Wave New World

Photo by Nathan MyersJune 16, near Mission Bay, 100 yards or so from the fickle Pacific Ocean, a man—or mankind, maybe—flipped a switch and sent 100,000 gallons of cool, chlorinated water flowing over a 10-foot hump, creating the surfing equivalent of a barreling five-foot wave that broke in just three inches of water over a blue bottom made from two inches of the kind of rubber mat you got pinned to in wrestling class.

And the water kept coming, 100,000 gallons a minute, 30 miles per hour, forming what's called a sheetwave—not a wave moving through a pool, but a standing wall of water fed constantly by massive pumps.

Its creators call this the "Bruticus Maximus"; the BM is situated inside a larger complex they call the Wave House, which they also call "The Royal Palace of Youth Culture" and "the first engineered surf destination."

Maybe not the first. There are some hundred others around the world, and Wave Loch, the company behind the Wave House, built at least 50 of them. Beginning with the Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, Texas, in 1991, Wave Loch has steadily built better waves and a bigger company. In 2000, the company's technology became the centerpiece of the Jumeirah Beach Resort in Dubai—what some call the world's most luxurious resort, but you and I would call out of our league. This one may be the company's best.

"My epiphany was . . . to break the prejudice of nature," says Wave Loch president Tom Lochtefeld.

The Bruticus Maximus was dry and empty as people filtered in for the June 16 grand opening. Lochtefeld took the stage at 8 p.m. to thank everyone who contributed to raising the Wave House: his family, his staff, his bankers, the county of San Diego and the Coastal Commission.

And then he flipped the switch, and a variety of athletes hit the BM—surfers Jamie O'Brien, Kalani Robb, Mark Healey and Christian Fletcher; snowboarders Andy Finch and Terje Haakonsen; and skimboarder/surfer/aquatortionist Bill "Beaker" Bryan.

It was more Abstract Expressionism than contest, and it got pretty expressive. Renowned San Clemente bad boy Christian Fletcher started off prone on a boogie board, sending a ripple of rumor through the crowd that he had lost it completely. Hawaiian pro surfer Kalani Robb rode deepest in the tube. 2004 Pipeline Master Jamie O'Brien switched foot in the tube. Hawaiian big-wave surfer Mark Healey threw huge sprays—soaking his competitors, photographers and the front row of onlookers. It was tempting to ask these guys if riding the Bruticus Maximus helped them with surfing the Real Deal, but it was too loud near the stage. And too wet.



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