It seems that more and more people are surfing every day, surf breaks are crowded and fighting for waves can be a drag! The other problem for many of us is that the surf is often out of reach or the conditions aren’t always suitable.
Over the past few years we’ve started to see more and more surf wave pools being developed all over the world, as a way to meet the ever growing demand for surfable waves and as the technologies of wave pools become better and better.
While you may think that nothing beats the ocean shore and the crashing of natural waves, a wave pool now comes pretty close in comparison. Mechanical, perfect waves pumping out out one after the other? Sounds pretty good to me.
While the water is chlorinated and the beach is concrete, it’s what happens to the water which is important. Like clockwork, waves appear.
These are ideal for newbie surfers wanting to learn new skills or even those experienced on a board who just want a bit of fun. But how do they create waves?
Let’s take a look at how wave pools work. We will discover the sophisticated and powerful technology that keeps these waves swaying every day.
Waves: how do they work?
Firstly, let’s look at how waves are created in the ocean. The crashing waves that look so inviting for carving and cutbacks are formed by the wind.
Rushing air pushes water molecules together and produces a swell of water at certain points. These molecules then push the molecules next to them in a chain (like a Mexican wave).
Therefore, this disturbance on the water’s surface is passed along while the individual water molecules remain around the same area.
There are various ways to recreate this type of water reaction. All that is needed is a basin of water and a way to produce a continuous or periodic disturbance on the water’s surface.
This can be done with a powerful blast of air rushing along the surface, with an oscillating plunger, or with a rotating paddle wheel like those on steamboats or watermills.
As long as you can push on the water at a certain point, the energy will travel outward and reach the surrounding water. Think about dropping a rock into a body of water. Those ripples you see move away from the rock are miniature waves.
How to make man-made waves
Perhaps surprisingly, the machinery used in the majority of wave pools is pretty simple. We are going to focus on the mechanism behind the creation of waves at Emerald Pointe, North Carolina.
The action all takes place in a pump room below the pool.
A powerful, high-speed fan generates air and blows it into a wide metal pipe. This leads to an exhaust port at the base of the pool. Sometimes, this can be in the form of a structure such as a man-made volcano.
Located in the middle of this metal pipe is a butterfly valve. This is a wide disc that has a swiveling metal axis rod.
As the rod gets swiveled in one direction, the disc will rest horizontally inside the pipe and block the airflow. When the rod swivels in the opposite direction, the disc moves into a vertical position and air then passes.
The rod is moved back and forth by a hydraulic piston at certain intervals. Short rushes of pressurized air then flow up through the exhaust port and the air bursts blow onto the water above and generate a flow of ripples.
This system is one of the best methods for creating small waves but it isn’t as successful at producing larger, surfable waves. To create larger waves, an intense blast of air is required or a considerably strong plunger.
Instead of using this system for larger waves, water parks tend to use water-pumping wave systems to make surfable waves.
Water-pumping systems for large waves
To create a larger wave pool system, a substantial volume of water is dumped into the deep end of the wave pool. This produces a powerful surge in the water that travels all the way to the beach.
As it reaches the beach, the water level will balance out again.
Masses of water is very heavy. Therefore, it has to push very hard to find its own level. The more water you dump in, the bigger the size and strength of the wave will be. And the better it will be for surfing.
Although the idea behind this process is fairly simple, a great deal of equipment is required.
There tend to be five basic components in a wave pool:
- The water pumping system
- The water collection reservoir
- A vast swimming pool with a slanted design
- Numerous release valves located at the bottom of the water collection reservoir
- The return canal that generally leads from the beach to the pumping station
It is important to note that no two wave pools are the same. Depending on the specific system they use, different waves patterns can be produced such as:
- Line waves
- Mixed waves
- Left-sided waves
- Right-sided waves
While the power of these waves can differ depending on the settings of the wave pool, line waves are generally the most commonly used.
These are long waves that form parallel to the beach with the wave’s length equal to the width of the pool. If you want to take your board into one of these pools, these are the waves to wait for.
Wave pools are one of many contemporary inventions that recreate something natural. So many activities can be enjoyed in these pools including surfing.
Although each wave pool is different in shape, design, and how it produces waves, the kind of waves you experience most depends on their systems.
Some may not be suitable or strong enough for surfing but those that are can help take your surfing game to a whole new level.