Surfing champion Mark Occhilupo’s world-first wave pool opens in Central Queensland

Hellen Wadman

In a paddock in Central Queensland, professional surfers and body boarders have spent the past two weeks training at a world-first wave pool prototype. The Surf Lakes pool, half-way between Rockhampton and Yeppoon, generates five different types of waves for surfers of varying abilities and is designed to produce over […]

In a paddock in Central Queensland, professional surfers and body boarders have spent the past two weeks training at a world-first wave pool prototype.

The Surf Lakes pool, half-way between Rockhampton and Yeppoon, generates five different types of waves for surfers of varying abilities and is designed to produce over 2,000 waves an hour.

The machine-made peaks are the result of new technology on display at the site and it has the pros excited.

World Champion Mark Occhilupo is an ambassador for the pool.

“The novelty doesn’t get old. It’s really exciting every time I come up to surf it,” he said.

“The wave has a lot of power, it’s not a long wave, it’s got a lot of different kind of waves which can accommodate more people at all levels.

“I’ve always dreamed of having one since I was a kid and never thought it would happen.

“Now I’ve got one and there’s one wave that’s named after me.”

Macy Callaghan is a professional surfer on the championship tour who travelled from the Gold Coast to test the waves.

She said it was exciting to have a site like this in Australia, especially for use as a training tool.

“I’m pretty speechless to be honest, this place is really amazing and it’s so much fun,” Callaghan said.

“I think the majority of the surfers really like it cause we can keep practicing something.

“We get it every single time the same so it’s a lot easier to learn new tricks and do things over and over again.”

Not just for the pros

The pool operates through a large device that sits in the middle of the lake.

The device bobs up and down and creates swells that fan out and react with artificial reefs around it to create different shaped waves.

Surf Lakes’ Wayne Dart said those waves catered to surfers of all different abilities.

“We have five different levels — hence the name, [of the technology] 5 Waves,” he said.

“So we have beginner, intermediate, advanced, expert, and pro waves.”

The project had been 10 years in the making and Mr Dart said it came about when the founder and chief executive was throwing rocks in the water with his children.

“As he saw the little waves fanning off around the rocks as they splashed into the water, he was thinking, ‘How big a rock do I have to throw in to create waves that surf or are surfable?’,” he said said.

“This is what has been created as result of that.”

Alternative to the ocean, but not a replacement

Occhilupo said wave pools like this would never replace the ocean, but they were a good alternative for those who could not access it or were frightened of the real deal.

“The ocean is crowded and there are a lot of things that deter people from surfing it — sharks, and rips, and bluebottles — and there’s none of that here,” he said.

“It will never replace the ocean but to even the crowds out and to work on your technique, it’s a must-have.”

Mr Dart said it was about bringing the ocean experience to people who had never experienced it.

“We’re sharing the thrill of surfing with people who can’t get to the ocean,” he said.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the world has never surfed and I’m sure they would love to try.”

Hopes to open Yeppoon site to the public

The facility in Central Queensland is a prototype designed for research and development.

“We’ve sold two [licences] at the moment which are in the US … there will be two sites here in Australia,” Mr Dart said.

“We’re hoping at some stage to upgrade this facility here at Yeppoon so it is open to the public.

“We’ve had 550 inquiries from around the world and we’re just sifting through those and we’re sure within the next five to 10 years you’ll see 50 of these around the world.”

Sustainable surfboards on trial at site

Also on trial at the pool is a sustainable surfboard that is designed to reduce the amount of waste from snapped surfboards going to landfill.

“It happens, they break sometimes,” said Notox board rider Sam Heazlett.

“We hope the way Notox make their boards are more sustainable and we don’t waste as much as other companies.

“They produce 1 kilo of waste instead of the normal 6 kilos for your average surfboard and 75 per cent of that is recyclable.

“They’re very good for the environment but also perform really well.”

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