The Coast News Group
Ken Eichenberg, left, and Carl Ekstrom discuss the future of wave pool technology. Photo by Chris Ahrens

Kenergy and the godfather of wave pools

I first met him at church, of all places. The year was 1976 and he introduced himself as Ken. Ken Eichenberg. I was several years his senior, but we bonded over a desire to rev up this static world and travel in search of adventure.

I had recently returned from two years abroad with extended stops in Hawaii, Guam, Australia, Fiji, Western Samoa and New Zealand. Suddenly, Encinitas seemed overly familiar to me. Seeking change, Ken and I moved to Vail, Colorado, for ski season. While fun, we soon saw Vail lacked the essential ingredients of a Huckleberry Finn experience. (Sorry if that sounds like a Disneyland ride.)

Not long after our return, I got married, had a child and got divorced. Ken sold Cardiff Surf & Sport, the surf shop he owned, took the money and ran, landing in Western Australia, where he continues living, seeking and sometimes finding rewarding ventures that are more easily attained on the edge of the world.

Ken recently returned to Encinitas to visit his mother, Nancy. We caught up, ate large amounts of food, rode some very small waves and discussed what to do next. There was no shortage of electricity in the room as we proposed ideas from a surfers’ political party, which I have forever called “The Blue Party,” and he thought would be better named the “Surfers Rule Party.”

The idea was to have all the surf clubs in California set up card tables each weekend at the entrance of their namesakes: Cardiff Surf Club members would set up at Cardiff Reef, Swami’s Surf Club would be at Swamis, etc. Whenever someone walks by, the rep asks if they are registered to vote.

With the gathered signatures, you fly a representative of the newly formed party to Sacramento where they present a few hundred voters, a swing vote to be sure, to a group of people who never have sand in their cuffs and suffer from having the blood to their brains choked off with neckties.

Like most of our ideas from the mid ’70s (skateboarding in slaps across the country in 1976, a white shark rodeo and an eco-friendly surfboard), this one drifted into the valley of dreams. But wait, hadn’t we once set a world record for the most surfers to ride one wave and saved the town from being fenced off from Cardiff Reef to Seaside? Perhaps there was more low-hanging fruit ripe for the picking.

Mid-bite into a fourth fish taco, it came to me that Ken needed to change his name to something more appropriate. It was then I added syllables and christened him Kenergy, something that relates to the perpetual motion machine he is. Kenergy. If you’ve ever met him, you understand.

Kenergy, as it turns out is involved in building a wave machine in his adopted hometown of Broome, Australia. His vision, however, is not for another elitist surf camp bilking the children of the tech revolution out of thousands per day, but something that would be free to the local Aboriginal kids whom he hopes to help train as surfers for future Olympic games.

Here was something within grasp. The obvious next stop was to visit Carl Ekstrom, the man who gave the action sports world asymmetry, before helping turn the crank to the FlowRider, which is among the world’s first wave machines.

Ekstrom, who is rightly called “godfather of the wave pool,” understands more about hydrodynamics than the average dolphin. The meeting between Kenergy and Ekstrom was brief but yielded sparks enough to power the wave pool revolution.

Once Kenergy returns to Encinitas months from now, the saga will continue. I’ll keep you posted. Happy 2024, all.

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