Is Surfing An Artificial Wave Really Surfing?


With the long anticipated Wave opening this month near Bristol, I’ve started asking myself a few questions about whether I’m that keen on it as a concept.

Mainly, is it really surfing? I mean, it’s surfing, but is it surfing surfing? You’re outside, you’re on consistently good waves, you’re surfing. But… you’re nowhere near the sea. You’re not at the mercy of any of whatever nature wants to throw at you. Are you not just a bit… removed from it all? Is there a connection to the sea and to nature that’s just getting a bit lost here? Like so many other human activities; ‘Treadmill anyone? Why would I want to run outside?! What are we? Savages?!’

Some of the best experiences I’ve had in the water weren’t waves themselves, but interactions with the environment; turtles, seals, dolphins and seabirds, sudden changes in weather conditions, sea mists, waiting for it all to pick up as the tides change.

You’re in a man-made pond. It’s not even a real lake – it’s a fake lake, a flake. And what’s more, you’re paying for the privilege. You’re taking a free thing (bar petrol to get there and money for some chips afterwards) and making me pay for it. I could spend that money on my children… or beer… or beer for my children.

I know that The Wave have a good environmental programme planned, and they’re keen to use the facilities as a classroom to raise awareness of environmental issues such as plastic pollution and carbon emissions. But I still wonder whether even more useful would be taking kids to the coast. The real coast. To show them the real sea. The real issues. Again: removal. A degree of separation.

And there’s assurances all the energy used is renewable. But I can’t help thinking that green energy could be used to reduce carbon emissions, rather than being specifically produced to solve a problem that is – let’s face it – as banal as the south coast being a ‘bit flat from time to time.’ I’m sure you could argue it might keep a few carbon-coughing aeroplane seats empty as people don’t feel the need to leg it to Portugal for some waves. But this is a bit of a stretch, no?

It feels all just a bit… homogenised. One step closer to the soul-free Olympic point-centric sport that some big-buck sponsors would like it to be. The way skating got stolen from Rodney Mullen and handed to a committee of people that up until then thought ‘skate’ was only a flatfish.

I admit, though, that despite telling anyone who’ll listen how much I hate the word, I am frequently called a goddamn hippy, and so I come from a place of nature-worship that smells of mung beans and weed. I also get called a hipster, which as far as I can tell (beyond loving knitwear and craft beer) is because I cling to words like ‘authenticity’ (whatever that means) and ‘integrity’ (whatever that is); I tend to want a spade to be a spade – and be constructed like a spade, not just look like one – and shy away from fakeries. Wood effect formica is the devil’s work.

So my opinion here comes from a hardline place. I’m sure it’s lovely to have consistently good waves, and I’m sure I’ll be laughing out the other side of my face if I ever find the time to go. But I’ve been telling my wife I’ll load the dishwasher for three days now, so I should probably start chipping away at my to-do list before I shoot up the M5. But I don’t know, I think I’ll still prefer the real thing, with all its glorious inconsistencies.

If you’re keen to check it out and counter my opinion with some blistering, scathing personal attack on me via the medium of an AgeingSurfer article you can check out The Wave here and drop us your words here.



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