Pondering our place and pools during the lockdown
I don’t like to talk about heavy stuff. Extraterrestrial, time-space-continuum stuff, yes, but we’re-all-going-to-die-in-a-pandemic stuff, well, no. And neither does 90% of the world. With the Coronavirus, people are dying. People are out of work. Each news cycle peels back more layers to reveal a medical system and world leaders not adequately prepared to deal with this crisis. Or, to frame it in the words of one prolific and high-profile Twitter user, “this shit totally fucking sucks.”
As our freedoms to do those things we take for granted, like going surfing, tumble in domino sequence our hand is forced to confront heavy, depressing topics. Wave pools are fun. It’s not complicated. WavePoolMag is here to celebrate the fun of surfing in a wave pool. It’s very simple and straight-forward. And it’s really hard to do that now.
During near-total global lockdown people are finding ways to deal: Choking the Netflix stream watching Tiger King or watching wildlife through their kitchen window and, with the options of takeout dwindling, creating new recipes out of found pantry items. Activities that are, at best, distracting. This is the stuff people do when they are hungover or getting over a breakup.
The world’s wave pools, along with everything else, have shut down. We are incredibly fortunate to feel that heavy rock of disappointment in our chests when denied the simple act of surfing. Many people throughout the world are fighting for their lives right now. We are whinging about not sliding along the open face of a wave. But we will survive. Just like those ghostly images of plants growing in a rusty Chernobyl landscape, life returns. Surfing will return. Fun will return.
The hard ask is that no one knows how long this will all last. As humans, we aren’t comfortable with open-ended questions. We like the finite. We like things that are certain – tasks we can solve with extroverted actions the way the Hulk does – “smash virus now!” And these are uncertain times. But we can learn from one group who has grown a thick hide and a ninja-like skillset to deal with big, uncertain things. These are the wave pool makers.
Their stories aren’t as life-or-death as searching the web for a working ventilator. But, wave pool makers and dreamers are by design, a resilient lot. Bruce McFarland, Tom Lochtefeld, Aaron Trevis, Josema Odriozola, Karin Frisch, Andrew Ross, Nick Hounsfield, Stuart Parsons, Greg Webber, Adam Fincham and all the others have faced many moments when everything was on the verge of collapse. A time when their wave-making dreams were about to disappear like family packs of Charmin from a Safeway shelf.
Urbnsurf’s promised Western Australia facility disappeared in the sudden mood swing of a local council. Aaron Trevis spent pre-dean mornings repairing frozen machinery to test pre-Surf Lakes designs. Nick Hounsfield logged 10 years building The Wave in Bristol confronting several points where it all looked like it would fail.
“The mistakes and the knowledge base that we’ve built going into this and the holes we’ve fallen into on the way are too numerous to count,” said Nick in a WavePoolMag interview. “I think it’s more about thinking big and having absolute tenacity. And keep smiling because, my gosh it can really bring you down at times. There will be a lot of people telling you it won’t work. But you just have to go ahead and do it.”
So during these difficult and definitely not fun times, take some inspiration from this unique crew of visionaries. Reflect on what it takes to plop a reeling right and left in the middle of a sheep field. It doesn’t happen overnight. And there will be setbacks. But eventually, we make it.
Think of Josema using a tractor to drag a foil through a pond to produce the first Wavegarden prototype. And, as Nick says, keep smiling because it can really bring you down at times.
WavePoolMag sends wishes of health and sanity during this extremely difficult time. Hang in there. Do the right thing. Fun will return.
Main Image: Altered original of Urbnsurf image by Ed Sloan