EXCLUSIVE: Building the Scottish Wavegarden

Jason Lock

by on

Updated 561d ago

Since the edit dropped of Wavegarden's new tech in full action, featuring the likes of Filipe Toledo, Josh Kerr and Gabby Medina, it's been a hot topic of discussion.

The Cove claims to be able to pump out 1,000 waves an hour. Which is, at the very least, an incredible feat of engineering and finally solves the waves per hour/cost value ratio for artificial waves.

Tucked away towards the end of the above five or so minute clip, was the announcement of planned sites across the globe where we might just see a Cove crop up. We'd already brought you news of Wavegarden Scotland – planned to be built near Edinburgh. Now, the facility is way more than just pie in the sky, as a formal planning application has been lodged this week. And, if that all goes smoothly, the country could have one of the very first Cove facilities open to the public.

Myself and msw's Ed Temperley, caught up with the man at the helm of the project, Andy Hadden to talk about The Cove, its intricacies and any pressures of potentially being the first place on the globe to launch one of these facilities.

JL: So how did this all come about and what's the ethos of Wavegarden Scotland?
AH: We’ve had an interest in building a Wavegarden in Scotland ever since the first video landed on the internet, but it was off and on for a while. We were looking at Surf Snowdonia and what they were doing, it's such a fantastic facility. You know, we're all passionate surfers, all stoked on that wave. But eventually, Wavegarden got in touch and they told us about The Cove, so we got one of our trusted engineers over there and he said, ''this thing stacks'', it's legit. We needed to go see it, touch it and surf it ourselves My mind was blown. We needed to go see it, touch it and surf it ourselves. We didn't need to know technically how it was done – we just wanted to know it could do what they said and was reliable. After a trip out to their test facility near San Sebastian in November ’16, we were sold.

By this stage, we already had a site lined-up, after looking all over the Scottish central belt. The unique location has helped nail this for us. It's an old quarry that being restored into a country park and it's very rare to get 60-acres so close to a city at a reasonable value. We share an entrance with Edinburgh International Climbing Arena – one of Europe's largest climbing arenas, which already has 240,000 visitors coming through the door.

We also have the Union Canal running along one of the site borders and the ‘bowl-like’ topography of the old quarry provides a natural amphitheatre with The Cove at the bottom.

I brought in the landowner Scott Brewster as a business partner and we've been working on this together for two to three years. After our trip to see the prototype, things really started to move.

The master plans of the Scottish facility.

The master plans of the Scottish facility.

© 2018 - Wavegarden Scotland

JL: And you've been out there to test the facility in the Basque Country. It's a scaled-down version of what could be, right?
Yeah, we went out with our seed investors, master planners, engineers and some of the Scottish youth team. It is a down-scaled version there, yes. I brought some family members over too as we were sick of explaining what we were doing at Christmas parties (laughs). It just clicked and seemed like such a no brainer – none of us had seen anything like it before. We went straight into the planning pre-app process.

JL: What was your first impression of The Cove?
We wandered up to it and you've got this still, blue lagoon. We took all these people to Spain for something that could have been a dead duck. But when that first wave ran, and the local Spanish surfers tucked into that barrel – all the surfers just had their jaws on the floor. It was just a massive relief and I thought, 'we're onto a winner here' (laughs). A very impressive facility and great for all levels. Really good for beginners to experts.

ET: The important question – in terms of frequency, how is backwash dealt with?
For the technical side, it's best the guys at Wavegarden explain that, it's not really my place to say. But what I can say is, it works, 1,000 waves an hour is possible. But we probably won't be running at that frequency because it's too much.

Wavegarden Scotland will come with a viewing platform.

Wavegarden Scotland will come with a viewing platform.

© 2018 - Wavegarden Scotland

ET: Will it be the same size as the test facility?
The whole installation will be a lot bigger, but the wave size will be the same. The Cove in the Basque country, they'll hit it a few times off the top and the wave will dissipate out a little bit. That's purely because it's a smaller size, we'll be adding length to the ride which means that power will be maintained. So you'll get an extra few whacks before paddling back to the takeoff zone.

JL: What do you think is the main draw for inland surfing?
We're surfers and we're happy with where the sport is going, but we want there to be a family facility where all ages can learn, and pros can improve. We're not here to replace the ocean, this is just something that will have a positive impact on the level of surfing. If it's barrelling in the sea, that's where I am going to be, but unfortunately those days are few and far between (laughs). In fact, I just checked the report and it looks flat for the next few days. It's a safe place for all ages. I think Surf Snowdonia is a fantastic place.

A mock up of how the entrance path will look.

A mock up of how the entrance path will look.

© 2018 - Wavegarden Scotland

ET: And the application's just gone in?
Yeah, we had to do the statutory three months pre-app process prior to it going in, to gather public opinion. But that's turned into five months and we've actually had an unprecedented zero objections (laughs). It feels like we've got the whole of Scotland behind us So far so good, touch wood. With the other wave parks, like in Australia, there have been some objections – because there's so much to consider. But it feels like we've got the whole of Scotland behind us. If we do get the planning permission, we hope to finish construction in the next few years, potentially 2019. The detailed application has gone in this week. It's been such a long process – I'm holding down a day job as well, thanks to my understanding boss Christian Bruce for letting me do this. 18 hour days don't sit too well with the wife either.

JL: It all helps paint the picture of the effort gone into this. The Cove is very in the spotlight at the moment, it seems though that the Scottish project is at the forefront, of course there are sites in Australia going through the planning phase – and receiving quite a lot of opposition.
Yeah, there's so many moving parts that go into this and the amount of unquantifiable problems – the amount of times you have to explain things, it can get tiring. We've always said we're up for it though, we'll keep going until people realise yes, these guys could provide one of the first or second, third facilities on the planet.

The facility from the site's east ridge.

The facility from the site's east ridge.

© 2018 - Wavegarden Scotland

JL: Being the first of its kind, or what could be one of the first of its kind, does that bring its own set of pressure?
Not really, we're not feeling it in the sense that we haven't lost anything so far. We are all passionate surfers and we've got some big social objectives, but the brutal reality is; this has to stack financially. We have spent years doing the financial due diligence to be in a position where we are comfortable. That aligned with The Cove and our unique site, no, we don't really feel pressure.

JL: Got to talk a bit about funding, how has that all worked out?
It's been an all-consuming project (laughs) but the funding position is strong. It's yet to be determined if we require an equity release, it's an ongoing situation, but we're very confident that we'll be in a position to deliver The Cove.

Cheers Andy, stoked. Here's to Scotland getting its first Wavegarden in the next few years.