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Published on October 16th, 2013 | by Jacob Kelly Quinlan

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The Perfect Wave at Any Cost?

When the invite came in to speak at the Surf Park Summit some months ago, Neil and I were absolutely stoked to have the chance to present the idea of the Surf Anywhere project to a room full of people so stoked on surfing that they are trying to replicate the forces of nature at any cost. We walked into the event that morning with the same butterflies you get when paddling out in a big swell. With an impressive list speakers from surf legends to wave builders, we knew this was the big leagues. I kept my head up and went to work with the business cards. At one point I reviewed the Surf Anywhere mission a couple of times for extra courage.

The venue couldn’t have been any better. Located in Laguna Beach California in a classy art gallery, the place was decked out with surf art, a collection of vintage/antique boards, and paintings by surf artist Drew Brophy. The vibe made the whole experience feel a little more like home.

I realized, the presenters were selling their dream just as much as I was.

When the hosts let us know the event was about to begin I was happy to grab my seat and see what was ahead. The event started with Glenn Hening, Surfrider Foundation co-founder, talking about how they were thinking about wave parks even before Surfrider was founded in 1984. Then PT Townend stepped up to the plate with a presentation called six decades in the pool. A surf legend talking about the attempts of making a successful surf park for the last sixty years and how he surfed every one of them. We heard from Tom Lochtefeld, the owner of Waveloch (famous for their Flowrider) talking about new technologies he’s working on. The conclusion of his talk was pretty much we haven’t seen him release a true surf wave because it’s not economical or sustainable to power the technology. Lochtefeld said he has put the majority of his time in this later part of his career into inventing a motor that is efficient enough to generate the ocean style waves he is trying to create.

As I sat and listened to everyone talk about the patents they were trying to secure, IP, and the feasibility of Surf Parks I realized the presenters weren’t here to go over business models or ask for investments, they were selling their dream just as much as I was.

The Perfect Wave at Any Cost?

If building wave parks is the key to creating the perfect wave, at what cost does it come? For me three things make surfing like nothing else I have ever experienced:

Firstly surfing is incredibly addictive. In an article by Jenna Goldberg, she points out that the feeling of stoke could be based on simple psychology. Because we never know the quality of the waves in a day it works like an unexpected rewards system. So even though we get skunked from time to time and some times go weeks without a good swell, it’s actually part of the reason surfers get so stoked. If you had a perfect wave to surf every day that stoke would be replaced with something else.

Secondly surfing has a connection to nature. Hearing the owner of KBS talk about pumps and the science of moving great volumes of water it made me appreciate just how powerful the ocean is. I’m sure no surfer needs to attend a Surf Park Summit to experience this, just trying to get behind the break on a stormy day or going over the falls is more than enough to drive this point home. But there’s something almost spiritual about waiting for your set wave and reseting your internal clock to the rhythm of mother nature.

Last but not least surfing is free. All you need is a board and maybe a wetsuit (especially for us Canadians) and you’re set. Every day in the surf is a good day. It doesn’t matter if the waves are ankle high or perfect head high barrels, it’s always a good time. As soon as you start charging admission for waves people expect to get their moneys worth. Does that not take some of the pure happiness out of the equation?

I’m happy that river waves still run seasonally and I don’t know exactly what the wave is going to be like when I get there.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it is not my intent to trash this incredible event that I was more than grateful to attend. Matt Riley and John Luff did an amazing job of bringing everyone together and putting on a kick ass event. But because this is a river surfing magazine, I think most of you may agree with some of the things I have to say. River surfing honestly changed my life. I love that I’m part of the sport in its early years. I love exploring new waves, meeting other stoked river surfers, and being part of a project that will bring river waves to a huge number of communities around the world. I’m happy that river waves still run seasonally and I don’t know exactly what the wave is going to be like when I get there. I feel so incredibly blessed that so many of the rivers I surf are running through a beautiful backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. Most of all, I love that river surfing is free.


Brought to you by

Jacob Kelly Quinlan

A founding member of the Surf Anywhere Project, Jacob loves exploring new waves, meeting stoked river surfers, and hopes to make it easier to surf anywhere in the world. Beyond that, Jacob's passion is community and is a pioneer of river surfing culture.



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