Birth of a Pioneer
Surf Loch LLC was conceived when a young man spent his formative years “in the tube” at that famous La Jolla, California surf break. He has spent his life working to re-create that thrill and to bring it to the rest of the world, or, in his words to “Wave The Planet™”.
A New Genre
Starting out in the 1980’s, real estate attorney and life-long surfer Tom Lochtefeld was a partner in developing the Raging Waters water parks in Los Angeles, San Jose and Salt Lake City, and operated them as well for several years. But he had a vision of creating waterpark attractions with the thrill of riding that La Jolla surf break. He sold his home in La Jolla and invested three years building a new kind of wave machine, something no one had ever seen before: the FlowRider® sheet wave, simultaneously founding Wave Loch to bring it to market.
At that time the only types of wave pools in waterparks pulsed a choppy wave of energy through big pools of water, either so a large group of people could bob around in inner tubes, or a large group of people could have a rudimentary surfing experience. While it was an added thrill, it didn’t come close to the type of experience a true wave riding enthusiast was looking for.
But Tom Lochtefeld’s FlowRider® sheet wave was different: flowing a sheet of water over a specially-shaped, stationary surface, yielding the speed and challenge of ocean waves in an enclosed system that was now measured in square feet, instead of acre feet.
The first FlowRider® opened in 1991, and its big brother the FlowBarrel® opened for the first time in 1993. They were wildly successful and Lochtefeld became a pioneer in a new genre of waves: wave machines rather than wave pools.
FlowRider® and FlowBarrel® went on to be featured in major motion pictures, music videos, media events, and major national publications. In 1999, Lochtefeld built a portable FlowBarrel® for the SWATCH and Siemens Wave Tours, which shipped around the world and introduced the art of flowboarding to the globe. They can now be found in over 35 countries in over 200 installations. The sport of flowboarding now has local, national, and international competitions held on FlowRiders® and FlowBarrels® all around the world. But the story was just beginning.
Tom Lochtefeld didn’t just want to bring a surfing experience to the world, he also wanted to share the Southern California surf and beach lifestyle with the world, bringing surf-stoke to both spectators and participants. Thus was born Wave House®, a beach-lifestyle themed venue that would be a public playground for Lochtefeld’s technology, surrounded by music, food, drink, retail and sports programming. Initially using FlowRider® and FlowBarrel® as the centerpiece attractions, Wave House® first debuted in 2001, and additional venues opened in a steady flow thereafter as the venue gained enormous popularity and exposure all over the world. A variety of venue models were established: beachfront, shopping mall, hotel/resort, with others under development at the time of this writing. And Lochtefeld’s company, Wave Loch, continued to be the exclusive wave attraction equipment supplier to Wave House.
And still the story wasn’t over. Tom Lochtefeld’s ultimate quest was to bring real ocean waves inland, and take surfing to the Olympics. Thus was birthed SurfPool®: a surfing wave pool with waves that were formed just as they were in nature – through wind, pressure, and floor-shape – and which could be surfed using traditional finned surfboards. It started in 1997, when Lochtefeld patented his first hull-based design (or snowplow-shape) which was pulled through the water to create waves. He experimented with and patented a variety of wave generating technologies, but the pneumatic caisson was the clear winner, both from a surfer’s point of view, and a business person’s.
Proper aging is a key factor in producing superior wine and spirits. At heart, Lochtefeld shared the vintner’s ethos: “no wine should be released before its time”. He was determined not to debut his new technology until it had been thoroughly tested, calibrated, modeled (in both computer simulation and scale modelling), and proven out. Advances in computer hardware and software finally made it possible in recent years to produce true hydrodynamic, mathematically accurate computer simulations of his new technology using supercomputers, proving out his theories and designs. At last it was time for the unveiling. In 2014 SurfPool® debuted at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions annual trade show (IAAPA), to rave reviews, in the form of a 40 foot scale model. And not long after, projects were announced for Rif010 in The Netherlands, with dozens more in various stages of development.
The Future of Nature®
Wave House is still Tom Lochtefeld’s public playground for his waves, but now they are built around a centerpiece attraction of SurfPool®! And in 2015, surfing was short-listed to become a new Olympic sport, possibly for the Tokyo 2020 games. Tom Lochtefeld’s story continues.