Slab Hunting in… Arizona?
The next claim in the wavepool gold rush is currently being prospected in 110-degree heat as new wavepool tech emerges in Arizona, USA.
When Jack Kerouac drove from Tuscon to California — which he would later write about in his semi-autobiographical work On The Road — it cost him “$5” in gas money.
Even adjusting for inflation, it costs significantly more than that now. Arizonans can’t make the drive to surf all that often. Plus, as it stands, “Zonies” only get two months (June and July, it seems) to stay in either Newport or Oceanside, shed their Suns jerseys, put on trunks over their underwear, and try to score what finicky surf there can be in that period.*
But this existential predicament could all change with the advent of Revel Surf Parks — a 37-acre, $280-million “retail and entertainment complex anchored by a surfing lagoon” in Mesa — a suburb of Arizona’s capital city, Phoenix. The eventual vision of the park is to have a “115-room hotel, gym, multiple restaurants, and an indoor action sports center.” The whole complex is under the direction of developer Cole Cannon and the entire place will be known as “Cannon Beach”.
The wave itself is being spearheaded by Matt Gunn (who made a model of the wave in his backyard), John Bushey, and professional surfer Shane Beschen. They run Swell Manufacturing — an Arizona artificial wave start-up. This is their first wave pool project and is thus unproven. Which, is cool — considering it could look different from any other wave pool we’ve seen.
Swell Manufacturing is “based” in Phoenix, Arizona but all the engineering and design is done in Minnesota — where their Head of Tech/Engineering, John Bushey lives. John has four decades of experience in, “unique motion system designs, high-performance hydraulic systems, and wave makers,” but this is his first wave pool specifically designed for surfing.
The wave itself, as you’ll see here, consists of separate chambers with hydraulic presses above them. These separate chambers, Swell Manufacturing says, allow for, “adjustability in wave selection — we can throw anything at you to keep you guessing.” Swell also says that because of this variability, caused by changing how each chamber interacts independently, could allow people to create a “surfing playlist” that changes wave type as the session goes on.
All of which sounds similar to American Wave Machines’ Perfect Swell tech.
The Swell Manufacturing technology was originally described as being an A-Frame — and this could still be the eventual case. But the only clips that have been released as of now show a short, wedgy, slabby right-hander.
I asked Shane Beschen for some insider info on the project.
“Right now what you’re seeing is only half the pool. We have the side walls being built right now for the other half. It’s gonna be twice as wide a pool as you see now. The wave will be an A-frame that breaks in the middle of the lagoon, which will give it a more natural look than other wave pools that break right against the wall. You’ll be able to sit next to your friend and split peaks together. And if you fall or kick out, you’ll just paddle to either one of the channels on the edge of the pool.”
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But, all this pioneering has led to a delayed completion of the park (which we hear a lot from wave pools). It’s also led to many alluring Instagram posts constantly assuring readers that the test wave is only half the size or half the length of the full wave (which we also hear a lot). Revel announced yesterday that they intend to open by Spring 2024.
But, the wave looks very promising. We asked Stab Highway girl boss Zoe McDougall what her experience at the pool was like as she was invited for testing while back.
“It’s really fun, when I surfed it was still the tester wave. I showed up and the whole place was a construction site and the pool was empty and then the next day we were getting barreled,” Zoe said, “It was a super fun little slab when I surfed it, perfect little barrel. I heard there has been some big changes since I’ve been there.”
Any artificial wave that can conjure the precise alchemy necessary to create spit is something that’s worth taking note of. And, much of the “big changes” that Zoe mentioned do have to do with increasing the size and length of the wave, thereby making the slab slabbier and spit more velocitous.
Here’s to hoping they brave the heat, stay within budget, and maintain the water rights necessary to secure a saliva-shooting kegfest 7 driving hours from LA by spring. Better sign up for their mailing list to get the first crack at Memberships, rumor has it they will have a very limited quantity.
*A vestigial benefit of the construction of Revel Surf Park could also be lowering Newport/Oside crowds in both the water and Sancho’s Tacos.
Written by: Christian Bowcutt