What’s It Really Like To Surf A Wavepool?

What’s It Really Like To Surf A Wavepool?

There are a number of different wave pools out there at the moment, from the 5 waves concept, the Kelly Slater Wave Ranch and the various versions of the Wavegarden Cove model.

So we tracked down one of the members of the Surfing Doctors, who managed a good session at the Urbnsurf Pool in Melbourne.

The Urbnsurf technology allows for up to 1,000 waves per hour, and it also has the notorious Beast Mode, that everyone asks for and that most people get scared of as soon as they see it.

The latest version of the Wavepool Cove technology is actually the Alaïa Bay pool that is going to open this Spring in Switzerland. Bigger waves, better shape, more perfect and a Beast Mode like no other. Founded by a young surfer called Adam Bonvin, the Alaïa Bay facility might just be the next big thing in wave pools.

It is based on the 46 modules, or motors that the Urbnsurf pool is based, and the same one that Mark Wilson, surfed before the initial lockdown.

We gave Dr Wilson a call, to get the official run-down of surfing at Urbnsurf.

Dr Mark carving on the left

Hey Dr Wilson. Tell us, What sort of doctor are you?

I am a Gastroenterologist, and usually get called Dr Mark. 

When did you visit the Melbourne Urbnsurf facility?

I visited Urbnsurf in Melbourne in March of last year, which ended up being just before lockdown started.

What was the thing that most surprised you when you got there, before you paddled out?

I turned up it was in the dark to this massive complex with people lining up which looked like a theme park. Then they turned on the waves while we were getting ready and these perfect lefts and rights started rolling through the pre-dawn under lights. That’s when the excitement really started.

What was the biggest surprise when you got in the water and started surfing?

The amount of water moving around was the biggest difference, in a relatively small space with up to 18 other people. As the waves move through the line up you bob up and down with the other people in the channel next to a wire mesh, waiting for your first wave. 

The right, looking good.

How did your first couple of waves go? 

It was pretty fun trying to get used to the wave. About halfway through the wave, the bottom drops out and it gets more hollow. That’s where the fun really starts.

How long did it take you to ‘acclimatise’? 

It took 2-3 waves to really start to get a feel for it, and people get at least 10 waves in an hour-long session. 

What was the biggest notable difference to surfing in the ocean?

The closer you could get to the wall on take-off the better, which was a bit intimidating at first. It also all happens pretty quickly: the wave pops out from under the back wall and you’re paddling and taking off almost in one movement. In the ocean, you can see the wave coming from further away. The other main difference is the power seems to be at the curve in the base of the wave, not in the lip. I got caught too high on the wave a number of times working this out.

What board did you ride and did it work?

On the right, I rode my favourite small wave epoxy board, a 5’9” Mayhem V3 Stealth. I’d heard epoxy helps in wave pools and it went well out there. On the left, I rode a 6’0” Mayhem Pocket Rocket, which felt a touch long. 

The left, grinding…

Did you get barrelled, did you feel that your surfing was solid? In other words, did the pool bring out the best of your surfing?

There are so many barrels, that was the best bit. Every wave on advanced mode barrelled. It just depends on whether you can come out. The barrel is a little more stationary and sucks hard, so you have to point your nose towards the beach or risk a trip over the falls. I got more barrels in one session at the pool than I got in one of my best sessions of the year in the ocean.

Anything you would change in your normal go-to board as opposed to a ‘pool board?’ Some people say you need more float, others say that power of the wave overrides the need for more volume?

I’d go epoxy and not too long. The curves seem a little smaller so the length is not really needed. I also wouldn’t want to go too wide in the tail so it still holds in the barrel. 

Did you have any wipe-outs that registered? Hit bottom hit the wall etc

I got owned. On my last wave on the first right session, I went over the falls and cracked the rail of my epoxy which put that out of action for the day. Then on the last wave of the left session, I got caught high and came down with the lip and knocked my fins out. 

How physical was it? How many sessions did u surf in a day and how tired were you afterwards?

I’d say at least 2 sessions in a day is ideal. Any more than 3 would be pushing it. 

What level did you surf? Did you have a go at Beast and how was it?

I surfed advanced mode which warms up into modified Beast mode, which seemed heavy enough. They now have Expert sessions with Beast mode. Each session takes a little while to warm up.

Dr Mark, whipping it off the top.

Did you think its value for money?

Each surf was $79 per hour +/- flights +/- damaged boards. My visit was an expensive day for me but I had heaps of fun. Given the number of barrels, you’d have to argue it’s value for money. 

What was the water like and what wetsuit did you wear?

It was March and an early so I wore a 3/2 without boots which was good. Later in the day, people were in short arms and springsuits.

Any advice for someone going for their first time?

I’d suggest booking at least 2 sessions in a day, and taking a number of boards. Going with mates is fun, especially if you get to hoot them going over the falls then laugh about it over a beer later. Take shorter, epoxy boards if you can, but ideally one that holds in the barrel. Be prepared to get very barrelled, but also to take a trip or two over the falls. I am definitely going back.


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