Surf's Up: Wavegarden planned for Ratho quarry
Surfers, grab your boards – Wavegarden is coming to Edinburgh
For the uninitiated, Wavegarden is cutting-edge technology that – once installed in a lake or lagoon – can be used to create customisable waves (up to 1.9 metres high) before sending them rolling out across the water. Currently early on in the planning stages, Scottish company Tartan Leisure is hoping to use Wavegarden to transform a disused Ratho quarry into an enormous extreme sports haven.
So how does this idea work? Based on existing ski-lift technology, a protected hydrofoil (shaped like a snowplough) is driven through the middle of the lagoon via a motorised track. This process pushes out an extremely natural wave. As the acceleration and travel of the hydrofoil is controlled remotely, both size and speed of the wave can be adjusted at the touch of a button – meaning surfers of all abilities can take part in the action.
A demonstration centre for the project in Spain helps to illustrate the process. At one end of the lagoon (designated as the “expert area”) two identical waves are sent barrelling off either side of the hydrofoil, allowing the more experienced surfers to catch the ride. As the waves continue on past the hydrofoil track they reach the other end of the lake (the “beginner area”) and break up into smaller waves – perfect for those less sure of themselves. The system can then start again in reverse as the hydrofoil travels back along the track. It’s a simple procedure, but one that allows any level of surfer to relax and catch a wave when they’re ready. The fact the waves are largely consistent in height and speed means that beginners will never have had it so easy.
According to Scott Brewster (co-founder of Tartan Leisure), the Ratho project won’t all be about surfing. “Other watersports can be based in the lagoon,” he explains, “like body-boarding, surf kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. The site also lends itself to many other land-based activities, such as trail running, mountain biking and mountain boarding, whilst the combination of water and land will hopefully attract triathlon trainers.” And for those with loftier aspirations? Don’t worry, Scott has you covered. “We also hope to incorporate a network of zip lines for the aerial adrenaline junkies,” he adds.
Both Scott and his business partner Andrew Hadden hail from Edinburgh, and are active participants in the growing surf scene on the South-East Coast. Along with the already strong surf culture that exists in the chilly north of Scotland, it certainly seems like there’s an active community for the proposed Wavegarden lagoon to tap into.
As many will already know, Ratho is the location of the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena – the largest indoor climbing facility in Europe. Rest assured, it’s no coincidence that the proposed site just happens to be close by. “One of the major draws of the location was the world-class EICA in the quarry next door,” said Scott. “We have been in correspondence with Edinburgh Leisure about our project since conception, and both parties are keen to work together to create an adventure leisure hub for Edinburgh and Scotland.”
So when should people start picking out their wetsuits and choosing the colour of their boogie-boards? “We’re at the very initial stages,” Scott warns, “and do not underestimate the challenges we face.” Planning permission for the site is due to commence shortly, with the aim to bring the sports lagoon to Edinburgh by spring of 2017. A long road ahead then, but one with great potential – and not just for surfing enthusiasts, but for fans of outdoor activities in general. Tartan Leisure seem dedicated to turning Scotland into one of Europe’s prime adventure destinations. The challenges are obvious, but Scott seems happy to face them head on. “Where there’s a will,” he adds finally, “there’s a wave.”