12 years ago, we roped together a half-dozen pros and sent them to Dubai to surf what was, at the time, the world’s best man-made wave. Call it a step closer to synthetic surf harmony; call it cushy contra deal for a bunch of mates. The catalyst remains questionable, but it made for a-grade viewing that spawned a classic Tension cut, a heavily choreographed mag cover and a hefty stack of travel insurance claims (broken rib, broken foot, bust knee). It was fun, it was memorable but it wasn’t the game-changer we had hoped – just one of a long list of novelty waves to come.
The real problem with man-made waves is, quite simply, that bodyboarding looks fucking terrible in them. (Don’t believe us? Maybe three minutes of Jeff Hubbard painfully grovelling his way around The Wavegarden will do it for you). They’re either small, lack power or are ashamedly novelty. And we all know that bodyboarding is best showcased in waves of strength, size and substance. Not rolling mush or violent water jets.
Then along came Kelly Slater – that brilliant, shiny-headed surf angel – with an artificial offering that’s so close to what we had always imagined: punchy, hollow reelers, lacking in the height but picking up the slack with pure, punchy, mechanical perfection. And the best part? We don’t have to pretend to like it, because it’s actually good.
The grand rollout commenced: The Future Classic, an invite-only competition that showcased the wave’s versatility; plans approved to build an identical wave pool in Florida, with talks of an expansion into the Olympics; a flood of clips featuring every single famous surfer, and their kids, tearing apart the wave; a barrage of op-eds both praising Kelly’s technology and decreeing it the decapitation of surfing. For the stand-up world, the dust has settled, content well-consumed and lines firmly drawn. But for us, we’re still at square one wondering when we’re going to see a bodyboarder ride the damn thing (and we don’t mean a five-second clip of Flume fudging a roll). For us, we’re still banging at the front gate.
Just as we were about to light up the first molotov and hurl it through our stream of tears, Movement’s Photo Ed received word that a bodyboarder had, in fact, recently been bestowed a golden ticket from the hands of Kelly – not a household name like Stewart or Hardy, but gun Aussie surf photographer, Andrew Potts. Turns out, Pottsy had been invited to shoot the wave pool and scored one of the last waves of the day. We immediately pressed him on all things Kelly’s wave – namely, if there’s video footage of his wave and if we could we have it. Turns out, there is and we do. It ain’t much… but in lieu of a pro scoring an invite and showing us the wave’s true potential, it’s something.
MM: Alright Andrew, let loose – what unspeakable things did you have to do to score an invite to Kelly’s wave?
AP: You can only imagine what had to be done to get in that place [laughs]. Fortunately, through a series of unforeseen events, I was given the opportunity to shoot the wave for a private session at the ranch.
What was it like? Is the wave functional for bodyboarding?
For sure it is! As a less-than-average full-time bodyboarding frother, I'm happy to surf anything that’s handed to me, but I could only imagine what pro riders could do with an endless one minute pitching lip. e had perfect light offshore breezes all day. Wind can play a huge part in conditions at the ranch just like any other wave… but we had perfect conditions all day. I guess we just scored it.
Could you compare it to any wave?
To be 100% honest, it did feel like I was riding a machine; kinda like being a real life character in YouRiding. But if I had to compare it to any other wave, I would say it shows characteristics of the cliche Indo/Maldives.
What’s was the vibe like in the water?
The take off was daunting – Raimana putting the pressure on from the shoulder, a small crowd of 12-15 guys ready to heckle the dick dragger as he bus drives down the line. Nah. Honestly, it was a super easy takeoff with plenty of time to wait for the wave to open up. The right definitely has some more speed down the end section than the left but like anywhere, it’s a new place and you need to read the wave which can be kind of tricky. And there’s plenty of hittable sections for the more experienced boost master. The pros would go crazy all day long. The right-hand end sections are without a doubt the best part of the wave – super fast, wide-open tubes for a good ten seconds. It’s the perfect training facility for anyone looking to better their tube-riding skills.
Did you get to have a decent crack, or was it just the one wave?
Just the one, the last wave of the day. I was even lucky enough to have all-time photog, Pat Stacy, on-hand to shoot some video of me.
Besides that DJ that one time, do you believe you’re the first actual bodyboarder to ride the wave?
I believe so. There’s a framed barrel pic of Flume in the changing rooms which had me pretty amped to get out there. I'm more than stoked to have been one of the first to represent bodyboarding at the ranch, that’s for sure.
Finally, what’s Kelly’s number? Asking for a friend.
For sure. It’s –