What is Surf Lakes?
Australia’s first inland, man-made surf spot, Surf Lakes, has finally reached completion and is now being tested by some of the world’s top surfers.
Whilst it’s exciting enough alone as the country’s first artificial surfing facility, Surf Lakes is a world first in providing a multi-wave facility for all abilities.
Bringing the sport inland to the town of Yeppoon in Queensland, the company behind it wanted to design safe, accessible environments for learning and provide surfers that live away from the coast with access to ‘the perfect wave’.
Surf Lakes say: “The problem is that everyone wants to surf, but less than 1% has ever tried due to fears such as drowning, marine life and weather.”
Founded by local surfer Aaron Trevis, the site is hoped to be the first of many and will not actually be open to the public. It is in fact a demonstration facility to showcase new technology to potential licensees, in the hope of rolling it out worldwide.
Aren’t others already making waves?
In the last few years, a new era of surfing has emerged. Artificial surf lakes, lagoons and pools are popping up all over the world and have been instrumental at improving access to the sport in some of the world’s most unique locations.
Spain’s Wavegarden launched in 2011, and offshoots using its technology followed in Surf Snowdonia in Wales, and NLand in Texas. Similar concepts have emerged elsewhere such as the Canary Islands and The United Arab Emirates with pro surfer Kelly Slater’s Californian creation, ‘The Ranch’ opening in 2015.
All use a variation on the hydrofoil concept which uses one big barrier moving through a water body to produce a wave. This is only capable of producing one wave type at a time, with right and left hand variants. Riders are limited by wave frequency and have to wait for a session suitable for their abilities, limiting the commercial use of it.
The technology behind Surf Waves
The ability to produce more than 2,400 waves for 240 surfers of all abilities to catch up to 10 rides in that time simultaneously is a result of Surf Lake’s simple and innovative technology, ‘5 Waves’.
The concept came to founder Aaron Trevis when skimming stones. “I was throwing them into the lake and watching the ripples roll out along the shore. The closet surfer in me said, ‘Imagine if they were bigger’”, he recalls.
Waves of up to 2.4m form and travel towards artificial reefs created from a carefully contoured bed. These mimic natural conditions required to produce 5 different breaks both with left and right versions including beach breaks, reef breaks and beginner waves. Set out like a ski resort, these areas are colour coded for beginners, intermediates, advanced, experts and pros.
What the surfers say
Former world champions Mark Occhilupo and Barton Lynch have been ambassadors for Surf Lakes from the start. Joining them for a private trial in October were other pro surfers Connor O’Leary, Mitch Crews, Dakoda Walters and Felicity Palmateer.
Occhilupo, who shared the first wave with his son praised the facility for its ability to get beginners standing within the day and tackling advanced waves in a week.
According to Stab magazine who witnessed the testing, the still water made the first wave hard to ride as it struggled to break but the second wave benefited from the previous ‘peeling perfectly in every direction’.
After a series of technical glitches in the testing period, Occhilupo was happy with the quality of the waves and announced “I’m going to backdoor that thing, take my hat off, and say, ‘thank you very much'”.
Coastal Watch saw initial waves to be smaller than predicted adding, “…still the sort of perfect small waves you’d love sharing with mates on sunset”.
Aaron Trevis has promised that these tester waves are half the size of its potential.
Surf Lake’s motto is ‘Everyone gets a break’. They are focused on selling the licences globally to surf schools and other sites that could cater for for individual surfers, corporate groups and competitions.
So far, this seems promising as they report to have received over 150 inquiries worldwide. Six of these are sites hoping to be open for riding by 2020.
The ‘5 wave technology’ boasts the lowest energy cost per wave. Considering this with the amount of surfers that can use the facility in one session, it’s commercially attractive for developers.
Surf Lakes and potential new sister sites can provide safe, accessible environments to hone skills that can be used when heading for the ocean.