Wave pool company Westlake banking on the family surf set
When it comes to media and surfing these days it’s all about gargantuan airs, the largest waves and longest barrels. Along with a few spine-tingling and face slapping wipeouts to really round out the experience. It’s all epic achievements and entertaining fails. But where’s the middle ground that most of us actually inhabit on the performance index?
Wave pools are selling an experience. From a business perspective, catering to the largest amount of customers is going to bring success. Showing only heavy slabs in your digital assets might scare off the average surfer.
Westlake Wave co. is creating technology marketed to developers wanting an “every person” pool. The San Diego company is offering two main waves, a Lowers-like left and right and a Waikiki style roller – waves the majority of surfers and soon-to-be surfers seek.
To find out if a wave technology sans Beast Mode will fly, WavePoolMag spoke with Westlake Wave co. The team is comprised of Oriol Vicente, formerly of Kelly Slater Wave Co. and Wave Loch, head tech whizz and mechanical engineer Dr. John Dascomb and investment specialist Kristina Chang.
So you’re aiming for the beginner to intermediate market and not chasing ‘beast’, ‘slab’ and ‘pro’ wave settings and market – why?
We want to create a family-friendly experience that everyone, from complete novices to experienced surfers, can enjoy. We believe that there is a significant void in the marketplace for this. The Surf Ranch is difficult and intimidating to surf. The takeoff at Wavegarden and American Wave Machines pools is tricky and can be frustrating for inexperienced surfers. While the size of these waves can be reduced for learners, their reefs are designed for barrels. The wave and the overall experience are not specifically designed with the novice surfer in mind, and this is where we see our facility differentiating itself while also being fun for intermediate and advanced surfers.
How do your costings, tech, build and training compare to other wave pool operators?
There are two things we believe are critical drivers to the success of our business. First, deliver the best family surfing experience on the planet. Second, an economic model that allows real estate developers to make their money back in the first few years. We arrived at an ideal wave height of 4.6 feet [and is] priced between $6 – 8 million for 2 pools. Our technology can be scaled to deliver bigger waves and [we] can design reefs for more advanced surfing, but the sweet spot between quality-fun waves and responsible economics is in that 4.5-5ft range.
You’re using a paddle-powered system as opposed to the (currently) more common pneumatic ones. Why is this?
Paddles have many advantages over pneumatic systems (aka Caissons). The first is they can generate waves in two pools. Doubling the surfing capacity dramatically improves the economics for facility owners. Construction costs are less because paddles don’t require reinforced concrete chambers. And operating costs are less because paddles are more energy efficient.
How accessible are your components to be serviced/repaired?
Paddles are not an experimental technology where the kinks still need to be worked out. Paddles have been used in research wave pools for over 30 years. The system is extremely reliable and robust. We use 40 identical paddle modules, each independently powered and controlled. The system can generate waves even if there are a few paddles requiring maintenance.”
What’s the frequency of waves for each pool?
Each pool will generate around 200 waves per hour depending on local wind conditions. There’s also the option of running at a higher frequency with smaller waves. With smaller waves being more profitable. Our recommended system is a 25m (82ft) wide generator which provides a 10-12 second ride length with a 1.4m (4.6ft) wave.
Why did you adopt a separate two-pool system?
Our decision to adopt a dual pool system was purely economic. For an incremental price, we could add a second basin and double the surfing capacity thus reducing the payback period. As real estate developers, we know that every site is different. While the prototype is a right on one side and a left on the other, we have the ability to offer any mix of configurations.
What can you tell us about your current project in Brazil?
We have to wait until our partners in Brazil are ready for a public announcement to give specifics, but we can tell you that it will be a public facility in a densely populated urban setting. We are excited at the prospect of being the first artificial wave located not near but in a large city. This is only possible because of our smaller footprint. While the Brazilian-based owners aren’t providing any details yet on completion or opening date, we’ll let you know as soon as we hear anything.
Any other projects on the horizon?
We are actively negotiating six other projects.
More info on Westlake Wave Co can be found here