Perth needs a wave pool. Badly. But will bureaucracy and the local bowling club prevail?
Winter is in full swing in West Oz. A steady procession of swells have been buffeting the coastline, groomed by exceptionally clean conditions. One place, however, that hasn’t been an unusual beneficiary is WA’s capital city.
Perth lies in the shadow of offshore reefs and island, and resident surfers spend eight long, hot, and windy months of the year starved of waves. For the few months when winter swells are large enough sneak through, they’re met by poor sandbanks and thousands of frustrated surfers. Ever been hassled for a kilometre long closeout?
It wasn’t always like this though. According to the elder generation, Perth used to pump. But the introduction of groynes, harbours, and anti-erosion plants along the coastline have severely inhibited natural sand flow, destroying what were once semi-decent set ups.
As if crap waves weren’t deterrent enough, Perth has seen a spate of fatal shark attacks in recent years. The problem became so pronounced the state government resorted to controversial baited drum lines, and earlier this year, offered to subsidise shark shields to protect ‘at risk’ ocean users.
Numerous attempts have tried, and failed to repair Perth’s broken surf. In 1999, the government installed the world’s first artificial reef at Cables Beach, smack bang in the shadow of Rottnest Island. Taxpaying surfers are divided on the $2million reef’s potency, but on a handful of days each year when it breaks, metro surfers can ride one of the world’s most expensive waves.
More recently, local surfer, businessman and entrepreneur Troy Bottegal developed a more practical alternative. Bottegal designed a prototype for an ‘inflatable reef’ - a sail-like structure inflated with air and anchored to the sand – a concept he says will harness available swell into the quality waves Perth so desperately needs.
“The lack of banks is a major problem,” he says.
“We’ve got good enough resources of swell, there’s probably 250 days of swell a year ranging from 1-6ft, but there’s nothing for it to break on, hence why I’ve tried to come up with a solution.”
Hurrah! Numerous reefs could be deployed along the coastline, dispersing the spread of surfers and actually providing genuine, reliable waves for surfers of varying abilities. The design is in the final stages of patenting, but Bottegal is still searching for a financial backer and says he is unsure when, or even if, the concept will become a reality for Perth.
Ultimately, with a stagnant coastline where Great White’s rule, the only possible way Perth’s waves could be improved is to take surfing out of the ocean. Enter Wave Park Group!
As the wave pool riff takes the surfing world by storm, the Wave Park Group recently secured a ground lease for their first Australian wave pool on a patch of residential Perth parkland. Perth surfers rejoiced at the news. A consistent, rideable wave in Perth? At long last!
The proposed site - Tompkins Park in Alfred Cove – currently features a local bowls club; straddled by a busy highway and a few suburban homes. But not everyone has met the proposal with open arms.
Local residents – disgruntled at the prospect of losing their city skyline views – formed the Alfred Cove Action Group and put together a petition of more than 3000 signatures. The ACAG are calling on the state government to reject the plan, and have even embroiled the project in scandal with allegations of insider trading by a senior City officer.
So, will Perth get its wave pool, and finally host a consistent wave of some merit? Or will the mud-slinging suburbanites keep their bowls club?
WaveGarden’s future remains unclear, with Melville City council remaining permissively vague on the subject when contacted for comment. But word on the street is that the pool will proceed sometime in the near future, and Troy Bottegal speaks for all the city’s surfers when he says he’s eager for development to proceed.
“Hurry up already,” Mr Bottegal said.
“Perth needs to become a destination. People can’t just come here and look at the river from Kings Park. They can’t just come for mining conventions. We need to up our game. There’s hardly ever any waves, and Perth has very few things when it comes to fun. It’s not exactly the fun capital of the world. A wave park would like fun.com. We’re dying for it.”