Calgary can have excellent surfing waves and an urban beach at 10th Street Bridge (Louise Bridge) in downtown Calgary. This combination of recreational waves and accessible beach will result in substantial cultural, economic and environmental benefits that will last generations. The waves will have no impact on flood risk or on river levels during a flood.
The Alberta River Surfing Association is working with Calgary based Surf Anywhere to develop this project. The project is possible and we are in the stakeholder outreach, support building and initial design phase. In 2018, we completed a detailed Feasibility Study and Concept Design. The river conditions at the 10th Street Bridge (Louise Bridge) location allow for world class, adjustable waves all year except for during floods and heavy ice coverage. The wave making structures will collapse flat to the river bottom before and during flood season to completely avoid any effect on river levels during floods. The development will make this section of river safer and more enjoyable for all river users, will improve the river and riverbank ecosystems, will create a vibrant cultural anchor on the west end of downtown and with result in millions every year in additional economic activity.
For more information or to support the project contact Neil Egsgard of the Alberta River Surfing Association at President@AlbertaRiverSurfing.com.
For more information on Slam Festival 2018, our summer surf, art, music and skate festival go to SlamTheFestival.com. Slam Festival creates great experiences and builds awareness and support for improving surfing in Alberta.
This page is always under development as the project progresses and more details will be added.
Current Layout at 10th Street Bridge Wave
Examples of Manufactured river waves
Will this project impact flood risk?
No, there will be no impact on flood risk or on water levels during high water season. The structures that make the waves completely collapse to the river bottom. When the structures are flattened there is no change to the current river levels. The structures will be flattened well in advance of flood times ensuring they will not impact river levels. This project can be done as part of flood mitigation projects that will reduce the flood risk.
Has this technology been tested in similar rivers?
Yes, the technology has been used across the world and functions extremely well in rivers like the Bow with high flows and lots of material being moved down river.
How will the waves and beach area handle a major flood?
The waves and beach will return to normal operation shortly after the high water receeds. These types of waves have gone through major floods in many different locations and come through with no or minimal problems.
Could the river move away from the wave location after a major flood?
The Bow river has split at this location for at least the past 100 years. The Bow River has flowed over the wave location for at least the past 100 years. There have been multiple major floods during this time frame.
What happens if the wave making structures break?
The structures are designed so that if there is a failure then they fully collapse. When the structures are collapsed they do not affect river levels.
What is the technology?
There are two technologies, a water level controlling technology and a wave creating technology. The water level controlling technology is intended to be Obermeyer Gates or the equivalent. The gates consist of large plates anchored to a concrete foundation. The plates are raised and lowered by large bladders. The wave creating technology has not been selected yet but there are a number of options that will make great, adjustable waves and not affect flood water levels.
Images of water level controlling technology. Wave creating technology not shown.
Can good waves be designed and built in the Bow River?
Absolutely, good wave design and good construction results in good waves. Good river waves have been built in major rivers all around the world and good waves can be built in the Bow. The Alberta RSA is working with Surf Anywhere, a Calgary river wave building company, that has extensive experience building successful river waves in Canada and around the world for over a decade.
What will be the size of the waves?
There are a couple of wave channels. One wave will be 10 meters wide and the other wave will be 15 meters wide. The waves can be up to 1.5m high from trough to peak. At lower flows only one channel will be operating. At higher flows both waves will be operating. It will be possible to transition from one wave to the next.
Will the waves be adjustable?
Yes, the waves will be fully adjustable. The waves can be changed to make different shapes of waves and to make the best waves at all flows.
Will there be a cost to use the waves or beach?
The waves and beach will be public and free to use. This project provides public benefits that will last generations.
What types of river users will enjoy the waves?
The waves are adjustable allowing for ideal features for all river users that want to ride waves including surfers, SUPers, body boarders, kayakers, body surfers and others. The waves can be smooth green faces for big carves, whitewater holes and other shapes.
How often will the waves be usable?
The waves will be usable all year except for times of heavy ice coverage. pre-flood days and during floods. Current wave usage in Alberta and other locations shows that the waves will be used whenever they are operating.
Has the Alberta River Surfing Association built waves before?
Yes, the Alberta River Surfing Association worked with Surf Anywhere to build the world famous Mountain wave in Alberta. The Mountain wave is made from large boulders, is not adjustable and is the best river surfing wave in Western Canada. The Mountain wave has received very positive local, national and international news coverage.
What experience does Surf Anywhere have building waves?
Surf Anywhere helps surfers and other river users build waves across Alberta, across Canada and around the world. Surf Anywhere projects include the Mountain wave in the Kananaskis and the best manufactured river surfing wave in the world in Bend, Oregon. Surf Anywhere also provides a wide range of other services to improve the river surfing. Surf Anywhere past projects can be viewed on the Surf Anywhere Projects page.
Will the waves be low risk?
Yes, the waves will be low risk and much safer than the current river section. The water provides a cushion that reduces or eliminates the impacts of falls. The river section downstream is long and straight allowing users to safely exit the river. Users can only stay on the wave if they are trying to stay on the wave, swimmers and floaters will pass through the wave. There is always some risk to river usage and that will remain.
Will there be safety improvements to the existing river section?
The river upstream will be slower and deeper, there will be an easy and safe exit for rafters, there will be easier river access and easier river exits. The river passage through this section will be much safer for rafters and other river users. Old metal cables, shards and other old debris will be removed from the area. The waves and beach will be an excellent location to introduce Calgarians to the river and river safety.
How will night time usage or usage during dangerous river conditions be managed?
The waves are adjustable and can be quickly and completely flattened at anytime. If night time usage is not desired, the waves can disappear every night and reappear every morning.
How can rafts and other boats by-pass or float through the wave?
The river splits upstream of the wave. The larger portion of the river goes on the north side and completely by-passes the wave. The smaller portion of the river goes towards the wave. There will be a number of spots for floaters to exit the river before the wave. The river before the wave is deep and slow making it easy to exit. Boats can safely float over the wave. There will be signage indicating the different routes and exits.
How can police and fire boats by-pass or go through the waves?
The police and fire boats can completely by-pass the waves via the north channel which will be unchanged. The waves can be completely flattened allowing the police and fire boats to go over the waves location.
Timing, CostS & Payback
When will the waves and beach be open?
The project is at the initial stages as of 2018 and completion would be between 2023 and 2028. The timing depends on funding and approvals.
What will this project cost?
As of 2018, the early budget cost is $6,000,000.
What is the payback on this investment?
A conservative estimate on payback is between 4 to 5 years meaning $6,000,000 in new and increased economic activity within 4 to 5 years and over $1,700,000 in annual new and increased economic activity after that period.
What is the source of the payback?
The payback comes from wave user spending in the area and wave tourism. Not included are events, new businesses locating in Calgary because of the waves and the income of families & individuals staying in or moving to Calgary because of the waves.
Who will pay for the project?
The money for the project will come through a combination of community fundraising, local donations, local partnerships, events, grants and public funds.
What are the ongoing costs?
Well built river waves have very minimal ongoing costs. The design will make the minimal seasonal maintenance very easy to perform.
Who will operate the wave?
This will be determined at a later stage. Waves are typically operated by municipal staff or by the local surfing association.
What is the current stage of the project?
We have completed the feasibility study and concept design and know great waves and an urban beach are possible in this locations. We are preparing a detailed design report to present to the City of Calgary and Province of Alberta and will request full support from both the City of Calgary and the Province of Alberta after the report is delivered. The report will include the results of stakeholder engagement, initial permitting discussions, initial design and more. Here are the general project stages.
Feasibility Study & Conceptual Design - COMPLETE
Building Support - ONGOING
Fundraising - ONGOING
Stakeholder Consultation - IN PROGRESS
Initial Design Report, Initial Permitting Discussions & Support Building Plan - NEAR FUTURE
Present report to City of Calgary and Province of Alberta and request support of project
Preliminary Engineering including Environmental Assessment
Bidding and Contractor Selection
Open for use
What level of support does the project have from the City of Calgary and the Province?
Members of the City of Calgary, the Alberta government and federal government have been very supportive of the project idea. All governments require the project to advance further before they would consider fully supporting the project. The Alberta government provided a small grant to the Alberta River Surfing Association towards the Feasibility Study and Concept Design. No funds have been provided by the City of Calgary towards the project.
Environmental Benefits & Impacts
How will the construction of the waves and urban beach benefit the environment?
As part of the construction, nearby river habitat and the river bank habitat will be improved. The improvements will make those areas better for the animals and plants that live there and that are there seasonally. The project will be self compensating meaning there will be an increase in good river habitat and river bank habitat as a result of the project. The improvements at the wave will protect the area from further erosion while retaining natural elements of the area.
How much habitat will be environmentally improved?
Over 960 m2 of in-river habitat will be improved. 7000 m2 of river bank habitat will be improved.
How does the the ongoing use of the waves and urban beach benefit the environment?
The waves and urban beach will bring a lot of people to the area and create very positive and memorable experiences with the river. The more people are aware about the river and have positive river experiences, the more they will care about protecting river health. The area is also an excellent location to educate people about river ecosystems.
Will fish be able to pass the waves and beach?
Yes, fish will easily be able to pass the waves and beach. The Bow River splits at this location into two channels, a north channel and a south channel. The two channels have existed here for over 100 years. The north channel has most of the the Bow river flow The north channel will remain untouched and will be able to swim upstream easily. The waves can be flattened making it easy for all fish to swim up south channel.
Will an environmental assessment be completed?
Yes, the project will include a full environmental assessment. The environmental assessment will be used to help improve the area river (aquatic) and riparian (riverbank) habitat and avoid negative environmental impacts.
How will these waves and the urban beach benefit Calgary culture?
This project will take a minimally used section of Calgary river front and create a vibrant public gathering space and cultural anchor for most of the year. Good recreational river waves are proven draws for users and spectators and become regularly used spaces for public events. The urban beach will create a low risk space for people to enter, exit, experience and connect with the Bow river.
Who can enjoy the urban beach and waves?
The urban beach will be usable by everyone. Wave usage is a low impact and low cost recreation. This means the waves can be enjoyed by all ages from children to seniors.
Will the area be accessible?
Yes, the design of the river bank area will include sloped access between levels to allow for wheeled access such as wheelchairs and strollers.
What are the athletic benefits of the waves?
The waves provide an excellent training ground for surf and other wave riding athletes. The waves are free to use, very high quality and are available for most of the year. This combination means athletes of all ages can spend many hours improving their skills and entertaining the spectators and beach goers. Wave users could easily start in Calgary and end up representing Canada at the Olympics and other international events.
Conflicts of interest
How does the Alberta RSA handle Conflicts of Interest?
The volunteer Alberta River Surfing Association Board handles Conflicts of Interest as per our Conflict of Interest policy. This policy was developed with assistance from the Alberta Government. The policy is available here.
Additional FAQ sections and information will be added.