Surfing in itself has had its own culture and tradition for quite some time. It is synonymous with beautiful people in beautiful places living the dream of escaping from their everyday lives. While not everyone is living in Hawaii or California, which supply some of the best surf conditions, more and more people have been gaining interest in extreme sports such as surfing.
This wave of popularity has now led to surfing becoming a big business. Back in 2008, Surf Industry Manufacturers’ Association estimated the surfing industry was worth $7.2 billion in the United States. Along with clothing and fashion markets bringing in a similar revenue stream, the surfing industry continues to surge forward and the global surfing market is expected to reach $13.2 billion by 2017.
You may hear that nothing beats the real thing, but considering most people do not live on the coast, there seems to be a void in this market for people who are seeking the thrill of catching that perfect wave. This idea led to the development of the artificial wave technology and the creation of surf simulators. You can now see these machines in areas such as theme parks, cruise ships, shopping malls, and even dedicated surf parks and extreme leisure zones. Now the perfect wave and authentic surfing experience can be found for thrill seekers on the go and those seeking something new.
Wave of Technology
Surf simulators have been around since the early 1990s and have rapidly evolved to meet the needs of developing a more realistic and authentic surfing experience. These perfect waves are created by an approach that requires flexibility, a seasoned, multidiscipline team, and frequent use of prototyping to verify analytically derived data.
One surf simulator developer credits the origin of this machine the idea of a hydraulic jump, which is a phenomenon that naturally occurs in open-channel water flow. In order for this to occur, there must be a critical initial fluid speed. This fast-moving stream then comes into contact with a slower moving area of water to create the hydraulic jump, and precisely positioned spoilers are utilized to guide this jump. Thus, by the ability to manipulate the incoming flow rate, channel width, and position of the spoilers, a life-like version of an ocean wave is created.
Bruce McFarland, president and founder of American Wave Machines, Inc., spoke highly of the success of this technology saying, “Our surf machines benefit from the availability of efficient high-volume, low-head pumps. In particular, the hydraulic jump requires specific depths and speed that are mathematically related to wave height. Fortunately, these waves can be created with very low head, which translates to lower energy use and longer pump life.”
There are engineered designs for multiple styles of wave production in order to reach a broad target market. In a fiberglass system, each mold can be customized to the design of the wave machine to determine the capabilities of its output. Once the design is determined, the next step is to engineer the pumps, which are the mechanical heart of the system.
Typical wave machines require multiple pumps to provide tens of thousands of gallons of water per minute with total motor power requirements from 300HP to 650HP. Depending on the manufacturer, such pumps can be installed either vertically or horizontally. Jared Wray, product manager for submerged propeller devices at KSB, Inc. states that, “Tubular casing pumps utilized for the wave machines provide good performance in both horizontal and vertical configurations; however, when space allows, vertical installations provide superior hydraulics, mechanics, and serviceability.” While each wave can have a different spec determined by preference, the designs are created by trusted engineering solutions in order to guarantee efficiency, safety, and overall success.
The adaptability of this customized engineering allows the end user to determine whom the product is truly for. A wave machine delivers the same promise for surfing as driving ranges do for golfers and batting cages for baseball players. Now it is even possible to use an actual surfboard and not a simulated surfboard. This has allowed for an increase in new business from both experienced and inexperienced surfers. In order to reach a wide audience, the speed of the wave can be adjusted based on the skill set of the rider. Certain wave simulator designs have patented modular wave systems and fully variable stream conditions that guarantee the waves can be optimized to any individual. By developing the product into a training tool, it will give the person an opportunity to transfer their skills to surfing in the ocean.
In the water park industry, facilities are typically open seasonally, and the maintenance behind the product is very crucial. It is essential to maintain the rotating equipment, and the operators should be aware of the protocols to properly maintain these machines year-around. It is important to periodically run the pump during the off season to keep the system in good operating condition. By consistently running regular startups, you will reduce the possibility of bearing failure, and will avoid non-lubricated mechanical seal faces. It is important to avoid these seal faces because they can lead to shaft leakage and prevent formation of deposits within the pump, intake, and discharge areas.
Based on the design and manufacturer of a horizontal or vertical installation of the pump, these parts can all be maintained in a few short steps, with the major difference being that a vertical installation is much easier to remove for preventative maintenance. By following these parameters, you can be assured a long-lasting and reliable product that will be able to entertain your customers year-round.
Wave of Excitement
The water park industry has come a long way thus far. We are now seeing a transition toward more engaging rides that involve and stimulate the customers even more in hopes of reaching a broader market. There is no need to go searching for thrills anymore because the wave of the future is waiting for you. From small kids to the pros, the authentic surfing experience is around the corner with a safe, reliable, and quality product that produces the endless ride.
Article by: Dan Alper – Marketing Assistant at KSB, Inc. Technical information was provided by KSB, a pump manufacturer based in Henrico, Virginia, as well as American Wave Machines, artificial wave designers based in Solana Beach, California. For more information, e-mail [email protected] or [email protected]