Wavegarden takes surfing inland


May 17, 2012

The Wavegarden prototype has been tested by professional surfers

The Wavegarden prototype has been tested by professional surfers

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Imagine you're hundreds of miles from the sea - you climb over a grassy hill and come upon a lake with perfect surf just waiting for you and your board. Spanish engineering firm Instant Sport is setting about making this scenario a reality with its custom-built Wavegarden. While artificial waves are far from new, engineer Josema Odriozola and sports economist Karin Frisch claim that their brainchild can bring an ocean-like break to land-locked surfers, body boarders and kayakers alike using less energy than any other existing wave generator to date.

The Wavegarden system has been in development since 2005 and a prototype installation has been built in Northern Spain. The patented system promises consistently rideable waves of all shapes, sizes and speeds that will hold their form (tubes!) over distances limited only by the body of water where it's located. Action can be dialed up or scaled down to suit any skill level, although the designers recommend 5.25 ft (1.6m) waves for most activities. Each wave forms with a clean face and beaks as a tube. Bottoms, which range from 3.3 ft (1m) to 6.5 ft (2m) deep, are engineered to mimic reefs and sand bars. Coupled with random wave size and speed variations, even the most advanced surfers are likely to stay entertained.

To be considered for Wavegarden installation, a body of water must be at least 656 x 164 ft (200 x 60m), but an area of 820 x 262 ft (250 x 80 m) - which the designers say translates to a 30-second tube ride - is recommended. A constant water level (+/-4 inches) is also required and the lake will need to be drained for maintenance once a year.

Schematic of a typical Wavegarden layout

Given those requirements, this is clearly not something many of us will be setting up in our back-yard ... and not just because of lack of space. Cost estimates for a minimum set-up (which includes the wave generator, prepping the location and constructing equipment/activity buildings) range from US$3.8 million up to US$7.6 million for sites with more challenging terrain or that require more substantial modification. The creators say that up to 50 surfers (15 advanced, 35 novices) can pile into the water at any given time, but it's not clear how chaotic that might get - fake waves or real, collisions still hurt.

Source: Wavegarden

About the Author
Randolph Jonsson A native San Franciscan, Randolph attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland before finding his way to the film business. Eventually, he landed a job at George Lucas' Industrial Light + Magic, where he worked on many top-grossing films in both the camera and computer graphics departments. A proud member of MENSA, he's passionate about technology, optimal health, photography, marine biology, writing, world travel and the occasional, well-crafted gin and tonic! All articles by Randolph Jonsson

Great novelty & may serve its purpose in land locked destinations, but really it's not going to beat the thrill of real surfing and the search for good uncrowded waves.

Jamii Hamlin

Have been paying attention to this project for around a year, when the first videos were publicly released to mainstream surfing sites. It seems like everyone with the Wavegarden team have been doing a lot of hard work and managed to create a replicable wave "lake". Really looks amazing.

The article seems to be showing this technology as available to purchase and install. If that is true than the R+D is either complete or nearing completion, which leads to both my questions.

"Action can be dialed up or scaled down to suit any skill level, although the designers recommend 5.25 ft (1.6m) waves for most activities."

This makes complete sense to me as a surfer, head high waves are fun and not too scary. The issue here is that I haven't seen any video or pictures of the Wavegarden producing waves larger than waist high, yet they are recommending a wave more than twice as large. Can this technology produce 1.6m waves yet? How large have they been able to get the wave face in testing? Are there any pictures or video of it operating at recommended size??

"Wavegarden can produce a 30-second tube ride over a distance of 250 m."

Same question as the first, if the Wavegarden can produce this where can we see it?This "seems" like the best wave pool technology, yet the Al Ain Wave Park in Dubai has the best footage of the biggest waves (around shoulder high). Trying to believe in this technology but as they say I'll believe it when I see it.

Not trying to to give you a hard time Randolph, the inventors may be better at answering my questions. Possibly you can forward this their way, and thanks for the article!


If I can't see it I don't buy it. Obviously a project in prototype. Just say it, your looking for backers.

The Hoff

all your comments are good... but I had the chance of trying Wadi in Al Ain and Wavegarden in Spain....

Sorry to say.... wave garden... is light years ahead of Al Ain wave, in E V E R Y single meaning... Quality, length, time,.. it feels so real .... and it can also be turned in to a taller wave, but for some of us ...sepcially for the general public or even not expert surfers....size is not the only thing it matters.....

The Hoff, understand your frustation of not seeing it... I'v seen it it is as real as it gets, and sorry I prefer the project in a prototype as you call it than the real wadi which is a bluff....

Keep speculating... soon you will say ... yes you were right... til then keep searching mates !!!!

So long.... !!

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