The Ocean Dome doles out its last barrels to team Gravis.
By Pascal Stansfield
Imagine your wildest fantasy coming to life right before your eyes. No, not the one where you, Giselle, and Cameron Diaz are having a threesome, that’s already passà‡. How about Jessica Alba and Jessica Biel-yup, that works, but not that dream either. No, this one has waves of crystal-blue perfection, spitting right- and left-handers every two minutes, Jimi Hendrix blasting through the airwaves, and shooting stars overhead. You’d think this is a fantasy that could only happen in the ocean, but you’re wrong. It happened in the Ocean Dome wave pool in Miyazaki, Japan.
Recently Channel Islands and Gravis generously invited Benji Weatherley, Kalani Robb, Marlon Gerber, Sanoe Lake, J.P. (one of Norway’s best snowboarders), and yours truly to the world’s largest indoor water park, according to the Guinness Book Of World Records. Three-hundred-and-fifty yards long and one-hundred-and-fifty yards wide, this park boasted the largest retractable roof in the world, 78-degree water, and the best man-made waves on Earth.
But due to poor attendance and the location of the Ocean Dome (across the street from the beach), shortly after our visit the doors were shut on what this writer thinks is the future of surfing.
As soon as we walked through the doors, our anticipation quickly turned to disbelief. Did we really just watch someone get a legit, head-high, spitting three-second tube in a wave pool? Are those really lineless water slides twisting and turning from every direction coupled with a fire-spewing volcano? Sure as shit, these were no hallucinations, it was all happening; you could literally drink it in-that is, if you had an affinity for chlorine and urine.
“Who’s the dickhead who brought all these boards,” joked Benji as he motioned toward the 30-plus brand-new Al Merricks strewn over the faux sand. Every make and model your heart could desire, plus a few top-secret projects, all lying there in virgin glory for the crew to try, destroy, and/or bounce off the sketchy cement bottom. We were literally running around hugging and kissing Japanese men because we were so happy. But no, not in a Mickey Avalon sort of way.
Never before has a crew of pro surfers been this excited to jump into a chlorinated body of water. But there were strict rules and regulations: no jumping off the man-made islands, no surfing out of turn, no snaking, no beer in the pool. We proceeded to break all of these rules within the first twenty minutes, after all, they were closing. Benji did one of the best/lamest method acid drops off of the island, his feet never even touching his board, it was more like a flying squirrel to flat water sac tap. “We were so excited we were just jumping off shit,” said Benji of his new move.
As soon as Kalani caught his first wave, our gracious Japanese hosts were in awe. They just kept insecurely nodding and smiling every time he would pass them on the beach.
There are two minutes between every wave in the Dome. It’s amazing, it gives you just enough time to walk up the beach, sit down, have a sip of “soda,” take a breath, talk a little story before sprinting back out in time to catch either a left or a right-your choice of the two on the middle A-frame.
The left barrels are harder than the right, but the rights are longer and more high performance. Everyone fell at least once dropping in on the left, it was a seriously sketchy freefall onto nearly dry cement; the engineers literally spent millions upon millions of dollars creating the world’s most perfect man-made wave, but they somehow overlooked padding the bottom, which proved treacherous at best even for the most seasoned of shallow-reef riders.
But once you got into the wave it was perfect, not a drop of water out of place. You could try anything you wanted because you knew the next one was identical-you weren’t blowing the wave of the day if you fell.In compettition, the consistency of the Dome would provide a completely level playing field for every surfer, no more losing to some random because you sat for ten minutes of a heat needing a measly three. A wave comes every two minutes and every wave is the same, so if you need a 3.0 and you don’t get it, it’s no one’s fault but your own.
If I were to ask any aerialist in today’s high-flying world if they were given a second chance at an air section, would they fall? I can almost guarantee 90 percent would say no. It’s like skate boarding, the ramp is always going to be there, the coping won’t change, the transition won’t vary day to day.
Crazy stuff like 720s and McTwists will be in surfing’s everyday vocabulary, not to mention the amount of money this would generate for the sport. Imagine an event where sponsors know for a fact that competition will take place on a set date at a set time with the best possible conditions in a completely controlled environment! Imagine surfing becoming financially attractive to the live TV market, launching surfing into the mainstream, making dollars and sense for everyone involved in the industry.
Sitting on the beach with Benji and J.P. sippin’ on soda while watching Kalani, Sanoe, and Marlon tear the top off this marvel of the twenty-first century brought a question to mind: How sick would this place be if it were located smack in the middle of the Vegas strip? Putting $200 on Slater to win his tenth while the WCT comp is being held next to the Venetian, could it get any better? Or take it a step further. Imagine watching your favorite surfer live on Sunday morning prime time wedged between football and golf. In spite of the closing of the Dome, the idea is still very much alive and kicking.
This was truly an amazing experience, but a tease at the same time, giving us this great present, then destroying it. It’s like giving a kid a lick of a Popsicle, then after the kid’s first lick you take the Popsicle and throw it in the dirt. Sure, he was stoked on that first lick, but it only left him yearning for more.
Fun FactsCost to run the ocean dome per day: $2,000 U.S.
Number of waves in a set at the Ocean Dome: 5
Number of “sodas” consumed in the Ocean Dome: 50
Number of people drinking “soda”: 5
Number of people living in Japan: 127,433,494
Number of square feet in Ocean Dome: 322,752
Number of hours spent at Ocean Dome: 8
Number of hours spent talking afterwards about Ocean Dome: 10
Number of times Lugo complained about not getting to surf: 0, he’s the man.
Number of “sodas” consumed after the Ocean Dome: Infinite
Number of penises drawn on Guch our guide: 1 big one
Number of people who g
ot sick when Damea the photographer farted in the van: 3, but only 1 puked.Number of autographs signed: 98
Number of tubes made: 24
Number of tubes blown: 11
Number of boards tweaked by cement bottom: 3
Number of model airplanes J.P. lost: 2
Number of times we thanked our hosts: One million
Number of times we were misunderstood: Hundreds