Artwave is a new surf wave innovation from Finland
Finland is a poor homeland for surfers. Active surfing for Finns is mainly based on long trips to distant surf paradises. But even the surfing is easy for Finns compared to running surf business in Finland. In California, Australia or the Basque Country surf industry has a long history and is now worth billions. But in Finland surf industry is basically synonym to handful of small boutiques selling t-shirts from international surf brands.
This challenging basis hasn’t stopped Finnish Artwave. Artwave is a Aalto University and Tekes project that has developed a new kind of artificial wave technology to the emerging new surf park markets. At the same time Artwave tries to make the challenges of Finnish surfing their competitive advantage.
Artwave is led by Atso Andersen and Pauli Immonen from Aalto University. We asked them what Artwave is about.
Waves to natural waters
Artificial surf development is currently globally focused on the development of large surf pools. These surf pools are up more than 100 meters long and tens of meters wide. They can produce fair-meter-high waves for surfers.
In many places, the pool is a natural choice for artificial surf spot. Good natural waters like lakes or clean ocean shores are not available everywhere.
But Finland represents the other extreme. Finland is a land of thousands of lakes. Finnish lakes are beautiful and clean. Surfers also like and appreciate the clean and natural lakes. The only problem with lakes is the lack of waves.
This speciality of Finnish nature is the key point in Artwave concept.
"Artwave is based on the existing natural water reservoirs, ie docks, lakes, rivers and bays. Artwave could be put into a pool too, but preferably not. We want to make waves in natural environments", says Atso Andersen.
Installing Artwave setup to any natural water is easy. Suitable shore site and water area next to the site are the only requirements says Pauli Immonen:
"Only requirement for Artwave besides a suitable shore site and water area is sufficient electrical connection.
The water area must be at least 4 meters deep. Available water sector must be at least 100 m long and 30 m wide.
The site should have a relatively flat place for a 40-foot sea container and a little extra space around it.
The electrical connection must be 400 V and 630 A or 400 A."
Artwave takes the naturalness and minimum disturbance to nature seriously. Atwave hardware and the waves produced with it must not cause disturbing erosion of the beach, strong currents to the water, or noise. If necessary, Artwave surf spot may look and feel like a regular natural water system. The only difference is that the otherwise flat water has regular surfable waves.
Artwave naturalness is also true for surfing. The surfing experience includes natural things like paddling back to the starting point after riding a wave and waiting for own turn at the lineup.
Mobile surfing technology
Besided natural waters Finland is also known for mobile technology. Angry Birds, Nokia and various other mobile success stories are born in Finland. And mobile technology is another speciality for Artwave too. But with Artwave the mobile aspect doesn’t mean that there will be a surfing game for mobile phones included in the project. Mobility means that the whole Artwave setup and wave machine is truly mobile.
"Artwave is portable. Everything is based and located in containers. When Artwave container is taken away from the site there will be no permanent damage or effects. This makes a big difference to almost any artificial outdoor sport equipment. Artwave can come and go”, says Andersen.
A fully portable and temporary surf wave facility may interest, for example, event organizers around the world. Surf competitions or surf shows haven’t been possible to take anywhere near the audience's homes like urban city docks.
For the competing surf pools short-term installations are not possible. They always require commitment for tens of years. And after the surf pool has done its job the necessary deconstruction and restoration of the site are very difficult.
Artwave’s mobile technology means also low costs. Artwave buyer saves huge amounts of money by avoiding large construction projects.
Mobile is not the only thing in Artwave that reminds of modern tech projects. Another similar aspect is scalability. Artwave is easily scalable. Lakes and bays could often have room for larger waves and wave centers with multiple waves. Competing surf pool centers would be almost impossible to scale after the construction.
"Wave lenth very easy to scale with Artwave. You only need a longer rope that drags the Artwave wave wing system underwater. You could easily have hundreds of meters long waves with Artwave but the optimal wave for surfers is currently a little less than 100 meters long. Also wave height and width can certainly be increased. But increasing them increases also the requirements for for power and space", says Pauli Immonen.
From Finland to international markets
Artwave concept is based on the nature of Finnish natural waters and environmentally friendly mobile technology. Accordint to Andersen the goal is still to conquer the world outside Finland.
"The markets have been considered from many angles. First there could be markets in Finland, Austria, Russia and other areas that totally lack surfable ocean and waves.
On the other hand there could be demand also on areas where the natural surf is very crowded and surfers are frustrated by the crowds.
Third, the tourist areas for example in Asia have great need for all different new services and facilities that would attract tourists.
Last but not least we want to export Artwave to big urban cities with ports. Their port areas would be great for Artwave."
Attention to the environmental sustainablity
All artificial wave technologies are environmentally challenging. Artificial surf waves require enormous amounts of energy. Surfing on artificial waves may become the world's most energy-consuming sport and hobby.
Artwave, however, seeks to ensure environmentally sustainable surf.
"Artwave makes the waves as energy-efficiently as possible", Andersen says.
"Artwave uses energy about as much as some other water sport machines like FlowRider. The average power demand is estimated to be about 60 kW. Single operating cycle, a surf wave, consumes around 2 kWh. Electricity costs per wave are around 20 cents", tells Immonen.
Artwaves strength in environmental issues is the ability to focus surfers attention to environmental issues. According to Andersen Artwave can be used very well to promote environmental issues like long distance travelling and dirty waters.
"Hopefully, we can reduce the need for travel. In the best case the artificial waves can reduce the need to travel and use sensitive endangered natural surf spots.
With Artwave you can also focus attention to local waters. Take Artwave to your local city port and the message is clear: this water here needs to be even cleaner."
So maybe Artwaves will be installed also by various environmental organization to help in cleaning local waters and shores.
Focus on future waves and advanced technological development
The first Artwave pilot will be tested in Helsinki during the September. If everything goes as planned the first ready Artwave setups will be delivered to the first buyers for the summer 2015 season. Still the first Artwave buyers are not not yet known.
"In Finland we have all kinds of plans and discussions about functional Artwave for the summer of 2015. Hopefully everything goes as planned!"
Artwave development will continue in the future. After the first versions of the device Artwave team will start the development of the next even better versions. According to Artwave Artwave will be a high-quality product developer and not just a manufacturer of one wave machine model.
"Our specialty is the deep understanding of wave simulation and hydrodynamic modeling. We have developed for example software that simulates and calculates what happens where the air and water meet. In the modeling and simulation of future waves we are in the middle of very interesting new things."
Stoke for everyone and everywhere
Artwave emphasized the long-term goals. Surfers want more surf very soon. But the biggest changes may come little by little from the crowds outside current surf scene. Andersen has a clear vision for the future.
"The greatest thing is to introduce the surf stoke to everybody. People around the world have experienced the stoke when they have ridden their first waves. They know how good it feels and how important it can be to their lives. Our goal is to help as many new people as possible to experience that. Then the world would be a better place for us all."
Text and photos: Markku Jussila
Translated from the original Finnish article "Artwave on kansainvälinen surffiaaltoinnovaatio Suomesta."
The author is is also member of the Artwave team.