Surfer at Surf Loch waves

Wave factories: Digital-twin tech opens a new world of surfing

By: Siemens Corporate Communications

In the classic 1966 film Endless Summer, world-trekking surfers Mike Hynson and Robert August are on a quest for “the perfect wave.” 


As director Bruce Brown narrates in the film, the perfect wave is not a big one, but a “small wave with perfect shape.” Such a wave, he says, is incredibly rare and looks like it was  “made by some kind of machine.”


Fifty-five years later, such a machine exists: the Surf Loch wave pool. While the perfect wave remains the possession ocean itself, Surf Loch’s pool produces consistent, controlled, specifically sized waves over and over—a capability that is a massive game-changer for new and young surfers, and for professionals in training. Wave pools also offer a whole new world of accessibility to surfing. 


But unlike other wave pools out there, Surf Loch used advanced simulation software and manufacturing technology to mimic natural waves from the ocean – with as little as a five percent difference in wave form. To make this happen, the wave-seeking minds at Surf Loch turned to Siemens digital twin technology. 

In a wave pool using Surf Loch technology, users get basically as many waves as they pay for. Compare the ten waves per hour in the ocean to Surf Loch’s Las Vegas wave pool, which will have the capability of generating over 400 waves an hour on outside and inside reefs.

The California-based company has been developing wave-making technology since its start in the early-1980s when founder and CEO Tom Lochtefeld created the first waterpark west of Florida. Out in California, he built the regionally famous Raging Waters. He also created FlowRider, one of the first wave-producing machines for surfing, which acts similarly to a water treadmill and has been used everywhere from hotels and resorts to waterparks and standalones.


A key element in making this new wave pool possible is Siemens’ Xcelerator, enabling Surf Loch to create, program, and optimize what it calls a “wave factory.”


“Making the perfect wave requires an astounding amount of calculation,” Lochtefeld says. “The Siemens Xcelerator portfolio gives us this capability. We leverage the world’s most comprehensive digital twin within an ecosystem of technology suppliers and equipment providers. This ecosystem allows us to create repeatable waves that all surfers will enjoy.”


In the development phase, Surf Loch combined the real and digital worlds to create a digital twin of their wave before testing it in their facility, using a model pool 1/10 the size of the real wave pool. They found that the virtual model and the physical wave were virtually identical. But the key element in the process has been using the right software—software precise enough to control the valves that control the air that moves the water, all of which controls the wave breaking.


The process, with digital controls, goes like this: surges of water, powered by motors, travel through blowers and into a series of “caissons”—door-like structures at the top of the wave pool that open in programmed sequence, creating a wave. Surf Loch is able to design programs that can create multiple different wave variants and ensure that the waves had the same feel as surfing on the ocean. 

“Waves get formed to the 1,000th of a second,” Lochtfeld says. In order to create multiple different patterns and wave shapes, Lochtefeld explains, “we break that [wave propagation] into different caissons that allows us to incrementally control each respected caisson in relation to itself.”


In the ocean, the average surfer would be lucky to ride five nice waves in an hour, and that’s considered doing pretty good. Even top-class surfers might not get more than ten waves an hour.


But in a wave pool using Surf Loch technology, users get basically as many waves as they pay for. Compare the ten waves per hour in the ocean to Surf Loch’s Las Vegas wave pool, which will have the capability of generating over 400 waves an hour on outside and inside reefs.


What Surf Loch has done is unlock the landlocked states. Non-coastal communities will have the ability to enjoy an authentic surfing experience outside of the ocean. This break of geographic limitations is what the company has called the “ski-resort moment.” Once chairlifts were able to turn local hills into ski resorts through the 1950s and 1960s, skiing took off.

As soon as Surf Loch wave pools get popular and their number across the world increases, Surf Loch is planning to monitor them remotely. The way they’re achieving this is using Siemens MindSphere’s IoT technology combined with data monitoring and analytics to control very closely the status of all systems and to perform predictive maintenance. 


“Every time we start a new project, we are utilizing Siemens Teamcenter,” says Bryan Behr, Surf Loch Director of Project and Process Development. “The biggest benefit is that we have a central location from where all data is managed.” 


This marriage of surfing passion and digital technology could help train the next generation of wave riders, and make surfing a viable sport in places many miles from ocean.  


Published: June 29, 2021