World's Largest Wave Machine Planned

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The world’s largest wave-making machine and pool (not counting the world’s oceans) is being planned for Meadowlands in New Jersey, a short drive from Manhattan. According to a surfing industry report, American Wave Machines (AWM) owner Bruce McFarland has announced that his company has been contracted to build a pool that will generate seven-and-a-half foot waves and allow surfers rides from 10 to 12 seconds long in a pool about the size of a football field.

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Boulder Beach wave pool at Silverwood Theme Park in Idaho. (Greg Salter, Wikimedia Commons)

Don’t confuse this with the wave pools in which you may have been jostled around last summer (see the typical water park “washing machine” in the image at right). The common water park wave pool makes lousy waves that are of no use to serious surfers. New facilities by AWM and others have taken artificial surfing to a professional level.

This means the waves have to rise tall, curl, and then break in a hollow manner that creates a moving tube. That is no small engineering feat and there are different approaches to it. There have been all all kinds of ideas and patent applications thrown about in recent years.

Several cresting wave machines already allow indoor and landlocked surfing at wave parks around the world. But it takes a lot of money to build these machines, so it’s a tough thing to get off the ground.

For example, a 5-foot barreling wave with 32-feet of carving face currently under construction at SkyVenture in Nashua, N.H., is costing in the millions to build. The announcement of the surf park in New Jersey has already seen its share of backlash from critics skeptical of the investment. They are also difficult to maintain, as the current closure of the surf pool in Dubai demonstrates.

Still, having access to controlled waves is beneficial for both beginner and more advanced surfers. American Wave Machines is one of the top five companies — along with Wavegarden, Kelly Slater Wave Company, and Webber Wave Pools — developing high-quality waves that may in a decade from now put surfing in the Olympics.

Video: Wavegarden’s demo center in Northern Spain (not open to the public).

Top Image: A young man catches a wave in the water of an artificial wave built as part of a promotional event between Terminal 1 and 2 at Munich’s international airport August 21, 2011. (Michael Dalder/Corbis)