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Australia’s First Surf Park? An Interview with Greg Webber

Over the weekend we had a chance to chat with Greg Webber of Webber Wave Pools about his first contracted surf park. For those looking for the quick skinny, here are the main details we were able to gather:

Funding/Scope of the Project: The funding for the entire project (not just the wave pool) is already in place. While Webber couldn’t tell us exactly what would be included in the overall complex, he alluded to the potential for skating, water park features, and more. Although it’s speculation, it sounds as though the overall project is in the AU $10 million range.

Pool Type, Wave Length and Wave Height: The pool will NOT be a continuous circular design. Rather, it will be a looped linear system like the one shown here:

It will be somewhere in the scope of 160 meters long x 90 meters wide, or 200 x 100 meters, and may include up to 4 hulls (waves) with a wave size of 1.75 meters high, at 8 waves per minute. That would put the length of ride at about 15 seconds per wave.

Location and Important Dates: Although he couldn’t tell us exactly where, the project property is already owned by David Baird, the surfer/entrepreneur behind the project, and is close to a major highway and some large populations. The project is slated to break ground in roughly six months, sometime around August 2014, and is projected to be complete and open to the public sometime between September and December of 2015.

Investment Opportunity: Webber also confirmed a rumor of the possibility of investing in the IP company Liquid Time to do further research on creating a larger wave. Contact [email protected] for more info on investment opportunities.

Read Most of the Interview Here:

In true Aussie fashion our dialogue with Greg began with a conversation about Vegemite. To save some time though, we’ll skip ahead to the parts about surfing and his first wave pool.

SPC: So, you must be stoked right now, huh?

GW: Yeah really happy, it’s been a long time. But so long in fact that it almost nullifies the potential impact of having the success that we’ve just had with getting this first pool signed off on. You know, if you have a project that goes for a long time you’ve gotta just… you can’t think about what it might be, you can’t continually do that, so you become super objective about it and you just function. You do things that will eventually bring around the result you’re after. So, sadly I think I started being really objective about the whole project, I don’t know, about three or four years ago. But you know, these things take time and you just have to be patient.

SPC: Yeah, well we’re all definitely excited to see one of your projects getting going here. So what can you tell us about the project as a whole? Is it going to be a Smartpark design? Or something new?

GW: Yeah I can’t really go into much detail (regarding the full scope), which is really disappointing, I’d love to but the developers want to hold back on that kind of information. We can talk about our wave pool side though, and I will hint at the fact that it’s not just a wave pool, it will be a larger development. The property is big enough that you can fit one of our full sized webber wave pools, nearly 200 meters by 100 meters wide – that’s the footprint that we’ll be within – and there’ll still be plenty of room for all these other types of activities. So, without specifying what they are, there will be some other stuff going down.

Further SPC Prying…

GW: It won’t just be surfers basically. There could be other sports, or other activities, so… anything between a water park and a Compound. I can’t say what exactly is happening but there could be skate, there could be water park, could be anything. I’m sorry to anyone who is listening to this or reading this going, “great, you’re going to make something big but you’re not really telling us,” but, all we can really talk about is the size of the wave pool, the wave rate, how big the waves are going to be, and when. Knowing that it’s going to be the end of the year next year is great.

SPC: Yeah, I’d heard that it was going to be the end of next year, sometime between September and December or so. That’s correct then?

GW: Yeah, totally. That’s the plan, and that’s why we’re confident to make this statement now because we know what the staging process is like with the council and we’re very close with that council. In fact they were involved with the suggestions of properties for David to buy. Now that’s where we’ve got a key advantage – instead of buying a property and hoping that the council will pass the MCU (material change of use) and the DA, why not go to them first, show the idea, which we did to a number of councils up there with Rabbit Bartholomew as well, and explained with David what the entire plan is. And all the councils are very excited. So one of them has been even more involved with helping us to find potential sites. And so when they’re finding those sites, they know that this will… that the MCU will be a successful outcome. It’s not a matter of, “is it going to get by or not,” it’s just the degree to which the property can be developed.

SPC: So this property was found with this project specifically in mind? It wasn’t something that Mr. Baird already owned?

GW: Yeah totally. He chose based on the advice of the council.

SPC: So then is it in a pretty residential area?

GW: No it’s not, thankfully. So there’s no big risk that way. It’s right on a highway so that’s great – incredible visibility and really good access with some significant populations nearby so it’s a great location. And that may only be a matter of months so I’ll get back to you as soon as I can let that out.

SPC: Great, well we look forward to hearing all the details. So, sorry to backtrack but what were the dimensions of the pool?

GW: Well we’re looking at 160 x 90 (meters), but there’s scope to go up to 200 x 100.

Also, before I forget… this is NOT to be a circular pool. It’s a looped linear pool, as in the ones that we’ve got in animation on our website. Circular pools still can be made down the track, but nearly everyone is recognizing the advantages of the looped linear over the much larger circular pool.

SPC: Yeah I had read somewhere that it was a circular design but didn’t think that sounded right. So then, how long of a ride is that, and how many waves are you going to be generating? Is it going to be a double hull, or can you do four?

GW: Yeah that’s why we might consider extending the length a little, so that’s why there’s a bit of scope between 160 and 200. Because the longer we go, the more hulls we can fit in and so you’re increasing the wave rate. So at the hundred meters you’re pretty much on the 3-hull mark, but that’s still a very good wave rate. I think the preference is to go to four, and then you get two waves breaking every 15 seconds, or, two waves ending every 15 seconds, which is obviously quite a solid wave rate – it’s nearly 500 (an hour)… you know, it’s 8 waves a minute.

You know from a business point of view it’s understood that at least three… I think Jamie Meiselman was good to highlight that point, that two waves a minute isn’t really gonna cut it… three is the starting point, and we’re looking at 8 without much trouble at all.

SPC: Awesome. So you mentioned length… what is the height that you’re expecting be able to get on this system?

GW: With this first pool we’re only going for 1.75 (meters), but it is… they use the word infinite in a guarded way at the university, but in principle it is totally infinite. Now that doesn’t mean that you can go off the planet for a billion kilometers, but with the normal physics… 3, 4, 5, you could make 10 meter waves doing the same thing. But it would be impractical because the cost requirement goes up nearly 10x every time you double the wave height.

SPC: So 1.75 meters… you can get in a barrel there…

GW: Yeah, it’s definitely just a little crouch and you’re in the tube. The whole idea is obviously to provide a range of waves and easily without having to do anything unusual like alter the bottom of the pool. And again, that gradient that I mentioned is more abrupt out near where the hulls are moving, so where the water’s deeper it’s more angled and so that’s why it makes a more aggressive tubing wave there, but as you go toward shore the gradient gets more and more gentle and so that’s how we influence the wave shape by using wave height. The smaller wave breaks in the gentle slope, the bigger wave breaks where it’s really angled, like a ledge basically. And so, there are the two interrelated factors that allow us to create that range. So if you run the hull a bit slower you make a smaller wave and it breaks it a little bit more softly, so we’ll run it at 1.5 meters for instance to make really ripable, beautifully faced, slashable kind of waves, and then when it gets to the full size… because there’s a small chance we’ll get over 1.75, so it’s going to be deep enough so that we can possibly go bigger than that… we’re just saying 1.75 for the moment… but that’s a quicker wave as well, so the faster you go the angle of the wave changes and becomes more acute.

SPC: Sounds fun. Speaking of bigger waves… I heard a rumor that you might be looking for some investors. Is that true? Any merit to that?

GW: Yeah that is actually true. I’m selling between 5 and 10 percent of my own shares in the company that owns the IP. The reason being is to do some more research to see how big a wave we can make. So the answer to that question is yes, it is true.

SPC: So how much investment are you seeking total?

GW: Monetarily? I’ll talk about that with anyone who approaches me but I’m happy to sell between 5 and 10 percent of my shares in Liquid Time, which is the one that holds the patent. So, whoever wants to approach me we can discuss that.

To contact Greg about investment… you can reach out to him directly at [email protected]





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