There are many man-made waves in the world. The best are mistakes.
Humans are funny when it comes to creating artificial waves. When we try to make man-made waves purpose, we mostly end up dumping tons of sand and material and money into the ocean, to little effect: Chevron Reef in El Segundo in 2000, New Zealand’s Mount Reef in 2008, Bournemouth, England in 2009, Kovalam, India in 2010. Millions of dollars + tons of concrete and material = bupkis. None of these attempts at making an artificial surfing reef succeeded at producing anything other than anger and litigation and bad press. Some attempts so bad; even these purpose-built waves are often considered mistakes.
To wit: Humans are terrible at creating artificial reefs to shape perfect waves, in the ocean.
The funny thing is, we are amazing at creating surfing waves by accident. Any surfing wave with the word jetty, pier, harbor mouth, or inlet in its name is most likely man-made. A select few of these man-made waves have made it to the top of their class, even among the naturally occurring waves: Ala Moana Bowls, Newport Wedge, Santa Cruz Harbor, Santa Barbara Sandspit and Reef Road are a few examples of great, accidental man-made waves.
Once upon a time, First Peak was on that list.
And then there’s the greatest mistake of all: The Superbank on the Gold Coast of Queensland, Australia. One of the best waves in the world is the unintended consequence of a sand-dredging scheme that surfers protested to high heaven. Millions of dollars and cubic tonnes of sand dredged from the Tweed River were dumped at the top of Greenmount Point – home to several surf breaks from Snapper Rocks to Kirra.
When the sediment settled, a giant sandbar linked the entire point together. Welcome, Superbank. Fumbling, the bumbling human produced a spectacular wave that brought millions of dollars to the local economy. Make those hundreds of millions of dollars. Mistakes are worth a lot of money.
Not a single great man-made wave included surfing science in its original design.
When we use the phrase “accidental, man-made waves” we are referring to the great surfing waves found in the sea. For example, when the Superbank or Ala Moana Bowls are firing, those waves are great. We’re talking about these man-made waves. The word great is italicized in this context because there are purpose-built man-made surfing waves in existence. These man-made waves are (whisper) the artificial surfing reefs. Designed and built on purpose, waves shaped by artificial surfing reefs remain overshadowed by nearly every other decent surfing wave in the world. In other words, artificial surfing reefs have not yet created great surfing waves.
Speaking of purpose-built waves, we should mention wave pools. Yes, we’ve seen Kelly’s wave and the wave in Austin Texas. Regarding technology with a purpose, these waves are truly inspirational. But on a good day do they rival the man-made mistakes found in the ocean? Regardless, we think this new found surfing wave technology should inspire us to look at man-made ocean waves in a whole new light. Nowadays we definitively know how to make great surfing waves.
Let’s take accidental man-made waves to the next level.
At the First Peak Project, we want to create a purpose-built surfing wave that (at a minimum) rivals an accidental wave. Armed with our present day collective knowledge of surfing science, and with the lessons learned from artificial surfing reefs and wave pools, we have a formula for creating a great surfing wave. It’s also worth mentioning that the tools we have for studying waves today are different than the tools of the past. When people dynamited navigation channels open, back six or seven decades ago, they didn’t even use computers! Today, supercomputers make a big difference in how we study, design and build surfing waves. Think about that.
Can you imagine bringing back First Peak on purpose?
First Peak used to exist. What’s more, originally it was created by mistake. Then it disappeared by accident. There is no reason why we should not be able to go back and restore it on purpose. Not entertaining this opportunity would be an injustice to our present state of technology and to our current understanding of surfing waves.
Notwithstanding, First Peak at Sebastian Inlet existed in many different accidental forms throughout its history. With every modification of the north jetty, some characteristic of First Peak changed, including its present state of non-existence today. There is a purposeful solution for bringing back First Peak. Our mission is to find that solution.
Let’s have a conversation on purpose.
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