Repost: Insight into Kelly’s wave from salted historian Matt Warshaw

We’re reposting last year’s interview with surfing’s favorite historian and author of the Encyclopedia of Surfing (or EOS as it’s known to those over the age of 40) Matt Warshaw.

The EOS is into another round of funding to keep surfing’s history a living, growing entity. Most of the funds will go to recording and digitizing all the loose scraps of surf culture floating around out there.

“We’re still doing the non-sexy stuff: digitizing movies and videos, scanning old surf mags, tagging, keywording, databasing,” says Warshaw. “The preservation work isn’t glamorous, but it’s the most important thing EOS does. We have to grab this stuff now. When the last analog version of a surf movie or magazine disappears or is forgotten, that’s it, game over, kiss it goodbye.”


Matt Warshaw is the author of the Encyclopedia Of Surfing (follow this link because we like Matt and he’s done a lot for the sport) and had the chance to surf Kelly’s wave pool during a “media day” put on by the WSL and the Surf Ranch. The only catch was that the “media day” required the media not to do any reporting on the pool. In one of those bizarre situations that can only happen in Putin’s Russia or the WSL media tent, everyone signed non-disclosure agreements stating they wouldn’t share what their experience was like. These non-disclosure forms have just expired so you, dear reader, get to hear one of the greatest minds in surfing give his two cents worth Kelly’s Wave Pool.

Wave Pool Magazine: How many pools have you surfed in?

Matt Warshaw: Just Kelly’s, but I was poolside at the Allentown debacle in 1985.

What’s your initial takeaway? 

Wavepools were a joke, a novelty, harmless, until Wave Garden, which looked amazing in a sex-robot kind of way, except the wave was too small to make me think it was the end of the world. That didn’t happen until Kelly’s wave.

Share with us your biggest triumph surfing kelly’s wave pool

I was so perfectly sedated and caffeinated while waiting for my first wave at Surf Ranch that touched the hem enlightenment’s trailing gown. Ativan, beta blockers, and four espresso shots. I was so worried a couple weeks beforehand that I was going to miss the wave or go over the handlebars or othewise kook out, but when the moment came I was glowing and almost levitating. I actually did kook out, but at least made the takeoff.

Share with us your biggest kook moment in a wave pool

Dave Prodan told me the pool needed a small adjustment and sent back to Lemoore to buy a left-handed monkey wrench and I totally fell for it.

What are some of the more subtle details about surfing kelly’s wave pool? (smell, noise, atmosphere, mosquitos… anything)

It’s difficult to surf because you only get a little bit of information about the wave ahead of you. On an ocean wave, your brain is number-crunching the next section at a billion bits per second or whatever, and you respond to that data. At Surf Ranch you’re just trying to remember what everybody told you beforehand. Don’t cut back. Don’t high-line it. It’s almost like a stationary wave in that respect, except of course you’re going really fast down toward the far end of the pool.

“On an ocean wave, your brain is number-crunching the next section at a billion bits per second or whatever, and you respond to that data. At Surf Ranch you’re just trying to remember what everybody told you beforehand.” – Matt Warshaw

If pools were around when you were a grommet what would’ve changed about your surfing past?
If pools were around when I was a grommet I would have ridden the shit out of them, then probably quit surfing in college, like I did with skateboarding.

Could a pool become part of your routine as a surfer? 

I’ve been flipping back and forth on this question for weeks. I would have said “No” last month, but I really want to go ride the Waco pool. But in general I see wavepools as the end of surfing as we’ve known it. Surfing won’t die of course, but what it means to surf, and how surfers think of themselves, and how they’re thought of by others, will be changed. The sport, and the people who do it, will become less fringe, less interesting, more mainstream. It was always going to go that way I guess. I’m glad I got to do it fully on the natural.

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