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The perfect wave

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Science  10 Nov 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6364, pp. 711-713
DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6364.711

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Summary

A world champion surfer and a fluid mechanics specialist teamed up to create an artificial wave in a landlocked lake in central California that has astonished the surfing world. Kelly Slater, who has won the world surfing title an unprecedented 11 times, for more than a decade worked with Adam Fincham from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles to sculpt their vision of a rare natural phenomenon: a perfect wave. Fincham and his team used supercomputers to simulate the wave, which they then created in a laboratory wave tank. But small waves in a tank can be modeled with linear equations: What you put in comes out. When they moved to the artificial lake, which creates the wave by pulling a carefully crafted metal blade called a hydrofoil through the water, they had to adjust for a variety of nonlinear forces, like oscillations in the water body and turbulence. The end result, unveiled at a mock surf contest in September, is a wave that stands up to 2 meters high and alternates between a face that surfers can carve and a barrel that they can ride inside. The backers of “Kelly’s wave” hope to use it in professional contests and also to build resorts around it. If their plans come true, it will fundamentally alter where people can surf, the learning process, how professionals train, and The Endless Summer search for perfection.