THE MAN behind Melville’s wave lagoon has dismissed opponents as a vocal minority.
Andrew Ross, formerly one of the Australia’s youngest oil and gas company CEOs, says surfing has broader mass appeal than a bowling club.
Mr Ross took a mini-retirement at 40 to travel the world with his family, and says his quest for the perfect man-made ended at a secretive testing site in the Basque region of Spain, where he tried out an artificial wave created by German engineering company Wavegarden.
Mr Ross emerged from the water saying “that’s incredible, I’m going to write you a cheque for it.”
Now he runs Wave Park Group from a cell-block office in Freo prison, and will bring Wavegarden’s technology to Tompkins Park in Melville if he gets council approval.
The site is currently occupied by the Melville bowls club and some stubborn members unhappy about being relocated to a sports hub nearby, while nearby residents are worried about loud parties at the surf-sports complex, which includes a rooftop bar.
But Mr Ross says the wave lagoon only has space for 84 surfers an hour.
“We’re not like Adventure World or something like that…impact in terms of built forms is very minor, it’s not as though this is going to become a massive leisure club,” Mr Ross says.
He says activities like mountain biking, rock-climbing, and drinking at the bar will only get a little space on the periphery; for him it’s all about the surfing.
Mr Ross says while surf sports stump cricket for popularity, they only have a fraction of the facilities compared to the leather and willow brigade.
“More than 80 per cent of the year we’ll have a better wave than anything on the Perth coast,” Mr Ross said.
He claims up to a third of landlubber Aussies would surf if not for the daunting prospect of taking a board into the ocean, and is so confident he’s offering free lessons to first-timers who don’t ride a wave within an hour.
The lagoon will also offer pro surfers the chance to hone their skills under controlled conditions.
by TRILOKESH CHANMUGAM