An aquatic dreamscape. Photos: Ed Sloane
URBNSURF Has Water In The Pool And Is Beginning Initial Wave Testing
Artificial surf is coming to Melbourne sooner than soon.
Nearly two years since they first started digging their ungodly crater, the folks at Melbourne's URBNSURF facility have finally filled the pool with and are beginning initial wave testing.
Upon completion, this will be Australia's second functional wavepool but the first one open for commercial use, as the Yeppoon Surf Lakes site is merely for R&D.
If you're interested in what kind of waves the Wavegarden Cove tech will produce in just a few short weeks, feel free to read this interview with the URBNSURF founder, Andrew Ross, or watch this video and imagine the waves bigger and 5x the length.
Seriously, it's massive.
We chatted with former Stab writer and current URBNSURF big-wig, Rupert Partridge, to get all the relevant info prior to the pool's official opening. You'll probably notice that our correspondence occurred via email, and that Rupe has absorbed a more corporate dialect since transitioning away from this ratty surf rag and into the world of pay-per-stoke.
We promise, he's still a hopeless frother at heart.
Stab: Hey Rupe, so I think the most obvious question is, if there's already water in the pool, what's stopping you from running it now?
URBNSURF: As part of our wet commissioning phase, we’re working closely with Wavegarden to test all of our generating modules and electro-mechanical systems to ensure we don’t have any false starts—once we’re on, we want to stay on. It’s a highly technical and considered process. We’ll be ramping up the waves from tiny, to small, to medium, to large over the next month, checking at each stage to see that everything’s functioning normally. As an operator, setting ourselves up for long-term, reliable use is really important.
Are you guys doing extensive testing to avoid a Yeppoon situation? What’s the current status of that testing?
In our eyes, the Surf Lakes guys have done an incredible job in testing their design at scale, but it’s still early days for them. Conversely, Wavegarden have been surfing, testing and refining their Cove technology in Spain over the past 3 years. They’ve tried different bathymetries and developed new wave settings, and placed the technology under a range of operating conditions in search of optimal outputs. Our URBNSURF Melbourne lagoon uses the same technology as Wavegarden’s R&D Cove, but we’ve got double the pistons, and our lagoon’s five times the size. We’re past testing the design – we’re commissioning ahead of commencing commercial operations. We’ll soon be loading our wave menu (16 types to start), and then fine-tuning the machine to deliver perfect waves in all weather conditions, day and night.
Does double the pistons mean double the wave height (compared to the test pool)?
It means increased height, length and power – our advanced wave is expected to run for 16 to 18 seconds, and be around 2.0m in face height, or what we’d call a solid 3 foot.
Who will be the first person(s) to test the pool?
Andrew, our Founder, has claimed first dibs on (at least) the first left and the first right. It’s a huge milestone in his 7-year journey to bring the project to life—he’s just hoping he doesn’t kook it in front of the team. We’ll all be jostling on the shoreline to get out there and into the next ones, although there won’t be any shortage. We’ve made it a rule that each of our team have to ride a heritage board, from an iconic Australian shaper, for their first surf in the lagoon. Andrew’s got a sunburst 1980’s MR twin on ice, that’s never been waxed, for the occasion.
Who will be the first pros in the pool?
We’ve always had a soft spot for Taj. When Andrew first visited Wavegarden in Spain back in 2012, Taj was tearing into the right as Andrew paddled into his first left, and that’s where the journey began. He’s a legend, he backed us from day one when URBNSURF was just a concept, and we truly appreciated his support as we were starting out. We’d also love to have Nikki Van Dijk and her family join us as well. She rips, she’s Victorian, she’s an incredible role model for local surfers and the sport – it’s a no brainer for us to extend the invite.
When can we (the public) surf it?
Once wet commissioning is complete we’ll be announcing our products, pricing, opening date, and our lucky test pilots who have registered to surf it first via our website. Supporting the Victorian surfing community is a priority for us, so we want to honour our commitments to everyone who’s helped us out along the journey, and have been patient and understanding as we bring URBNSURF Melbourne to life.
PS, check out the other Wavegarden pool that's been filled in Bristol, UK. Exciting times!