Faking it – windsurfing in man made wave pools

November 10th, 2017

You may have seen the footage of Kelly Slater’s Ranch wave pool recently, especially if you follow surfing as well as windsurfing. While man made surf installations aren’t new (Wave Garden and others have been around for ages) Kelly Slater’s version is possibly the dreamiest, most picture postcard version to date.

Love it or hate you can’t deny the images and videos of the recent WSL pro test event look amazing. And really, what’s not to like? Perfect fun peeling hollow surf on tap. Left and rights sliding through all day long. Fun at the flick of a switch. Some may suggest this isn’t surfing at its purest; doing battle with Mother Nature’s natural offerings is the only way to achieve that. But for those juice starved riders or rippers looking for a consistent training ground the benefits can’t be ignored.

But that’s surfing. What about windsurfing, and in particular wave sailing? Is it possible that one of these facilities could be used for windy shenanigans? After all, with many located outdoors, and therefore open to breeze when it fills in, could there be an opportunity for those with sails protruding from boards to have a stab?

In theory you’d think it doable. So long as a facility was built in a location open to wind then why not. For sure the playing field would be markedly smaller, making transitions such as tacks and gybes and getting into position a tad trickier. Plus there’s a lot of ‘metal work’ with such structures that could potentially prove hazardous. At least with surfing there’s only the board to worry about getting caught up in the ‘working’s’ of manmade wave pools.

The PWA (Professional Windsurfing Association) has already made good use of the Siam Park in Tenerife. Following on from the main event at Cabezo pro riders in years past have been invited to take part in a tow at competition held at the site. Certainly not a location riders could propel themselves towards ramps at full speed, or ride waves unaided (due to the enclosed and sheltered nature of the spot), a decent spectacle has been laid on utilising the Jet Ski assist method for tow at jumping. There’s no reason why this scenario couldn’t be replicated at other artificial wave facilities, thereby increasing the chances of nailing a ‘result’. But is it likely to happen?

We’re sure the option has been discussed, but as with all things it would come down to financial support in terms of sponsorship. The Siam Park tow event was run in conjunction with a traditional wave sailing comp so pros and associated organisational crew, media and such like were already in attendance. Making the sojourn from beach to a spot inland wasn’t quite as much hassle as staging a standalone event.

For anyone who’s seen the indoor windsurfing comps at Bercy, Paris, or London you’ll know how ‘right in the action’ this type of spectacle can be – great for spectators = great for the sport. We also have it on good authority, however, just how tricky these events can be to run. Adding any type of wave to mix may prove trickier still.

So in theory these manmade wave pools could be utilised for windsurfing competition of some sort. Whether any would be truly ideal for ‘proper’ wave sailing action is out for debate. Tow at jumping events certainly work but it’d be nice if there was a way of getting some wave riding in the mix. Ultimately it all comes down to funds and whether any entity would be willing to stump up. And would something like this simply be seen as a sideshow to traditional wave sailing comps? Food for thought we’re sure you’ll agree…