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.
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.