Dunedin inventor makes international waves with surf machine
One Dunedin industrial designer is amped about creating the perfect wave.
Ross McCarthy is the man behind AirWave, which is making ripples in New Zealand and overseas for creating the first wave machine able to mimic any wave in the world and suitable for training pro surfers and recreational use.
"We are the first company in the world that can manipulate a standing wave while it is going."
He said the prototype had been in the making for more than six years and had once completely flooded a building.
McCarthy said he got the idea for AirWave while having a few beers by the Hawea River, near Wanaka.
He saw how a rock and the water current created a "wave" above the river.
"I saw that and said 's*** I could make that into a wave."
McCarthy, who studied for a Masters in Industrial Design at Otago Polytechnic, pitched his idea to investors about six years ago.
Three of his major shareholders were linked to Snow Planet in Auckland, with the prototype also receiving financial support from Callaghan Innovation. The Government agency pumped in more when it was discovered "we could raise the height and angle of the waves".
That meant surfers using AirWave could experience a right hand surf break a left hand break, barrelling and front-on waves, a process expected to be reduced to seconds rather than the current minute between changes.
"We want to manipulate certain surf that people want."
And it has had the "thumbs up" from top young surfers and bodyboards, McCarthy said.
Surfing will become an Olympic event at the 2020 Games in Tokyo, and popularity in the sport is expected to soar.
McCarthy was keen on having a dedicated surf training facility in a city known for its cold water surf.
Airwave used 200,000 litres of recycled fresh water and was powered by a large pump capable of adjusting to the skill level of the surfer, whether it be a five-year-old or pro surfer.
It differed to surfing machines seen on cruise ships which produced the same wave on a hard surface, "so when you fall off it you feel it".
"The easiest way to describe it is imagine surfing on a wave on top of a bouncy castle."
McCarthy revealed the product, which is pitched for amusement parks, water parks, shopping malls, cruise ships, at a trade show in the United States several weeks ago.
He expected the project to break even if his first two sales went conditional. Not a bad start for a man who used to work 40 hours a week sanding floors to make ends meet, and another 40 hours a week spent tinkering on his project.
"You can either give up and keep going, but we kept going and here he are with a pretty awesome toy in the back shed."
- Sunday Star Times