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Lochtefeld, Tom


Inventive and entrepreneurial surfer-designer from La Jolla, California; architect of the 1990-patented FlowRider standing-wave machine. Lochtefeld was born (1952) in San Diego, California, raised in Pacific Beach, and began surfing at 10. He graduated in 1974 from the University of San Diego law school, worked as a real estate developer, and in 1983 cofounded the Raging Waters theme park chain in California and Utah.

Five years later, along with fellow La Jolla surfer-designer Carl Ekstrom and builder Buzzy Sipes, Lochtefeld began working on what would become the FlowRider. The wave is created by a thin layer of water shot at high speed over a hard-rubber inclined ramp, which deflects the water into a wave—non-breaking, or crumbling, or barreling, as determined by the type of FlowRider or the machine operator. The original FlowRider opened in New Braunfels, Texas, in 1991. The first FlowBarrel—the version featuring a tubing wave—opened in Telemark Sommarland, Norway, in 1993. 

In 2001 Lochtefeld opened Wave House South Africa in Durban, a full-scale aquatic amusement park featuring his best FlowRider technology alongside a faux-California beachfront. More Wave Houses followed, and by 2013, Lochtefeld's Waveloch company had designed and installed nearly 200 FlowRiders in locations around the world including Norway, Germany, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates. The more powerful machines are capable of producing a 12-foot high standing wave. FlowRiders also became a popular feature on cruise ships. Loched-In, a 2000 video, featured pro Kelly Slater, Christian Fletcher, and Luke Egan, among top pro surfers, riding Lochtefeld's standing waves in venues around the world.

Wave House Belmont Park LLC, one of Lochtefeld's companies, was forced to file bankruptcy in 2011, after a rent dispute with the city of San Diego concerning his Wave House in Mission Beach. He settled with the City, and the company emerged from Chapter 11 in 2013. The following year, Lochtefeld sold his FlowRider business, and put his attention by creating surf pools under his Wave Loch banner. Scale model versions of Lochtefeld's SurfPool line were on display in 2014, and projects were said to be in development, but as of mid-2015 none of the pools were yet open to the public.