Wave pool push rekindles stoke for kneeboarding duo in Melbourne

Much of surfing’s past, from inflatable mats to hand-planes to single-fins is being restyled and embraced by the neo-hipster crowd, but kneeboarding remains the odd wave-riding form out. We haven’t seen the resurgence quite like we have for, say, Mid-Lengths. Which is a shame because kneeboarding fits well in the wave pool space.

George Greenough popularized kneeriding in the mid-to-late ’60s, and by the 1970s most ledgy, slabby surf spots around Australia and California had a core crew of kneelos able to navigate the thick lips and tight barrels that standup surfers could not.

During WavePoolMag’s latest trip to Melbourne we met two kneeboarders on their way out for an Advanced session. Curious, we decided to explore how this once-popular form of wave-riding was faring in the era of wave pools.

True, a surf park tube will never be confused with a thick slab like La Jolla’s Big Rock, but the two people I spoke with, Jeff Steven and Jason Bulmer, have found the appeal of waves-on-offer too good to pass up.

Top of Page Image: Jeff Steven enjoying the Advanced setting at URBNSURF. Shown Here: Jason moved to Melbourne in 2016 from Sydney and had taken a long break from surfing. When the wave pool opened up just 15 minutes from his house, he decided to get back into kneeboarding. Photos URBNSURF.

As older surfers (59 and 52 respectively) both had shelved surfing as they moved away from the immediate coast and took on careers. For Jeff, the dry time had been for quite a long time.

“I had actually been out of the water for about 20 years after a move away from the coast to Melbourne,” said Jeff. “Just before COVID arrived I decided to start surfing again. Someone told me about Urbnsurf and to be honest I was skeptical but since it was only 20 minutes from home compared to 90 minutes to Winkipop (the break next to Bells Beach) I thought I’d give it a go. Turns out it was lots of fun and been close to home it’s easy to get waves in whenever I want.”

Both Jeff and Jason surf at URBNSURF at least once per week, but often it’s more.

“I signed up as a member which gives you four sessions per month,” said Jason. “However, I tend to sneak a few extra sessions in. So I probably surf there 6-7 times a month.”

But back to our intro and kneeboarding being inextricably linked to gnarly, ledgy surf. Can URBNSURF sate the crew’s hunger for gnarly waves?

“I love the Advanced setting,” said Jason. “It gives you half an hour of advanced turns and half an hour of slabby barrels, so it’s really the best of both worlds.”

Jason digs the half turns/half tubes programming on offer for the Advanced settings.

Jeff agrees that the Advanced setting has a lot to offer for all facets of kneeriding.

“The advanced has enough power to really push some turns and the half-turns-and-half-barrels is good variety,” he said. “I do find however that if I’m out of form a bit a drop down to intermediate or progressive turns can help as you need to surf right in the pocket. It always helps me get back on track.”

While being close to the pool means more sessions for each surfer, the sight of other kneelos is still relatively rare in a wave pool and most of the kneeboarders they’ve met have been from other parts of Australia. But the two say that once other kneelos hit the water, the stoke factor is high.

“Yes it’s always fun to see other Kneelo’s turn up,” said Jason. “Some from interstate and then sometimes Kneeboard Surfing Victoria have all the lads show up for a complete Kneelo session and that is lots of fun. Plenty of hooting and banter haha.”