The Future of Surfing
Whether for surf parks, waterparks, or cutting-edge research institutions, AWM is driven by an innovation imperative. With a legacy and deep roots in the surfing tradition, President and Founder Bruce McFarland and his team are committed to developing and producing only the highest quality wave systems to deliver authentic surf and experiences.
Q & A with Bruce McFarland, President & Founder, American Wave Machines, Inc.
Could you give a basic explanation of the technology?
The technology originated with multiple shapes put into a stream of water to make a standing wave pop up. This is basically the same phenomenon as a big rapid in a river. You ride it facing upstream. The wave doesn’t move position, so you can ride endlessly. The technology has made jumps now to create about five different types of waves in the same system. By controlling the water and our stream channel we can make very stable beginner waves, very natural standing waves which are deeper and more challenging, and the ultimate barreling waves – rights, lefts, or both at once.
What did you set out to design – did you want to create an experience where you could use a real surfboard?
Yes. I’ve surfed for 40 years. I like it. It’s really fun. The coasts of many countries are now fully saturated with surfers at the surf spots.
Riding SurfStream on a real surfboard provides a huge part of the fun and skill progression that you get surfing in the ocean. I was confident that the quality of the experience on our artificial waves using our technology would be appreciated by those seeking to offer surfing in a business venue environment, whether it’s a resort, waterpark, or surf park. This has turned out to be exactly the case. It took our combination of engineering and surfing experience to get it right.
Is it easier to learn to surf on this than in the sea?
Yes. The standing up and riding part is much easier on SurfStream. The beginner can focus on foot placement and balance immediately and rapidly get the feeling of gliding over water on a surfboard.
Surfing in the sea is great, but requires many skills to be learned prior to being able to surf. Ocean based surf schools are also seeing congestion and limited venue opportunities due to their popularity.
What are the differences between PerfectSwell and SurfStream?
Very simply, PerfectSwell is a patent pending travelling wave generator, as is common in waterparks and more generically called “wave pools” or “surf pools”. The wave is created at one end and travels and breaks in the pool.
Surfers and bodyboarders must learn to paddle in and pop up. Length of ride is determined in part by the length of the pool. Though wave generators have many old and some new developments we discovered that the fundamental property of ocean waves was missing in the technology of all the current suppliers. It’s like the difference between a tidal bore wave and a wind generated wave. Wind generated waves are what we surf on in the ocean. We invented a wind over water “horn” alongside our submerged PerfectSwell generator which is on permanent operating display at Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific in Southern California. When we developed the idea in larger scale we found that the quality of wave in the pool improved dramatically without increasing the cost profiles of the equipment or the pool. We can make good waves in systems without as much power and cost as the common systems. Like SurfStream the product has been developed to provide all sorts of conditions with the same system.
SurfStream, on the other hand is an endless standing wave made by continuously pumping water in a recirculating pool and channel system. It has a much smaller footprint and ride length is not limited by pool size. It’s great for a dedicated surfing and bodyboarding system. We can also tune it for kayaking and wake boarding.
Where do you see the company going?
It’s important to “live the life” of surfing and not just sell it. I think our near term goal is to get a US surf venue online that’s a great place to hang out, and profit from. Of course, a chain of worldwide surf and water sports parks numbering in the hundreds or even thousands is not unrealistic. Surfing in the Olympics? Why not.