A little thing like the lack of an ocean is no longer going to stop San Joaquin Valley residents from going surfing in their own territory.
There will be shouts of "surf's up" in the valley this summer thanks to operators of the Clovis Lakes recreation area.
The privately run recreation area is spending about $1 million for a machine they say will produce ocean-type wave patterns up to 4 1/2 feet high.
"It won't produce the gigantic waves seen at North Shore in Hawaii, but we'll have some pretty good surfing once the apparatus is in place," said Steve Rodgers, the park's general manager. "It should be adequate for beginning and intermediate surfers and even provide some fun and practice for the experts."
Tests This Month
"We're looking to have the machine assembled and installed so testing can begin by the end of June," said Kathryn Siggers, marketing director at the park. "Then it'll take about two weeks to fine-tune the machine."
She estimates that the first surfers will be riding the waves by mid-July.
The wave machine, which includes five 125-horsepower engines that blow air through a series of valves, will be housed underground at one end of a 23,500-square-foot pool that will accommodate the surfers.
Operators can change the location of the valves to vary the pattern of waves, Rodgers said.
"We'll be able to provide gentle waves for the beginners and some bigger waves for the more experienced surfers," he said.
Rodgers believes once the machine is operational, it will draw a lot of attention.
Save 3-Hour Drive
"There are an awful lot of people who go to Santa Cruz, Morro Bay or other areas on the coast almost every weekend during the summer to get in some surfing," he said. "I'm betting quite a few of them will turn to us because it'll save a three-hour drive and all the other hassle involved in a long trip."
At least one local surfing enthusiast agrees.
"There are a lot of displaced surfers in the valley, and they'll be anxious to try out the new machine," said Dan Dyvig, who manages a surf shop in Fresno. "A lot of guys who go to Fresno State come from beach communities like me, and they'll want to give it a try."
Dyvig, who grew up in San Diego, said he usually drives to Santa Cruz or Morro Bay once a week to surf.
"I'll still go to the coast quite a bit because I'm really into surfing," he said, "but if the beach report says the waves will be flat or I'm a little short of funds, I'll probably try out the machine to see what it's like."
Rodgers said the park will provide surfboards for those who don't have their own.
"We're really expecting to draw a lot of kids and young adults who want to learn how to surf," he said. "We'll provide everything they need to see if they really like the sport before they go out and invest in expensive equipment."