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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

Wed, 3 October 2018

What a headline. Almost ludicrous. Fake news? Click bait? B-grade schlock? No, writes Craig Jarvis, who brings us a sobering tale of single-cell lurgies that lurk in bodies of freshwater.


CLOSED DUE TO BRAIN-EATING AMOEBA: Make that suspectd. Screenshot from Waco website.

David koreshWaco, Texas will always remind me of the Branch Davidian siege and David Koresh. It was a crazy religious sect drama that saw 77 people killed, including women and children, while the world watched it on TV in 1993. I had never heard of Waco before until this happened, and I had never heard of it again until I saw the electrifying Waco Wave Pool footage arrive unannounced earlier this year from the BSR Cable Park.

It had a great message, that wave pools don't have to be like the Kelly Slater Surf Ranch; that just like the ocean, there are many ways to generate waves. I think also, with so much talk over the Webber Wave Pool and The Cove and the Wave Garden Mark 2 in the mix, it was just so lekker to see another real-deal pool operating, and pushing out waves that could be ripped, that had ramps, barrels and variety.

The quality of water is something that no one really considers in these situations. The Surf Ranch started off cold and dark and seemingly muddy, and soon changed to a shimmery blue feathered by the light offshores (or onshores if you’re surfing the left) but creating a beautiful ocean-like paradise that reminds one of the Maldives or somewhere similar, kinda sorta not really.

Flag of_Branch_Davidians

COOKED: The flag of the Branch Davidians who believe in Christ's second coming. Photo Wiki

The Waco wave pool started off looking really turquoise and it did look a bit artificial, like it had been chlorine-shocked before the shoot. It turns out that they do chlorinate it, but it is considered a ‘lake’, as opposed to a ‘pool’, and therefore has less chlorination and filtration than regular ‘pools’.

Naegleria Fowleri is a waterborne virus that is also known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis, and is extremely rare. It is contracted in warm fresh water, and needs to be ingested via the nasal passage. You cannot contract it by swallowing water.

It was this virus that surfer Fabrizio Stabile contracted recently, and tragically passed away from. He had recently surfed the Waco Wave Pool. There is no way that his death can be traced back to Waco, but the park shut down immediately, and will now manifest as a pool with filters and chlorination, as opposed to a lake. They have to by law, and they have five months before they can be up and running again. Pools need a lot more attention than lakes, and chlorine and filtration systems cost plenty of money, so this will change the dynamics of the place quite a lot.

In the meantime a 29-year-old surfer has died, possibly from surfing in a wave pool. This does affect the future of wave pools, or does it?


DANGER POOL: Had you ever even heard of a brain-eating amoeba? Good grief. I hadn't.

Naegleria Fowleri is extremely rare and it doesn't just take over a body of water, especially when it is a moving body, such as the pool in Waco. It also has not been pinpointed to the pool, as it could be from any other warm body of water that Fab had entered prior and after Waco.

It does, however, heighten the awareness of the pools that are in existence and that are currently being built. Some of them are definitely lakes, while others are definitely pools, and owners are going to have to be very specific and stringent with their health and safety, testing and all other procedures that could prevent such a thing happening in the future.

It will bleed an exorbitant amount of cash from the very second it is turned onThere are other factors - in that the primary amebic meningoencephalitus doesn't exist in cold water, so there is less chance of if being around in Wales as opposed to Texas for example. Here in South Africa wave pools are not yet on the radar – the Valley Of The Waves at Sun City is a small bathing beach type wave, and the Gateway Waveloch in Durban doesn't operate much anymore, but both of them are/were chlorinated pool systems anyway.

People have looked into building a Surf Ranch type pool in South Africa, obviously a scaled-down version, but a quick look at costings and returns, as well as the current state of the economy sees that the only way this is ever going to happen is if a dollar billionaire decides to build one for himself/herself and the kids as his version of a sandpit or a jungle-gym, because it will bleed an exorbitant amount of cash from the very second it is turned on. So we don’t have to worry about anything happening here, for now.brain-eater

BARREL BUG: You have a great time. Then you go home after your holiday and die.

The people who have surfed Waco are a little worried, and Stab Magazine had a recent little air contest there with a number of the best aerialists - both famous and underground. Obviously, everyone who has ventured into the waters of Waco over the last month or two have been contacted, and there have been no other reports of any such infections.

Some people have decided that this is as good as time as any to decry wave pools and call them soulless and whatever else they feel is needed, and others have made comparisons to the ocean and sharks and staph infections, compared to the minimal risks of surfing in a pool (or lake).

It could also be a rare coincidence, and the fact that Fabrizio was just unlucky. Pockets of warm water exist everywhere, and even more so for a stoked surfer getting out there and riding waves. It could have absolutely nothing to do with the Waco Wave Pool, and the fact that he was there might not play a part in this at all. Water tests and results will be revealed soon.

Either way, a surfer has died, and we extend out condolences to family and friends of Fabrizio, RIP.

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