Art Study: 3D printing wave pools with Dennis Harroun

Dennis Harroun spent the entire pandemic in the desert dreaming up and making wave sculptures to pass the time and retain as much sanity as possible. As a kid he learned to surf on The Big Island before being relocated to Albuquerque New Mexico. So he spent as much time as possible at a local wave pool getting thrashed about just so he could feel some wave energy. That water park is now gone so he’s patiently waiting out the days until he can jump into a proper wave pool to go surfing.

First, tell us briefly about yourself and your art study.
I was raised in both New Mexico and The Big Island of Hawai’i. I grew up mostly in Hawaii where I began bodyboarding and spending a good chunk of my time in or near the ocean…that’s sorta where this all began. That and “The Beach” a waterpark here in Albuquerque that I spent many summers at as well…and yes it had a wave machine! A glorious screeching mechanical beast that I could, by then, bravely face while many of my desert-dwelling peers faced certain death had they attempted. (Kids here aren’t forced to swim like we were in public schools in Hawaii for instance). The Beach remains a relic Albuquerque residents who grew up here fondly remember and many here still want another wave pool to replace it.

I managed to capture the shape of the waves we tend to see in wave pools and surprisingly after doing this and so many ocean waves in 3D, I’ve realized how different the human-made and ocean-made waves can be.

Who are your influences?
My influences as an artist are vast but in recent years and even in high school I have found waves to take the cake on my focus. I think like many, it’s something you did in your youth and were forced to leave via family, jobs, school, etc. And I was lucky enough to return to my old local break Pohoiki in Hawaii not too long ago and it was right before the volcano essentially covered this beach in 50 feet on lava. I consider that the moment when I realized the wellspring of ideas I had from my time surfing and it’s only continued to drive me to capture the beauty of waves in sculptures since. I guess it’s my rock if you will but water, so it’s more fun to work with.

What medium do you work in?
My initial interest in high school had me doodling waves over assignments while I daydreamed of getting tubed in aquamarine gems in rocky reef breaks. Then later I began sculpting waves in clay which I still have and consider another sign I should probably see this as something in me. Fast forward to my art now and it’s evolved to merge with my non-oceanic passions that my landlocked life rewarded me. I went to art school and sought to become a 3D animator and while for a while I excelled at it I always thirsted for something different within the realm of computer graphics and art. That’s where 3D printing came in. I soon began printing in transparent resins and was looking to make the best use of its transparent qualities. I now work with full-color transparent 3D printing and it’s allowed me to create near-life-like wave sculptures with everything from fish to reef details and their colors in one single print. I spent the entire pandemic in the desert dreaming up and making wave sculptures to pass the time and retain as much sanity as possible.

Dennis says that The Beach ran into all sorts of issues from health code violations to leaks and then there were lawsuits related to injuries. It sat empty for a few years then got bulldozed. TopGolf sits dab smack where the old wave pool was. The Beach was also a lightning rod. Authorities closed it whenever storms rolled through.

Tell us about your jaunts to BSR
That was right after they installed their new ozone system and yeah the place smelled strongly of a blender on full speed! It was wild. Despite the costs, I recognize the way these are evolving and maybe, maybe the tesla model can be expedited! Made cheaper faster so more can get this stoke and possibly break away from our collective screen addictions. I’ll let the experts figure out the economics but one can hope a public option isn’t a pipedream. I think any good surfer would simply want that and it’s always been how I was treated as a sponger in Hawaii. Aloha and surfing were born of the same time and people let’s not forget! I really hope these wave pools can and do bring kids the kind of hope and escape they did and do for me. I beg the entire industry to keep these ideas in them as they proceed on these beautiful creations of computational and industrial might. I think as I’ve said before it’s how we secure this industry a future and I’m fully on board to ride them with everyone, everywhere and all the time.