It was April of 2016 and Andrew Ross had secured planning approval for URBNSURF Melbourne, a manmade surfing facility powered by Spain-based Wavegarden technology. The preliminary stages were over; waves would be breaking by early 2018. But then, Ross received a call.
“We’ve been working on something I think you’re gonna want to see,” the engineers in Spain told him. So, Ross flew to Europe and checked out the new project, dubbed “The Cove.” And he knew instantly: “Damn, I’m going to have to redo everything. It was so good that we had to start over with this new design.”
For the past 10 years, Wavegarden has been researching and developing artificial wave technology. The initial model featured a foil, which drove through the middle of a rectangular lagoon, producing peeling waves on either side of a central pier. In August of 2015, the first public Wavegarden facility, Surf Snowdonia, opened in Wales. Then, in October of 2016, NLand Surf Park in Austin, Texas, followed. And Kelly Slater – unaffiliated with WaveGarden – released footage in late 2015 of his own foil-powered pool (although he had a clear advantage with a fully barreling wave).
The foil, which essentially creates a wake, not a wave, was headed for Melbourne, too. But in April of 2016, those plans were tossed out. That’s when Ross set his sights on The Cove.
“Imagine the old technology as being 2D,” Ross said. “You have this rectilinear lagoon with the wave foil going back and forth. It creates this terrific surfing experience, but it’s fixed. Whereas The Cove, I would describe as 3D. What The Cove allows you to do is alter the peel angle – the angle at which the swell hits the reef profile. By changing that, you then change the nature of the wave. You have control whether it’s more of a shoulder, or more like a slab. You’ve got this greater variability and higher frequency of waves with The Cove technology, which you didn’t have with the wave foil technology.”
Specific details on how The Cove creates waves remain under lock and key. But judging from the footage, it’s a clear departure from the previous foil model, to the benefit of the surfer. “The way it works,” Ross hinted at the system, “is if you displace more water, you create a bigger wave.”
“As a coach, to have the opportunity where you have non-stop waves with different kinds of sections, it’s pretty much a fantasy land.”
–Aussie surf coach Andy King
Some science-speak, however, was made available from the press release: “The machinery is modular, and avoids complicated hydraulic or pneumatic systems in favor of a smart and robust electro-mechanical design. Consequently, very little energy is lost in the transmission of forces, which keeps running costs at a minimum and makes the WaveGarden Cove the most energy-efficient technology on the market today.”
And WaveGarden CEO Jose María Odriozola added, “The modular system…