Click here to watch a video of the 90,000-gallon wave at Emerald Pointe's Thunder Bay.

Just Add Water

In the last section, we looked at an extremely simple wave pool. In this design, short bursts of pressurized air apply force to a relatively stable pool of water. This creates little waves, which extend outward along the surface of the water.

A larger wave pool system works differently. Instead of pushing on the water with air or a paddle, the wave machine dumps a huge volume of water into the deep end of the pool. The surge in water travels all the way to beach; the water level in the pool balances out again. Since water is fairly heavy, it pushes very hard to find its own level. If you dump more water in, you increase the size and strength of the wave.

There is a lot of powerful equipment involved in this process, but the idea is pretty simple. The wave pool has five basic parts:

  • A water-pumping system
  • A water-collection reservoir
  • A series of release valves at the bottom of the reservoir
  • A giant, slanted swimming pool
  • A return canal, leading from the beach area to the pumping system