Dutch wave tank RiF010 to open in 2024

For Edwin van Viegen, being a surfer in the Netherlands was frustrating. The waves of the North Sea are inconsistent, stormy, and unforgiving. He envied the surfers around the world who could surf quality waves at home on a daily basis. 

But one day as he was eating lunch on the historic canals of Rotterdam’s city center, he got an idea. He was staring into the canals and fantasizing about waves surfers could ride.

It’s been more than a decade since that fantasy. But the dream is finally coming true. In 2024 RiF010 (pronounced “RiF Ten” in english and “RiF nul tien” in dutch) will become the Netherlands’s first wave pool. It will also be the world’s first tank built in a dense, urban setting that attracts over a million visitors per year.

The wave will be a 1.5 meter right-hander that runs for 8-9 seconds through the Steigersgracht canal of Rotterdam. It will utilize Surf Loch’s pneumatic technology, pumping out waves in seven-second intervals that can be adjusted to differing skill levels.

Aside from becoming the first pool to be built in a city center, the nature of the wave technology will also make it unique. 

“We are going to make waves which are identical to breakers found at shoreline,” explained Erik van Ettinger of Surf Loch. “I cannot go into too much detail because it’s confidential, but the waves will have the same behavior as those found at the beach. [Other pools] are making waves, which, according to theory, you would see in the middle of the ocean and they are putting them in shallow water. Yes, they are ocean waves, but just not the right type of ocean wave. We are making waves similar to waves you would find in the surf zone.”

RiF010 wave pool will be at this location in Rotterdam
RiF010 wave pool will be at this location in Rotterdam.

The wave, which will be 100% powered from wind and solar energy, is expected to attract between 35,000 to 50,000 surfers per year. The pool water will be purified without the use of chemicals and the facility will feature a restaurant and surf shop.

The idea for RiF010 was actually conceived back in 2013. At the time there was no existing commercial wave pool. It was set to be the first. 

Van Viegen entered the wave pool concept into a contest organized by the municipality to create the best project for the city. Among stiff competition, the RiF010 wave pool was selected as the winner and allocated 3 million euros.

However, an array of unique challenges caused the project to drag on, namely building in the city center, the historic nature of the canals, and the swampy land of Rotterdam.

“When you build in the city center you have lots of neighbors and construction complications,” said van Viegan. “They all take positions. We entered all different kinds of law cases with our neighbors, but we developed in the right way within the confines of the law. The judge finally spoke and approved the project. I think a lot of people were just worried about the unknown (nature of a wave pool).”

Another artist rendering from earlier in the project’s journey.

Once the legal battles ended construction broke ground earlier this year. That presented a new set of challenges.

“Half of the country is under water, so you have to build on 30 meter poles,” explained van Ettinger. “That’s how deep you have to go to reach solid ground. You can’t build on the soft soil here.”

“The big (construction) challenge is the historic quay walls (brick walls that line the canals),” added van Ettinger. “The quays are also built on wooden poles and we cannot remove those foundations. In order to make the pool basin, we had to put 45-foot long sheets under the quays at an angle to then remove the soil and drain the water. We placed 180 poles 30 meters deep to support the reef bottom of the pool. It takes a lot of effort.”

While van Viegen and van Ettinger waited for their project to get underway, the world of wave pools underwent massive changes. There were no commercial pools in the world and suddenly, as they waited, pools began to proliferate around the globe and new technologies were introduced to the space.

RiF010 opted to use Surf Loch technology at the time because the only other competitor’s technology, Wavegarden, wouldn’t fit in the relatively smaller footprint of the canal. Still, as competing technologies improved, they stood by their decision to use Surf Loch.

Surf Loch wave pool design
Image shows the SurfLoch wave pool design in Palm Springs

“I wasn’t worried (by the improvements in other technologies), but it frustrated me to see wave pools pop up everywhere,” said van Viegen. “We never considered pivoting because we were already in partnership developing together from the first idea.”

They also believe their choice to use Surf Loch and its pneumatic technology was the right one and will lead to less maintenance costs and less downtime in the future. Pneumatic systems use pressurized air and do not require moving components under water, therefore the pool does not need to be drained to do repairs. 

“Several years ago I planned a trip to a mechanical wave generating pool and it broke down,” said van Viegen. “I got my money back but not the plane ticket.”

“We have eight wave chambers with eight engines,” van Viegen added. “If one falls out you can still produce waves. We also bought an extra electric engine so if we have fall out with an engine it can quickly be switched and repaired. We have invested extra in this to have no disappointments.”

While van Viegen is optimistic that Rif010 will become a destination for surfing across Europe, and the world, ultimately he is hoping that the biggest impact is felt at home in Rotterdam. 

“If you live in California you probably started surfing in primary school,” said van Viegen. “In Rotterdam you do other things, but not surfing. This wave pool might change that. It was this idea that really connected our team to the municipality. This won’t be just a luxury thing for the elite, but something that the kids can join.”

The final ticket price of a session at RiF010 has not been decided yet, but according to their site sessions will cost between 25 and 55 euros depending on the type of wave you surf.

Riding waves through the famous canals of the Netherlands was once just a pipe dream. But thanks to a decade of persistence from van Viegan and his team, soon it will be a reality.