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Joe Surf: Witnessing the wave of the future

igarishiwave-jpg-20160511
Huntington Beach’s Kanoa Igarashi rides the lip of a man-made wave at the Kelly Slater Wave Co. wave pool in Central California. Igarashi was one of a few pros invited to try it out.
(Courtesy of Worldsurfleague.com)

Kanoa Igarashi dropped in, threw a snap off the lip and got barreled.

He stayed in that barrel for what seemed like an eternity, emerged and threw another snap off the lip, then got barreled again. Another snap off the lip, back into the barrel and finally an attempt at a 360-degree aerial. Then Igarishi was separated from his board, drawing oohs and ahs from onlookers.

Was it Igarashi down at Lower Trestles? Maybe in one of the three World Championship Tour contests in which he competed in Australia last month?

He couldn’t be back in Huntington Beach at the pier, could he?

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Would you believe it happened in the Central California farming town of Lemoore, south of Fresno?

That’s reportedly the location of Kelly Slater’s wave pool, which he first showed off in a video in December.

A couple of weeks ago, Slater invited Huntington’s Igarashi, defending women’s world champion Carissa Moore, Nat Young and Robert “Wingnut” Weaver to try his “perfect” wave, and they were floored.

Igarashi posted on Instagram: “So stoked to be able to surf @kswaveco. It’ll be a day I’ll never forget for the rest of my life and can’t wait to see how the sport of surfing evolves with this new technology the team made. … I couldn’t believe the perfectness of the wave. #thankskelly for this opportunity to test your masterpiece; it’s going to get even better from here too guys!”

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You can see Igarashi’s ride at www.worldsurfleague.com/posts/201576/kanoa-igarashi?isearch=true&scategory=all.

There has been plenty of talk — both good and bad — in the months since Slater’s wave first was shown. People will be able to surf without having to be near a beach. The Olympics could add surfing. But then there’s the idea that taking the connection to natureout of surfing removes the soul of surfing.

Others have been trying to develop wave pools for years. Former world champion and Huntington resident Peter Townend helped Disney develop a wave pool at Typhoon Lagoon in Orlando, Fla., about 30 years ago.

The wave pool was a success and even held a world-class event that included, among others, Slater himself. (Wonder if that’s what gave him the idea.)

Costs related to production and upkeep matter, but Slater seems to have answered one major question: If Mother Nature isn’t providing the power for the wave, what is?

Slater’s answer: Mother Nature.

Wait, what?

The power is coming not from the ocean but from the sun. In February, Slater’s company announced a partnership with Pacific Gas & Electric Co.'s Solar Choice Program that enables customers to go completely solar without having to install their own solar panels. Instead, customers like Slater’s company can purchase their solar power from solar farms in Northern and Central California.

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“We are committed to encouraging sustainable development at any site using our technology,” Noah Grimmett, general manager of Kelly Slater Wave Co., said in a statement. “As part of this commitment, we are pleased that our first site in Central California is 100% powered by solar energy through PG&E’s Solar Choice.

“This program allows Kelly Slater Wave Co. to not only be a pioneer in wave technology but also in supporting sustainable power initiatives as we act environmentally through an alternative to installing solar panels and fulfill our vision of building the best man-made wave.”

Sounds to me like Slater is in his last season on the WCT, because he has some big business plans in the works.

Bring it on, Rio

The fourth WCT contest of the season — the Oi Rio Pro — begins this week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and both Igarashi and Slater have switched from surfing those perfect man-made waves to competition mode.

Igarashi, currently tied for No. 18 in the world rankings, will surf against Brazil’s Gabriel Medina, the 2014 world champion, and Hawaii’s Dusty Payne in his Round 1 heat.

Slater, tied for 28th in the world rankings, will surf against France’s Jeremy Flores and Australia’s Ryan Callinan in Round 1.

On the women’s side, Santa Ana’s Courtney Conlogue, currently No. 1 in the world, will surf her Round 1 heat against Australia’s Bronte Macaulay and Brazil’s Silvana Lima. Conlogue won this event last year.

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JOE HAAKENSON is a Huntington Beach-based sports writer and editor. He may be reached at joe@juvecreative.com.


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