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Explained: How Urbnsurf went from build to Beast

Urbnsurf Melbourne is the first Wavegarden Cove in the Southern Hemisphere and, in many ways, is the epitome of what Wavegarden’s founders have been working towards for many years. In early January the gates of Urbnsurf Melbourne flung open to the public, providing the long-awaited opportunity for Australian surfers to finally sample Wavegarden’s man-made waves. 

Two months prior, behind closed doors, a large number of wave testing sessions took place that very few people knew about, let alone had the opportunity to see. Wavegarden engineers refer to it as the “wet commissioning” phase.

As the water level of the full-size lagoon, measuring 160 x 160m (5 x larger than the Demo Center in Spain), reached its prescribed level, the fruit of years of hard labor and thousands of grueling mathematical calculations could finally be put to the test. The machine came to life, software codes were fine-tuned and the first ‘Wave Menu’ for Urbnsurf was created.

So many waves went unridden during the testing phase that Urbnsurf had to keep the whole thing under wraps for fear of surfers breaking down and crying at the sight of so many empty, reeling tubes. Image Wavegarden.

For several weeks, Wavegarden and Urbnsurf operations staff surfed wave after wave after wave, literally all day long. Feedback was relayed via waterproof walkie talkies in real-time to office-bound programmers, who meticulously recorded data and adjusted the operating parameters. The complexity of the system that lies behind the waves cannot be underestimated – there’s an intricate, convoluted network of fibers and electrical panels acting as the brain, moving each piece of machinery with precision.

Every few days, a new wave type was logged into the system. Turn waves; barrel waves; waves that pitched this way, or that way; waves that peeled slower, or faster. Every wave was created with a specific surfer profile and skill level in mind.

With the initial full-wave menu prepared, a handful of outsiders were invited to support further testing and tweaking. Julian Wilson and Ryan Callinan were among the first elite pro’s to join the freshwater line-up. Whilst visiting the Spanish demo center some years before, both Julian and Ryan had dreamed of the possibilities of a full-scale Wavegarden Cove and the potential competitive advantage that could be gained from training at such a venue. Now they had their chance to try it for themselves.

dion agius urbnsurf
Wave pool pioneer Dion Agius scored a spot on the test pilot list. Image Wavegarden

Adam Robertson joined Otis Carey, Winter Spencer and a range of others, all curious to test the full-scale facility. Jetting in from Tasmania, Dion Agius and Chippa Wilson touched down only to take-off moments later on the newly created air section. Victorian locals Angie Vendy and Nat Dieda told us that they had to throw sickies for the opportunity to ride the Waikiki, Malibu and turn waves, noticeably improving throughout the course of the day until finally, exhaustion set in. 

Urbnsurf Melbourne is the 2nd commercial Wavegarden Cove in the world. For Wavegarden’s engineers – with 5 new facilities scheduled to open in the next 12-18 months – the wet commissioning sessions are now nothing more than a distant memory.


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