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Kayakers and surfers looking forward to adjustable wave on Kananaskis River

New wave technology is coming to the Lower Kananaskis River, and both surfers and kayakers are stoked to drop in. 

The project conceived by the Alberta River Surfing Association and Alberta Whitewater Association has finally finished the design phase. Both groups are now ready to go forward with permitting and construction, after a final fundraising push. 

The plan is to upgrade the province’s river infrastructure by implementing a new adjustable wave concept in Kananaskis Country, about 60 kilometres west of Calgary, that will result in ideal waves mimicking what’s found only in nature.

“This will be the first of its kind and will create waves that have never been possible before,” said Neil Egsgard, president of the Alberta River Surfing Association. 

The transformable wave concept took 18 months to research and perfect with help from Surf Anywhere and the University of Ottawa. The theory: you can sculpt a wave using a multi-adjustable system and create different types of surf at a single location. 

“The structure can be configured in different ways in order to make different types of waves. So different excellent kayak waves and different excellent surf waves,” Egsgard said. 

Working together, said Mike Holroyd, executive director of the Alberta Whitewater Association, this project can help grow both sports.

“The river surfing scene will double,” Holroyd said. “I would say the kayaking scene on the freestyle side is going to explode if you’ve got a feature that is, you know, that’s accessible, approachable and world-class.… I think the adage, ‘if you build it, they will come,’ it’s certainly going to ring true.” 

Egsgard added it won’t only hype up locals. This wave will put Alberta on the map for both sports and be a tourism draw, he said. 

“People are taking a kayak and a surfboard and travelling around the world to go to oceans, to go to wave parks, to go to rivers, to try to get waves,” Egsgard said. 

A map shows what’s already in place on the Lower Kananaskis River along with the planned adjustable wave. (Submitted by Alberta Whitewater Association and Alberta River Surfing Association)

Holroyd said this project will be a safe addition, complementing infrastructure that’s already in place on the Lower Kananaskis River, and will help people enjoy both sports while also being mindful of the wild surroundings. 

“It’s within a provincial park … the reason that we go to Kananaskis, for the most part, is to enjoy the environment. And that’s our No. 1 priority.” 

The project is almost fully funded. Egsgard said they are about 90 per cent of the way there. But to construct and install the new wave technology, both groups are looking for about $28,000 more. 

Once permits are approved and the money is secured, installation could start as soon as October 2023 or spring 2024.

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