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July 31, 2018

'Hurry up and build it': Queensland town's surfing community gears up for prototype wave pool

Central Queensland is not famed for its great surf, but that could change with the creation of a wave pool at a man-made, inland lake that could produce world-first 2.4 metre waves.

The prototype wave pool near Yeppoon was kept under wraps during its construction over the past year, and now the company behind it, Surf Lakes, is preparing to start testing the final product next month.

The company's chief executive, Aaron Trevis, said it would be a global achievement to achieve 2.4m waves and that some people in the wider surfing community do not think they can do it.

"Nobody believes you," Mr Trevis said.

He explained that a gigantic plunger at the centre of the lake creates the artificial waves.

"It's a core mechanism that drives big circular waves and they bend around the reef to create essentially eight different breaks at the same time."

Surfers eager to test waves

One group that is not cynical about the company's claims is the region's local surfers.

The main surfing spot at Farnborough Beach rarely has waves that exceed 1.8m and most are happy when the swell reaches half of that.

Local surf rider, John McGrath, said he has been eagerly checking out the wave pool construction site, which is next to the highway to Rockhampton.

"I do stickybeak. It's really exciting knowing it's coming along," Mr McGrath said.

"I'm not too worried about wave height or size. It's more the quality of the wave and knowing there's a wave coming a few seconds later that'll be just as good as the previous one.

"There's a special thing about being at the beach and conditions are never the same at any unique surf session. But a wave pool is a good opportunity to hone the skills.

"Hurry up and finish building it. [I] can't wait."

Wave pools opening across Australia

Competition is fierce to build successful wave pools in Australia right now, with a different style of prototype currently being constructed near Melbourne airport by another company.

A dozen or so others are also in the pipeline for across the country.

There are currently only three commercial, artificial wave pools in the entire world; Surf Snowdonia in Wales, NLand Surf Park in Austin, Texas, and the Wadi Adventure Surf Pool in Dubai.

However, despite the mounting excitement, there is no assurance that local surfers will ever get to ride Surf Lakes' wave pool.

The company is currently just using it as a demonstration site to prove that they can make big waves.

If they can do that, they plan to sell the patent commercially across the world, with a particular focus on surf schools.

A former Yeppoon resident, Mr Trevis said he did hope to give something back to the central Queensland region, but to open their demo to the public would require the necessary approvals.

"It's not something you just pack up and move in a hurry," he said.

"For us, there's an obvious advantage having built it already, to just upgrade it and make it safe for the public."

Until then, only investors and a few hooked-up surfers — including famed Australian champion Mark Occhilupo — will be the only ones to ride the Surf Lakes' Yepoon waves during the testing phase in late August and early September.

Source: ABC Capricornia - Emilia Terzon