Historically, it hasn’t taken long for the folk of the enigmatic orient to travel from the realms of initial discovery to total mastery.
In everything from snowboarding to smartphones, the Chinese have moved swiftly into the upper echelons, no matter how late to the party they were and with surfing’s inclusion in the Olympics, there was no doubt that our aqua-sport would be their next target for development.
Their first foray started back in 2017 when the government announced they would be training up a team of surfers for the ISA world games, with a view to qualifying for the 2024 Olympics. The chosen athletes, many of whom had only been surfing for a few years, were put to work under the watchful eye of ‘76 world champ, Peter Townend.
While it was clear the nation’s sporting work ethic would stand them in good stead, their lack of year-round, warm water waves made the challenge of creating a team that could rival Brazil, Australia or the US after just a few years appear insurmountable. Unsurprisingly, during their first outing at the ISA’s, none of their surfers made it past the first round.
Immediately after the comp, the Chinese team travelled down from Biarritz to the Basque country, to pay a visit to the Wavegarden cove. The crew were absolutely elated by the mechanical wave and almost every member was captured on camera saying how much they wanted one in China.
Three years on and their wish has come true, with the unveiling of the nation’s first wave pool. Rather than apply their own, groundbreaking tech though, they’ve gone for something which looks suspiciously like a smaller, more gutless version of the GOAT’s.
The litigiously minded among you may be rubbing your hands together in anticipation of a lawsuit. However, US patents (of which The KS Wave Co has a fair few) do not automatically extend to China. That said, any good businessman would know to file one there too and our guess is the GOAT’S got his wave tech covered in most countries around the world.
Accordingly, if this new pool is as similar mechanically to Kelly’s as it appears on the surface, the surf world might be about to get its own version of the Samsung VS Huawei debacle. What’s more, according to Stab, the tech is being made available for a meagre $4 mill, as opposed to Kelly’s $20 mill, representing a potential undercut in the global wave pool market of mammoth proportions.
At this point, there are many more questions than answers. Like can this wave be scaled up in size and quality to resemble something like Kelly’s? And if so, will he and the WSL sue the company who made it for ripping off their tech?
Then there are broader queries, like will this be the first of thousands of wave pools to spring up across China, offering its 1.3 billion strong population the opportunity to have a real crack at the sport of kings? And if so, how long will it take till they’ve got surfers on tour?
We’ll let you know as soon as we have concrete answers for any of them, but until then, feel free to leave your best guesses in the comments below.