Wavegarden launches latest wave

Indar Unanue tries out the man-made wave in the Basque Country of Northern Spain. Courtesy Wavegarden

Wavegarden, the latest innovation in wave-creation technology, was revealed by Instant Engineering Company when its website launched on February 15.

A video on Wavegarden's homepage shows surfers of all ages riding endless waves, roughly thigh-high, in a prototype constructed in the Basque Country of Northern Spain last summer. Surfers Jordy Smith, Bobby Martinez, Roy Powers, and Aritz Aranburu can be seen catching the waves in this clip and others on Wavegarden's Vimeo account.

José Manuel Odriozola, the co-founder of Instant and Wavegarden's chief engineer, says another prototype is in the works for summer 2011 with shoulder-high waves. The goal of Wavegarden is to provide an opportunity for everyone from beginners to experts to surf even if they do not live by the ocean, or if the ocean is too crowded or polluted.

The response to Wavegarden has been global and enthusiastic. "It is much bigger than we thought it could be," he said. Odriozola said the Wavegarden office in San Sebastian, Spain, has received calls and emails from potential clients, investors, and would-be guinea pigs in Australia, Europe, and the USA.

Wavegarden, which has been in development since 2005, works by propelling water over a surface that creates a moving wave with a tube, just as ocean waves form by breaking over coral reefs or a sand bar. Size and speed of waves can be controlled by the Wavegarden technology, which can be installed in natural or man-made lakes and ponds, as well as resorts, aquatic sports parks, and municipalities.

"It is a dream of every surfer to have a perfect place that won't depend on swell, tides, or weather conditions," Odriozola said. It's so user-friendly, Odriozola said, that the children featured in Wavegarden's videos stayed in the water for 10 hours.

Wavegarden is not the first to promise consistent waves far from the ocean. In October 2010, the Kelly Slater Wave Company was launched with the 10-time ASP champion at the helm with a model using waves generated on the outside of a large circular pool that break on an inner island. Webber Wave Pools in Australia uses a similar idea, with waves produced by a boat hull circling the outside wall.

"I think our system is more simple and efficient than the others," Odriozola said. A substantial difference, he said, is that Wavegarden is capable of being installed in a natural environment with minimal environmental impact. The only stipulations are a stable level of water that does not change by more than 10 centimeters, as the wave is very sensitive to water depth, and the body of water must be capable of being emptied for installation and maintenance.

The surfers that have tried it are instant fans. "Found a goofy footers dream yesterday!!!!!!! Let me put it like this ... the window never closes!!!!!!!" was the Tweet from Martinez after giving Wavegarden a try. When Wavegarden asked to use Martinez's Twitter material in its press release, he had one condition. "He said of course we can use it, but said, 'Let me surf the wave again when it's back this summer," Odriozola said.

The Wavegarden parameters can be set to make all waves equal and consistent, or to vary shape, frequency and behavior to be more natural and unpredictable. However, the unnatural sameness is what Odriozola said surfers want. "Right now, surfers are asking for [repetition]."