Are Wave Pools The Future Of Surfing?

You won’t be able to find Albee Layer’s name anywhere in the 2015 WQS rankings. According to the WSL’s website, the last time Albee surfed a heat was in 2011 and he finished 370th overall that year — not quite on the bubble. He’s since shifted his focus on doing the things that he actually enjoys, such as landing 540s and getting barreled at Jaws. Something tells us to that Albee hasn’t exactly missed competitive surfing.

Nevertheless, Albee put the jersey back on last weekend — albeit under different terms. These terms included a perfect shoulder high wave every three minutes at the Surf Snowdonia wave pool in Wales. It was a long way from Maui — in every sense of the word distance — but Albee found his way straight to the podium and won. We called him to get his take on Surf Snowdonia and the future of wave pools in competitive surfing. —Brendan Buckley

SURFING: How was it?
ALBEE LAYER: It was fun. So fucking fun! I think everybody there really enjoyed it. There was no weird, ultra-competitive vibe like you get at a normal contest. Everybody hung out together, cheered each other on, watched every heat and had a good time.

And the wave was fun?
It was kind of trippy at first and it took a little while to get used to it. But once you did, it was just like surfing a perfect shoulder high wave anywhere. We all brought stubby boards and epoxies because we figured we’d need them in the fresh water, but almost everybody ended up going back to their shortboards anyway. Turns look pretty weird on shorter boards and the wave actually has more power than you’d think, so a normal board felt fine once you’d figured the wave out.

How did the contest actually work?
There was a leader board at first and a couple guys got eliminated, then it got switched to man on man heats. Caught some waves, kept your top 2. 20, narrowed to 16. Man on man heats. Best of five exchanges. I catch a wave you catch a wave, whoever wins gets 1. Switch off, right to left. First to three wins.

What was the crowd like?
There were like 2000 people there for the final day. By the time the semis came around, everybody who was left in the contest kind of got together and decided that we’d try to get the crowd really into it. We wanted be theatrical and have some fun, so we started claiming every wave and calling each other out and shit like that [laughs]. And the crowd totally got into it. They started chanting our names before we caught waves and going nuts, it was wild.

So are wave pools the future of surfing?
They’ll be part of the future of surfing, but I don’t know how big of a part they’ll be. I think there’ll definitely be more wave pools and more wave pool contests though. We had so much fun, the crowd had so much fun, and it was totally different than anything else I’ve ever experienced in surfing. I can only imagine having one in Las Vegas or something and having a full raging party around it. That’d be insane.

What’s next for you?
We’re going to re-package all the episodes of The Habitat and give it away as a free movie, which we’ll probably put out in the next month or so. I’m also working on an edit called Footwork with clips from California. Other than that, I’m just waiting on winter. I really want to chase a storm from Jaws to Mavericks to Mammoth Mountain. Hopefully El Niño provides.