There are a lot of competing visions for Calgary’s future, but one in particular stands out a bit more from the pack. Neil Egsgard, president of the Alberta River Surfing Association (ARSA) and founder of Surf Anywhere, sees Calgary’s future clearly as an international surfing destination.
Every summer, Egsgard and other enthusiasts surf a naturally occurring wave on the Bow River beneath the Louise Bridge (a.k.a. the 10th Street Bridge). Now Egsgard has a detailed plan to construct bigger, better waves as part of the ARSA’s proposed Urban Surf Beach and River Waves project.
His company, Surf Anywhere, has created and consulted on man-made waves in Canmore, Oregon, the Czech Republic and beyond. The process comes down to two basic steps: controlling the flow of water from a high point and then shaping the way the water flows downward.
In Egsgard’s experience, when people hear about river interventions they typically have a knee-jerk reaction. “The two [main] concerns with recreational river modifications are impact on flood risk and impact on the environment,” he says. Because all the technology that the ASRA is proposing lies completely flat on the riverbed, it has no impact on flood risk, wildlife or the environment. Egsgard has already consulted with “10 or 12” different City of Calgary departments on the proposal, and he has agreed to meet certain conditions — that the devices will lie flat and remain unused during ice-floe season (November to March), high-water season (June through early July) and daily after dark.
The Urban Surf Beach and River Waves project is still a few years off (at least) from implementation. In the meantime, surfing enthusiasts can still enjoy the wave near 10th Street N.W. and keep up with the ARSA at albertariversurfing.com.