Archive for April, 2009

Waves on the cheap

April 26, 2009

While many beach-breaks are quite good for surfing, many more produce mainly close-out shore break and are seldom surfed. With very little effort and no net disruption of the environment we could produce some hot small-wave surf-spots.


At some of the beaches in my area, the county pushes the beach sand into large walls of sand to form a protective barrier in front of the main lifeguard stations. My suggestion is to push the sand the other way, out into the surf zone, forming a series of small points. The county has the tractors; all that would be needed is fuel and the operator’s pay, but I know there are heavy-equipment operators who surf and would get a kick out of the opportunity to make waves, so we could probably get operators to donate their time. I know there would be enough surfers interested to donate the fuel, but I bet it would also be possible to get the county to participate and fund the whole thing. Done right, the county would have an increase in revenue from parking fees and beach concessions, due to increased beach use, for a net gain. It would also be possible for private enterprise to take on the project for a piece of the action and everyone would benefit.


The sand points we made would be fairly short-lived (depending on the swell activity) and the beach would return to its former state on its own. This would necessitate rebuilding the points on an on-going basis and at some time we might want to put in some mini-reefs (like I described in my last post) and get the ocean to do the work for us.


Another way to make the sand points would be to use sand pumps; put the suction pipe where we want a mini-bay and the discharge pipe where we want the point. The points and bays would be semi-permanent and the price of electricity would be the main on-going cost.


Note that Pratt’s Reef in Southern California would have been a success if it were placed in shallower water. From what I’ve read, there was not enough money to build the reef as big as the original design, so the design should have been modified to fit the budget and make waves on a smaller scale.


I suppose I should point out that we aren’t really making waves when we make “artificial” surf-spots. The winds make the waves; all we want to do is adjust the shore to make ride-able waves so we can have more fun!



Let’s make waves!

April 18, 2009

Let’s make waves! But where do we start? I recommend a bit of study (Waves and Beaches by Willard Bascom) and a look at the coastline near where you live. At the coast you want to make sure there is enough swell coming in to the beach that a reef will actually produce waves. This is elementary, but you want a beach that is getting frequent enough and big enough waves already except they are not good for surfing (close-outs, rocks in the line-up etc.) At this stage you should be thinking about small waves for these reasons: small waves are more common than big waves and they break in shallower water requiring less structure.


One of the things I’ve noticed is that people often seem to think of artificial reefs in terms of building a whole massive structure to make the wave desired. This can be done, and done right you could tailor the wave to what you desire, but the scale would have to be huge. The logistics and cost would be enormous and any errors in design would add expense etc. The solution is to do small, experimental projects and as experience, success and support increase, the projects can be expanded.


We have a good model for small waves with minimal structure at Ehukai Beach Park on Oahu’s North Shore (next to Pipeline). If you look into the water on a calm day from the park, you can see some dark shapes not far offshore. There’s one a bit to the right and another one further over to the left toward Pipeline. These grey shapes are rock reef structure that is closer to the surface than the surrounding structure. By themselves these tiny reefs are too small to produce surf-able waves, but in the winter surf season, when the sand gets pulled off the beach, things change. Those tiny reefs trap sand behind them and form-up ride-able sandbars. The reef forms the take-off point and the sandbar forms the rest of the wave. These waves can get quite good but they only work with small waves (up to maybe 4 or 5 feet max). When the surf gets bigger, those reefs get overwhelmed by the shore break. From this example we can learn a way to make surf-able waves without making a large structure.



Making waves

April 11, 2009

Making waves has long been an interest of mine. We have miles of coastline that often have only a few ride-able surf-spots. I’m sure that most surfers would like to see more good surf-spots and many of us travel great distances to get good waves. Ideally we should have a variety of good waves at nearby beaches. Can we do anything about this or is it really hopeless?


We can do something about it! “Sure, Bob, if we have gazillion dollars…” Well, that is almost the same as saying nothing can be done about it, since I know of no surfer who has that much money. Let me repeat, we can do something about it and we don’t need huge sums of money. We can make surf-spots with no more than the resources that we have available right now.


There are some groups who have made some surf-spots and more are planned, but for most of us this is likely to be too little too late, unless we do something to speed things up. The increasing interest in “artificial” surf-spots is primarily due to an increasing number of surfers overcrowding existing surf-spots. However, some years ago I looked at this and it occurred to me that we didn’t have enough surf-spots because we had too few surfers! “Bob, you’re crazy, you’re nuts and besides, you’re stupider than you look.” Yes, saying that we’re too crowded because we have too few surfers does appear to be a logical contradiction, but that just means you’re simply not “Zen-hip” enough to get it. (Ok, I’m teasing ya, but I want to shake up your view.)


Boaters outnumber and have been around a lot longer than surfers, same goes for golfers, snow-skiers, auto racers and fans, etc. As a result, we have expensive marinas, golf courses, ski resorts and race tracks, and very few purpose built surf-spots. You see where I’m going with this? Now I’m a very reclusive surfer and anything beyond a couple of friends in the water, is too crowded for me, so what’s the solution? Well, we need to be better organized and we need to see how we can work together with other interests for the betterment of all concerned.


Surfers, unfortunately, have often conformed to a “rebel against society” image as portrayed by a few of our self-destructive, anti-social, media promoted “icons”. This has contributed to the ever increasing problem of too many surfers competing for too few waves, because we haven’t worked together to benefit ourselves. We need to stop admiring our “bad-boy” image and take a look at what we can do to get more and better waves.


The first thing we should do is decide if we want more and better waves. Realize that that automatically means other surfers will also benefit and unless we are willing to let them have good waves too, we don’t really want to make surf-spots. If we dislike the other surfers, we won’t be willing to make a wave that will benefit them. You see why I said that the bad-boy, locals only attitude will prevent an improvement in surf-spots. We have been our own worst enemy. Our media has had a huge role in this because all too often they have idolized anti-social and even down-right criminal surfers.


If we can honestly say that we want our fellow surfer to have as many good waves as we want for ourselves, we may have made the biggest and most important advance toward more and better waves, because only then will we be willing to do something that will benefit others as much as benefit ourselves.