A wave pool is a swimming pool in which there are artificially generated, reasonably large waves, similar to those of the ocean. Wave pools are often a major feature of water parks. Siam Park City Water Park in Thailand is home to the world's largest wave pool certified by Guinness World Records, and Siam Park (Tenerife) in Spain is home to the biggest man made waves (about 3 meters (9.8 ft)) in the world.
Several locations claim to have developed the first wave pool in the United States, including Big Surf in Tempe, Arizona, in 1969 , and Point Mallard Park's Aquatic Center, in the city of Decatur, Alabama.
Wave pools go as far back as the 19th Century, as famous fantasy castle builder Ludwig II of Bavaria electrified a lake to create breaking waves.
The first wave pool was designed and built in 1927 in Budapest, Hungary in the known Gellért Baths, and appeared in a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer documentary (James A. Fitzpatrick's Traveltalks) about the city in 1938, as one of the main tourist attractions. On the other hand, in Palisades Amusement Park, a famed center atop the New Jersey Palisades across the Hudson River from New York City, had a salt-water wave pool during the 1940s. This was a huge pool whose waves were generated by a waterfall at one end. The pool in Point Mallard Park was developed in the early 1970s after Mayor Gilmer Blackburn saw enclosed "wave-making" swimming pools in Germany and thought one could be a tourist attraction in the United States. J. Austin Smith, an Ohio wave pool manufacturer, worked with the city of Decatur to design and install the wave pool in 1970. The first indoor wave pool in the U.S. was opened at Bolingbrook, Illinois, at the Bolingbrook Aquatic Center in 1982.
Wave pools replicate the movement of the ocean one of two ways, depending on the size of the pool and the size of wave desired. In small wave pools, pressurized air is blown onto the surface of the water, or a paddle creates force in the water, creating small ripple-like waves. Other techniques utilize an "accordion mechanism" which opens and closes in order to suck water into its belly (opening) and push it out (closing) to cause waves. However, in high-volume wave pools, large amount of water is quickly allowed into the far end of the pool, forcing the water to even out, generating a sizeable wave. In these large wave pools, the excess water is removed by being channeled through a return canal where it can be used again to generate another wave.
Types and locations
Generally, wave pools are designed to use fresh water at inland locations, but some of the largest ones, near other seashore developments, use salt water. Wave pools are typically larger than other recreational swimming pools and for that reason are often in parks or other large, open areas.
Wave pools are more difficult to lifeguard than still pools, and there have been drownings in a few. For example, the original 8 foot deep Tidal Wave pool at New Jersey's recently re-opened Action Park cost three lives in the 1980s, and kept the lifeguards busy rescuing patrons who overestimated their swimming ability. On the first day they opened their wavepool, it is said that up to 100 people had to be pulled out. The moving water, sun glare, and other factors make them difficult for lifeguards. Unlike passive pool safety camera systems, computer automated drowning detection systems do not work in wave pools.