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