WAVES & GEAR

Local Waves

When visiting any wave in Alberta please introduce yourself to other surfers and respect that they are there to enjoy surfing.  The waves exist because the Alberta River Surfing Association and Surf Anywhere built them and protect them.  You can improve the experience for everyone by being friendly and cheering for others when they push their abilities.  Please clean up any garbage you find.  CMS means cubic meters per second.

Good progession when learning surfing is:

  • 10th Street in Calgary - Beginner - Low Risk
    • Learn how to control your board and get up
    • Easy to catch, close to emergency response if needed
  • Santa Claus in the Kananaskis - Intermediate - Medium Risk
    • Learn how faster rivers work and how to control yourself and your board in rapids
    • Deeper river section, no emergency response
  • The Mountain - Advanced - High Risk
    • Shallow with a lot hidden dangers
    • Very dangerous for beginners without river knowledge
    • No emergency response

10st. Wave - BEGINNER - LOW RISK

Louise Bridge, Calgary

  • Wave Report
    • Wave Camera
    • Flow Graph
    • Flow Forecast
  • Spot Info
  • Flow Info
    • <60 cms shallow, 80-100 cms good, 100-160 cms great, >200 cms wave is flat

Known Dangers

  1. City Water: Avoid this wave on high water advisories, during or just after large rainfalls.  The sewer drains run directly into the river and can be hazardous to your health.

  2. High Water: If the water clarity is brown or unclear you will be unable to spot hazards floating down river like a tree.  Entrapment hazards exist in high water and will not be visible

  3. Ice: Avoid surfing in any icy conditions.

Vibe

This is a beginner wave and should be treated as such. Everyone here is happy and friendly.  It has a big eddy and a deep water channel making it safe to learn.  It is still best to take a lesson or go with a guide for your first time but you won’t find localism here.  When surfing this wave please don’t take yourself too seriously, make it fun for everyone.

 

Santa claus - intermediate - medium risk

 

Lower Kananaskis River, Alberta

  • Wave Report
    • Flow Graph
    • Flow Forecast
  • Flow Info
    • Add 30 minutes to forecast flow times for water to reach the wave
    • 25 to 35 cms is good, >50 wave is too flat
    • Flows are Transalta dam controlled
    • River flows and levels can change without warning
    • NB - Summer flows are expected to be 2 hours per day.  This is due to a flood prevention program by the Alberta Government.  Rain will increase the flow times.

Known Dangers

  1. Hard to see upstream users

  2. Fast Current - do not attempt to stand on the river bottom in even a slow current.  Paddle your board to the calm water in the river’s edge.

  3. Removed from society and cell service - go with a guide your first time and don’t surf alone

  4. Ice: Avoid surfing in any icy conditions.

Vibe

This is an intermediate wave and a good introduction to more aggressive rivers.  should be treated as such.  There are good eddies and deep water.

 

The Mountain Wave - HIGH RISK

Kananaskis, Alberta

  • Wave Report
    • Flow Graph
    • Flow Forecast
  • Flow Info
    • Add 30 minutes to forecast flow times for water to reach the wave
    • 25 to 35 cms is good, >50 wave is too flat
    • Flows are Transalta dam controlled
    • River flows and levels can change without warning
    • NB - Summer flows are expected to be 2 hours per day.  This is due to a flood prevention program by the Alberta Government.  Rain will increase the flow times.

Known Dangers

  1. Very Shallow - keep feet, ankles, knees and legs as close to the surface as possible.  The safest place is on top of your board that divides you from the rocks.

  2. Fast Current - do not attempt to stand on the river bottom in even a slow current.  Paddle your board to the calm water in the river’s edge.

  3. Removed from society and cell service - go with a guide your first time and don’t surf alone

  4. Shifting Rocks - don’t assume you know where the rocks are, this river is known to change without notice.  Also do not move rocks on your own, this can cause serious injury.  Please notify the Alberta RSA of any dangers so they can be properly and safely resolved.

Vibe

High Risk & Advanced wave.  Mistakes here can result in serious injury or death.  New surfer should become skilled at 10th Street and Santa Clause before surfing here.  This wave was built by river surfers for river surfers.

 

Introducing New Surfers to the River

If you bring someone new to the river they are your responsibility and not the responsibility of the other surfers in the lineup.  If you are not able to save a beginner surfer from a dangerous situation it is best not to bring them until you have the skills and experience to do so.  Lessons are available to beginners in Alberta and taught by instructors trained with First Aid, Swift Water Rescue and River Surfing Instruction & Safety.

Safe Progression for New Surfers

!0th Street in Calgary
Santa Claus in the Kananaskis

 

Local Providers

We strongly encourage river surfers looking for gear and training to support companies run by members of the river surfing community and who are giving back to river surfing outside of their business. 

Surf Anywhere at 10th Street

  • Sells river surfing gear, accessories, food & drink and creating a surfer & spectator space
  • At 10th Street Wave
  • Weekends and one evening a week
  • Run by Neil Egsgard and Jacob Quinlan who have been supporting Alberta River Surfing since 2005.  Founded the Alberta River Surfing Association, designed and built the Mountain wave for the Alberta RSA, opened first river surfing lessons and gear company to bring people into river surfing, started and run the Slam Surf Festival since 2006 and the Wave Raiser since 2014, since 2005 have been constantly working locally and provincially to improve river surfing and build more & better river waves.
  • Surf Anywhere Website

Bow Valley Surf / Bow Valley Sup

  • Rents and sells river surfing gear and accessories
  • 621 Main Street in Canmore
  • Open 7 days a week except for rain days
  • Run by Brandon Olstoorn.  Supplier of river gear to surfing community since 2013.  Helped with wave building since 2013.  Pushing for additional waves in Alberta and particularly in Canmore.
  • Bow Valley SUP Website
  • Bow Valley Surf Website

Outlier River Surf

  • Provides lessons, rentals and sells gear
  • Rentals are through Studio Revolution on 17th Avenue
  • Run by Luke Morstad and Ryan Morstad.  Supplier of river surfing lessons since 2016, run the Mount Royal Surf Club and SAIT Surf Club and helping with Slam 2016. 
  • Outlier River Surf Website

TAG Surfboards

  • Local custom surfboard shaper
  • Run by Tristan Gaudet.  Tristan helps with Alberta RSA projects to improve surfing in Alberta.
  • TAG Surfboards Contact

Waveslayar Surfboards

  • Local custom surfboard shaper
  • Run by Jason McQuade.  Board member of the Alberta RSA, provide key assistance during The Mountain construction, helps with Alberta RSA projects to improve surfing in Alberta.
  • Waveslayar Surfboards Contact

 

Surfing Equipment

Wetsuit

Wetsuits are a second skin that allows you to greatly increase your surf time.  Typically mountain rivers require a 5mm wetsuit designed for the sport of surfing.  Wetsuits designed for swimming, diving and other water sports are better than nothing but have clear design differences than those design for surfers. Usually a surfing wetsuit can be defined as such by looking at the brand.  Wetsuits also add a thin layer of protection from impact from rocks. Even in warm climates if the wave is shallow a thin 2mm wetsuit is recommended.

For repair Aquaseal and Neoprene cement work well.  For cleaning a few drops of dish soap in a bath tub then rinsing the wetsuit helps eliminate odors.

Gloves and Boots

Boots are highly recommended in Alberta rivers.  Boots give added warm to surfers but also protect the surfer from sharp rocks or foreign objects that lay on the bottom.  Again surf booties are a local favourite for their warmth and performance but standard water shoes will add the protection you require.

Gloves are greatly recommended in the shoulder season (Spring, Fall and Winter) and not required for the same level of protection but strictly for warmth.

Note: Both gloves and boots are subject to wear in the harsh Alberta conditions. For repair Aquaseal and Neoprene cement are recommended.  Look at MEC and dive shops.  For cleaning a few drops of dish soap in a bath tub then rinsing the wetsuit helps eliminate odors.  It is also recommended you do not wear your booties while walking from the car to the wave as this increases wear and chances of slipping. Some locals have slip on covers or change from hiking boots to surf booties at the wave.

Surfboard

The board you choose is probably the first major investment you need to make in river surfing. There are many options in boards, and sizes ranging from 4'11" to 6'4" have been used by the Alberta RSA.  Beginner surfers or surfers new to rivers should start with foam boards to avoid damage to the board and themselves.  The river here are shallow and surfers new to rivers always bang their boards on the river bottom.  For beginners choose wide boards with a lot of width in the nose and tail of the board.  There has been experimentation with kite surf boards and wake surfers at the Mountain wave in the Kananaskis with varying degrees of success.  Once you have learned how to stand and get some turns on a beginner foam board it may limit further progression.  If the surfer is comfortable with the river environment, can stand every wave, raises their gaze away from their feet and to their surroundings and show control in their wipeouts the surfer is ready for a hard board.  Local shapers can offer good and durable boards at a reasonable price designed specific to our local waves.

Helmets

Helmets are a welcome and respected piece of equipment.  Helmets are a personal choice and not enforced as a requirement.  Make smart choices. Helmets are worn by:

  • Beginners not yet comfortable with the river environment (requires 100+/- hours)

  • Surfers visiting new and unfamiliar waves

  • Surfers riding heavy boards like NSP or Standup Paddle Boards

  • Surfers attempting more advanced maneuvers and unable to execute controlled wipeouts

  • Other scenarios where the surfer gains the added confidence and protection they seek

H In Alberta no one will be “made fun of” for wearing a helmet, we often see people wearing them for the reasons above and it is welcomed in the local scene.

Leash Issues

Ankle leashes are very common to ocean surfers and those coming from an ocean background are likely to feel uncomfortable without them.  Please read our safety section about how they endanger your life before making the choice to wear one.

Article on Leash Safety and River Surfing by Neil Egsgard of the Alberta RSA and Surf Anywhere

Life jacket

Floatation vests add warmth, keep your head above water and add extra protection from rocks and surfboards. Alberta surfers have experimented with lots of different flotation vests from official PFDs to wake surf vests. We have seen Alberta surfers who find something that is a comfortable fit, feels good when laying on the board and has a stylish look are much more likely to wear them in the water and reap the benefits of doing so.  When traveling outside of Alberta to big river waves like Lochsa Pipeline the need for PFDs and wake vests with 16lbs of float are greatly recommended. Whenever using a leash alternative use a PFD. The surfboard is the river surfers source of floatation and if disconnected from their board they require that floatation from the life vest.

River Knife, Whistle and First Aid Kit

Accessories like a river knife, whistle and first aid kit are great to have one of inside of a group and not necessary for each surfer to have. Make sure you have an emergency plan when surfing.  Discuss it with your crew and run through scenarios. Common first aid emergencies are cuts from fins and rocks, hard hits to the head and getting caught in some form of rope or something else in the river. As you gain more experience think through these scenarios and be prepared.