Alt-Board aficionado Harley Ingleby’s surfboard choice for two very different wave pools

Harley Ingleby rides anything he can get his mitts on: mid-lengths, logs, twins, and finless – but mostly quads and longboards. In this piece, he runs us through a few favorite alternative surfboard designs for wave pools, specifically Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch and Urbnsurf in Melbourne.

With the exception of the recent longboard event at The Ranch, the majority of media coming out of wave pools these days shows airs, airs, airs. A level to which 99% of the world’s surfers aren’t likely to soar. And while it’s entertaining to watch, it’s generally done by young surfers with rubber ligaments on one type of board, high-performance thrusters. But look around your local lineup and it’s easy to see the variety of sleds being ridden by surfers of all ages and abilities.

The wave pools around today offer a wide selection of pre-programmed waves, giving you the chance to surf almost any type; fast, slow, fat, peaky or barreling. And the beautiful thing? There’s no wrong board choice. This is where wave pools excel. Offering consistent waves that allow you to increase your surf skills in a tighter curve than surfing in the ocean. And if you pair a board that’s more suited to a particular wave, you’ll reap the benefits.

I spoke with all-board aficionado and 2 x World Longboard Champion Harley Ingleby about his advice and thoughts on different boards for different wave pools. Namely the two pools he’s surfed, The Ranch and Urbnsurf.

How do the two waves, Kelly’s and Urbnsurf, differ?

Surfing Kelly’s pool is like getting a couple of perfect waves at The Superbank to yourself. Urbnsurf is the equivalent of surfing good waves a Duranbah – still fun, a bit peakier and you can catch a lot more waves there in an hour than you can at The Ranch. It’s apples and oranges for sure. Or to put it another way, Urbn is like a punchy beach with waves coming at you non stop and The Ranch is a long perfect point that’s inconsistent. Urbn wraps at you but only has full punch for the first half and Kelly’s is gun-barrel straight and has full power to the end. They’re both an amazing experience!

Which boards have you ridden at each?

I’ve only really longboarded Kelly’s and shortboarded Urbn. I was at Kelly’s with World Surf League as a part of testing day for potential future longboarding events, which was awesome. And to be honest I found it a great wave on my HIHP which is a performance longboard. If we were able to go and just free surf I think the ultimate board would be my Mid 6 channel bottom mid length or one of Billy Tolhursts quad fish’s. The long perfect straight wall just lends itself to a fast down-the-line board that turns well. Urbn is short, intense and wraps at you more. Well, at least it is on the Beast Mode which I have mostly surfed. So that’s why I rode a fairly high-performance quad fish there.

alternative boards for wave pools include longboards
Alternative board shapes for wave pools include longboards, which Ingleby prefers for wave pools like the Kelly Slater Surf Ranch. Photo KSWCo.

Watching the recent longboard event at Kelly’s pool, it looked as if the wide-tailed longboards were having a hard time compared to the narrower-tailed boards, both in single fin and 2+1 fin setups. Your thoughts?

Yeah, I agree. I don’t think the wave setting they were competing on was very well suited to the guys who tried to stick with the flip tail noserider style boards but some of the crew did exceptionally well on them. You could tell the surfers who chose more suitable equipment and weren’t fighting the wave, especially on the barrel sections.

Which settings have you tried at each pool?

I believe it was CT 2 and/or 3 at Kelly’s and Beast Mode and Turns 6 at Urbn. There is no doubt Kellys is a world-class wave. Wave for wave it’s the best pool in the world right now but I haven’t spoken to anyone who’s been there that didn’t want to catch a bunch more waves [though this is likely true for any wave pool]. Urbn, while being a shorter wave, is also more intense. I have left there being surfed out both times and it’s a high watching 6-12 wave sets roll through consistently.

alt surfboards for wave pools
Harley Ingleby’s choice for Urbnsurf is a quad as it allows him to fit in the tube easier. Photo Urbnsurf

What are your thoughts on fin setups for different wave settings? Seeing you’ve a tighter pocket to play with than most ocean waves.

Quads for the win in my opinion. They have all the hold, speed and love a barrel. Also, I find having a little more fin than less is good in the freshwater. More to push off!

Do you see the need for specific boards to surf wave pools? Or are people overthinking it?

Probably overthinking it for the most part. I think most people heading to a pool like Urbnsurf or Kelly’s should just surf their favorite board they’d normally ride at a similar style wave in the ocean. One less thing you need to try to work out. And they have done an amazing job of replicating what waves behave like in the ocean. That said I think the future of surfing in pools could head in many different directions. Knowing exactly where the wave is going to break means you could ditch a lot of volume if you wanted.

How do you think wave pools can improve moving forward?

Just get bigger! It’d be insane to roll into an Urbnsurf style Beast that you could stand in with your hands above your head. Or if Kelly’s were double overhead it’d start feeling like Jeffreys Bay I’d imagine. I hope it gets to that level in my lifetime.

Not a fan of extra foam? If you’re dedicated to your high-performance shortboard, check our previous HPS article here. You can view Harley’s board and fin range by Firewiresurfboards here.