Nature Gets a Makeover

Build the latest high-tech surfboard and you end up with . . . a surfboard. A piece of equipment. Engineered surf is a different story. That humans can alter, improve, and even create the animating force of surfing itself is an idea that has put hardcore surfing futurists into a state of swoon for over 50 years.

By the late 1990s, hundreds of projects for enhanced or artificial surf had been carefully drafted, dozens of scale models made, and a handful of projects were built. None of the real...

Pratte's Reef was made up 200 geotextile sandbags, each weighing 12 tons. Wave warbled slightly as they passed by. Then the bags tore open and sand leaked out. It was a monumental failure.