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TECHNOLOGY

Computer device makes big waves

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Inventors of the Versareef say it creates waves as powerful as those found in Hawaii, above.

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Surfing
Technology (general)

Surfing might one day be as much a part of landlocked countries as it is in Hawaii, Indonesia and Australia, thanks to a click of a computer button.

A team of New Zealand marine scientists has developed technology that, when used with wave machines, creates waves in indoor swimming pools as powerful as those found at some of the world's best surfing beaches.

Two companies, ASR and Surf Pools, are the brains behind "Versareef," a shape-shifting rubber reef that is fitted to the floor of swimming pools.

Three of the reefs will be tested in pools at a surfing park in Orlando, Florida, which will open next year.

They will create a ride of up to 70 meters (227 feet) on waves as high as three meters (10 feet), making it the biggest wave facility in the world.

Computer-controlled pneumatic jacks lie beneath a tough rubber mat, subtly altering its shape so that a rush of water, sent by a wave machine similar to those already in use in swimming pools today, is molded into a powerful, curling surf wave.

Kerry Black, managing director of ASR and Surf Pools, said researchers spent five years surveying the best reefs in the Pacific to find out which seabed characteristics generate the best surf.

They then adapted the knowledge for the swimming pool.

"Extensive monitoring of wave conditions, and how they are affected by subtle changes to the seabed by even very small reef features, has shown us that the shape of the floor has the greatest influence on the form of the breaking wave," he said.

"We have developed a novel wave pool design that has a range of changeable reef shapes to deliver a variety of different wave types, suitable for all skills levels, while also delivering maximum surfing ride length."

Black said that even though the first wave pool was designed in the 1960s, none had been able to create realistic, powerful waves to challenge the most experienced surfers.

"Our innovation has the potential to turn surfing into a stadium sport where spectators can watch the world's top surfers compete on an international circuit."

The technology could be controlled so that ideal conditions for beginner surfers could also be created, he said.

The Versareef will generate four types of wave -- Hawaiian, Indonesian, Californian and Australian, with the easiest to ride being the Californian and most difficult the Hawaiian.

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