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About this Article
Written by: Christian Lee
Written on: September 12th, 2016
Tags: lifestyle, sports & recreation, mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering, water
Thumbnail by: Josh Dean/Bloomberg
About the Author
Christian Lee was a student at the University of Southern California at the time this article was written.
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Volume XVIII Issue II > The Future of Surfing

The Perfect Wave

The technology created using hydraulic jump has progressed over the years into systems that produced Kelly Slater’s perfect wave. Now, generated waves are created with a technology called “hydrodynamic Wavefoil.” The hydrodynamic Wavefoil is an advanced version of the object that was placed decades ago under hydraulic jump systems to create wave pools. It is shaped like a snowplow and set on an underwater track powered by a motor. The track and motor are new additions to the artificial wave system from the original wave pool design in the sixties. As the rapid water flow moves towards the shore of the lake, the underwater track pulls the hydrodynamic Wavefoil away from the shore, opposite of the water flow. This is modeled after the formation of ocean waves. In an ocean, as the water moves towards the shore, the water at the bottom of the wave flows the opposite way. In a lake, when the hydrodynamic Wavefoil is pulled in the opposite direction as the above water flow, the water molecules hit it and bounce off in a circular motion, mimicking what happens in real ocean waves. When the water molecules spin, it causes a hydraulic jump on the surface of the lake, forming a wave [5].
Simply put, the water on the bottom of the lake is displaced by the snowplow-looking hydrodynamic Wavefoil and pushed up to make a wave. The angle of the hydrodynamic Wavefoil is set in such a way to create the perfect, barreled shape that breaks gradually and smoothly (see Fig. 2). When a wave breaks, its potential energy from the hydraulic jump reaches a critical point and is converted back into turbulent kinetic energy that “breaks” to make white water. A wave that is not smooth nor gradual doesn’t break from left to right or right to left, but altogether or inconsistently. This type of wave cannot be surfed, and is undesirable to many surfers.
Josh Dean/Bloomberg
Figure​ 2: Kelly Slater riding his perfect wave.