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In recent days we have been treated to imagery of the new Kelly Slater-endorsed wave pool in Abu Dhabi. Against a high-density urban backdrop, in the capital of the UAE, we watched Kelly slash at glassy walls and eviscerate deep, funnelling barrels. All this high-quality shredding in a location where falconry and camel racing are amongst the most popular past times – strange days indeed.
Some were quick to dismiss the Abu Dhabi pool as a carbon copy of The Ranch that offers nothing new in the wave pool space race. However, amidst the hasty critiques, it’s worth remembering that at the turn of the millennium aquatic creations of this scale and quality were still the thing of science fantasy. Now, thanks to the technology Kelly helped pioneer, you can get properly slotted in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, as war rages between Israel and Palestine, 2000km away from the Abu Dhabi, one can’t help but wonder if surfing and wave pools might one day have a part to play in the peace process. It’s a well-known fact that where you have surfers and waves you have committed draft dodgers and conscientious objectors. Just watch Big Wednesday if you want an entertaining take on the lengths surfers will go to dodge a military call-up. No one wants to go fight a war when it’s five foot and pumping, and the pools have the capacity to produce those kinds of conditions every day.
As it stands the Palestinian-occupied Gaza strip and Israel share a coastline, and in better times you may see Palestinian and Jewish surfers trading waves. However, the Mediterranean swells are notoriously inconsistent. A wave pool or three wouldn’t go astray to keep minds off historic tensions during flat spells. Who knows, eventually an age-old conflict might be resolved by the lingering sensation of stoke in a newly, wave-rich region. Instead of identities formed around hatred of the other side people might be more interested in the virtues of a good cutback or a frontside air.
Maybe some will suggest this is trivialising a serious subject, but let’s be honest nothing else has worked before. No amount of international diplomacy is ever going to be as effective as a double barrel. So lay down the guns, cut the military budget and spend up big on the wave pools. Plus, Kelly needs something important to do so he can finally retire from pro surfing – in peace.