Virginia Beach, 1985. Wes Laine is ripping it up for a large, local crowd. It’s your typical knee-high summer session, except for two things: first, he’s miles from the First Street jetty; second, the top-16 pro isn’t the biggest star on hand. He’s happily playing second banana to a 65-foot gorilla named “Hugh Mongous” — all part of publicity stunt for the grand opening of Jungle Falls (today’s Ocean Reef Park) and it’s “state-of-the art” wave pool.
Two decades later, VB is considering an even more monster development called “VB X Park.” It’s just one proposal to fill an 8.5 acre “entertainment district” planned for 19th street, the former site of “the Dome,” a small venue that once hosted everything from Jimi Hendrix concerts to a tribute for homegrown jazz musician and uh, — cough, cough — music store owner Danny Teagarden. If approved, the X Park would bring a climbing wall, indoor skydiving, 10-screen movie theatre and, most notably, Tom Lochtefeld’s infamous Wave House, featuring a “Wave Loch” — the Teahupo’o of artifical standing waves — as well its baby brother, “the Flowrider.”
Now, don’t put your trunks on just yet. As Tom notes: “At this point it is just in the proposal stage, i.e., a vapor-wave.” To become reality, VB X Park will have to beat out six other proposed projects, including a live music venue run in conjunction with nearby Verizon Ampi-theatre, a collection of high-end retail spaces, restaurants, and hotels, even an indoor ski slope.
It’ll be six months before they decide, but if it does happen, Lochtefeld says he’ll be “on it like a rat on a Cheeto.” And don’t be surprised if they do “go with the flow.” VB has always been on the cutting edge of action sports. This is where East Coast surfing first took hold in the early 1900s; it’s where Mount Trashmore helped plant the flag for skate parks. And, just this summer, local entrepreneur Garrett Johnson was test-driving James Fulbright’s wave cannon technology at a lake in nearby Pungo with the help of – who else? – Mr. Laine, himself. So why does Wes see artificial wave technology as worthy of pursuing after 22 years? Easy: “VB has lots of surfers, but not lots of waves.”