Making Waves

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Image via NLand Surf Park

Until recently, surfing has been an activity limited to the lucky ones with oceanfront access. This is about to change with some incredible technology created by Spanish engineering firm Wavegarden, which has the capability to deliver the longest man-made surfable waves on Earth. Sounds surreal, doesn’t it?

Doug Coors, a descendent of the Coors Brewing family, made it his mission to put Austin, Texas on the surfer’s map by bringing the ocean-bound sport inland. The self-proclaimed engineer and surfer, founder and CEO of NLand Surf Park, LLC said it took him 15 years to find the proper technology to mimic an actual surf break. He found it in Spain and decided to bring it to North America. Coors plans to raise these waves for the public starting next year.

Why Austin?

Austin has become a powerful magnet for investors and tourists, a weekend heaven for festivals and activities of all kinds – from SXSW to triathlons for the disabled, biker rallies, and Eeyore’s Birthday Party. Sports lovers and creative entrepreneurs have made Austin their home partly due to the willingness to give new ventures a chance, no matter how ambitious they are. Probably the best example to sustain this perspective is the recently completed Circuit of The Americas Formula 1 track, the first in the country to be built specifically for F1 races. Interesting is that it is located down the road from the proposed NLand Surf Park site.

The lagoon will be located east of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on rural property as big as nine football fields. The complex will offer 11 different surfing areas, with four different surfing levels, designed to create every 60 seconds perfect waves ranging between one to six feet high, with a surfing experience of 35 seconds per wave; think 300 distinct waves per hour. The technology behind the massive lagoon has been created in collaboration with the team and tech at Wavegarden in Spain, who proved its capabilities through the thousands of waves it has pumped in the Basque Country wave park.

One of the most intriguing and fascinating facts about NLand Surf Park is the claim that, after the initial fill, the park will be self-sustaining with rainwater, even during tough drought conditions. Imagine surfing on raindrops.

“Our top priority is water and water conservation,” Coors told Think Progress. “The surf community is very environmentally conscientious and they pride themselves on environmental stewardship. We want to fit in with that as much as possible.”

With the water consumption solved, energy use comes next. Water is heavy and moving it needs energy; the ocean has the sun and the wind to create the waves, how will this massive project be fueled?

Even though Wavegarden’s CEO Josema Odriozola said that the energy consumption in the company’s technology is much lower compared with the other existing wave generation technologies, the matter is a hot subject. One solution would be to make the park use solar power by placing panels on the unused land; however, this part of the project has not been nailed down yet. Coors has been discussing with three solar providers to determine the possibilities.

Austin-based White Construction Company was chosen to execute the project within eight months with approximately 90 construction craftsmen and professionals on site. The undertaking is privately funded. Backing for the project is provided by 9th Street Capital, a Colorado-based private equity firm where Coors is president.

Opinions on the project are diverse, ranging from excitement to anger, but the project will happen. NLand Surf Park will be just like an indoor rock climbing gyms – perfect for training. Sounds like it will be a destination for all the surfers who have relocated in Austin, until they make it back to Mother Nature’s waves.