Not all heroes wear capes. Meet the guy who guarantees that the stoke machine keeps on firing

Should the wave machine at the world’s longest wave outside of Kelly’s tank stop for whatever reason, the multimillion-dollar marvel of engineering would suddenly be transformed into a very large, oddly shaped swimming pool. Which is still, in its own unique way, interesting. But let’s face it, waves make everything more fun. Fortunately, there is one human at the helm to ensure the surf keeps pumping.

Bryan Hur is the caretaker of the wave machine and team manager of maintenance and safety at Wave Park. This includes the wave generators and water equipment that runs the water treatment system. In his past life he kept an entire amusement park running. He clued us in on how maintenance for a wave generator is different from maintenance on a rollercoaster, log ride, and much more.

What is the most challenging part about maintaining a machine like this?

Our wave generator is kind of new, and this is the first system of its kind in Korea. So that is a challenge. Also, when I got here I didn’t know much about surfing. I had to learn about surfing and also I had to completely understand this machine that is brand new to the world. So yeah, getting to know surfing and this new machinery quickly was a challenge.

I understand that when you started this journey you worked a lot with the people from Wavegarden. Can you tell us about that?

Before I got here and before the installation I visited the Wavegarden facility. I also visited The Wave in Bristol. So I tried to see what kind of machines these are. And I was asking what were the important things to know before the installation so I could prepare and study these kinds of things. I was communicating every single day with the engineers and learning this new system.

What kind of background in engineering do you have?

I majored in electrical engineering. But before I got here, I worked at Samsung Overland, which is, like, the biggest theme park in Korea. I was with the maintenance team for the attractions. So I have 10 years of maintenance experience for all the attractions like a rollercoasters and those kinds of things.

Everyone is depending on Bryan to do his job to ensure that sessions go uninterrupted.

How is maintenance on a wave generator different from maintaining a rollercoaster?

At a theme park there are so many attractions. So if one is down for whatever reason, it’s okay. It’s like we can ask them to use the other attractions first and we can give them some “no queue/line” coupons or things like that. And we can just ask visitors to use other things while we fix the problem. But the thing is here, we have only one machine. If it’s down, it’s really critical. So the most challenging thing is that we have zero time. I mean, zero downtime. It needs to get fixed right away.

It sounds stressful. Is it stressful?

Of course, yeah. Because, like, if it’s down so many people are inconvenienced and we get a lot of complaints, you know, and of course our operating team will take care of those through customer service. So if I mess up I put a lot of stress on other people. So it’s the greatest challenge actually.

Looking at a roller coaster, pretty much anyone waiting in line can look at it and say, ‘okay, there’s the engine, the chain, it brings the cars to the top and gravity does the rest.’ It’s a rather obvious device. Is a wave machine more complicated?

Well, some. A rollercoaster is not in the water. So I can get down there. I can see it quickly without any problems. It’s like no big deal actually. But in this one, if it’s something in the water it’s not easy to fix it. Those kinds of things are a challenge. But other than that, this machine is quite simple.

“If the machine is down, so many people are inconvenienced. So if I mess up I put a lot of stress on other people. So that is the greatest challenge actually” – Bryan Hur

You had to learn to surf as part of your job. The crew from Wavegarden helped you out with that?

I’ve no experience with surfing and surf culture, things like that. But the thing is, I’m taking care of the wave generators and I have to know if this machine is working fine or not. With a roller coaster I know if it makes little different noises than usual or something like that. So I have to write it down and test it and then, ‘okay, the vibration is different’ or something like that. And here at the wave pool I have to know surfing. And then what wave generator sounds are normal or not. Those kind of things. Sometimes, like, I can hear in the machine room, but then I have to also listen in the water as well. So I try to learn to surf a little bit to know these things. So in the beginning, I didn’t know anything about surfing, so it was quite a challenge. It was really difficult. But yeah, it’s like now I’m getting used to it.

So what was your impression of surfing? You came at it backwards. Most people see it and want to take a lesson and learn how to surf. But you were forced into it?

I love these kind of sports. I want to try everything. So it was was fun learning new sports and learning new things. I tried a lot of sports, but surfing was, I think, the most difficult one. And it had the slowest learning curve. So it was kind of tough, actually. But everybody told me ‘Oh, if it was in the ocean it would take you ten years to learn.’ But it’s easier here. I’ve been surfing for about three years. I like it and I’m still having fun.

POV water view at Wave Park
POV clear blue water view at Wave Park. Image Emily Nishimoto

What is the best thing about your job? What you love about your job.

The environment is always really lively. Everybody’s happy at this kind of place. It’s like, you know, I’m not working at a hospital. If I’m a doctor or a nurse, I have to see people in pain all the time. But here I can see all the happy people all the time. So I really like this kind of job, actually.

That’s great. Is there is there anything else you want to share about your job or about that I might have missed?

I see a lot of shortborders here and you don’t see shortborders in the Korean Ocean, actually. So that is quite interesting. I mean, I was kind of surprised. Also the ding repair shop is really busy here. Because we have a lot of concrete on the walls and the bottom. Also beginners, we have a lot of beginners here at Wave Park.