WavePoolMag Euro Road Trip Stop Number One – Belgium!

In May WavePoolMag along with Blair Conklin and crew fired up a European wave pool tour. The first stop was AllWaves in Belgium, you know, the pillow tech powering that one-of-a-kind demo facility in Knokke-Heist.


Like that perennial wet blanket of grey overcast, everything in Belgium is heavy: The beer, the waffles, the techno music, the medieval stones making up any of several castles worthy of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Personal expectations are heavy as well. Most residents speak a handful of languages from French to English to Flemish (a dutch dialect that would be right at home in any of the Hobbit movies.) That’s three times the languages spoken by most Americans.

For WavePoolMag the trip was chance to test a brand new technology firsthand and relay our experience to the world. For skim/surfing sensation Blair Conklin, it was a chance to skim, surf, and create social content to feed his YouTube and other channels.

“After a couple of planes and trains we arrived in Knokke-Heist, Belgium, where the R&D pool is located,” said Blair. “In addition to testing out the waves, we also had the pleasure of trying some of Belgium’s finest waffles and beers in a nearby town called Bruges.”

On either side of the wave pool you’ll find a left and a right. Between the two at the foot of the pool is a peak suitable for surfers to split left and right. Gary of Team Blair going right at the peak. Photo Stokedhouse.

Bruges is a 15-minute drive from Knokke-Heist, where AllWaves in headquartered. The company put on a meet and greet and welcomed us in the medieval city – one of Belgium’s top tourist destinations next to Ghent.

For the tour of the R&D facility AllWaves shuttled invitees to Knokke-Heist to attend a demo day with Belgian press in attendance. The event attracted a baker’s dozen of Belgium surf royalty, supporters, press (including WavePoolMag) and a few errant kayaks. As usual, Blair brought a new level of fun to the whole experience.

“AllWaves is known for their pillow technology, an underwater fabric that moves up and down as well as laterally to produce waves,” said Blair. “It is a soft structure without grids, nets, ropes, or other components – the membrane can be best compared to a bouncy castle but filled with water. Each section of the membrane can be adjusted to pull or push water. It’s these actions that create swell at the water’s surface.”

The hydraulic power system is in a dedicated room outside of the pool and can be maintained without submersion. AllWaves says that there are just a few moving parts under the membrane used to manipulate the textile.

AllWaves technology Belgium wave pool
This drone view illustrates how the waves push out in concentric circles from a submerged wave engine – in this case a giant pillow.

Having surfed several technologies around the world, we were impressed with this wave-generation tech’s creativity. The waves are sent out in concentric circles, similar to the pattern generated at Surf Lakes, except inverse to the giant plunger. As the waves fan out across the human-made lake they hit the bathymetry to form a left and a right as well as a pop-up peak at the foot of the pool.

Our impression was that AllWaves demo facility is too small to fully demonstrate the tech’s full potential. They did well maximising the space available to them, but we feel it was hard to see all that this wave is capable of. With more space, the waves could go bigger and longer.

Right now the pool is a tight fit. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. Remember that Wavegarden’s first Cove demo is truncated as well with only 28 modules whereas today most Coves are twice that size. The case for AllWaves could be similar – we might have been looking at a half-sized wave pool. Future commercial facilities could be twice this size.

WavePoolMag’s editor-in-chief Bryan Dickerson was able to test the wave pool along with the assembled crew of Belgium all-stars and Blair Conklin. Photo Stokedhouse.

Wave production is nearly constant with a wave produced every seven seconds, so roughly 500 waves per hour. Each swell generated can ultimately accommodate four surfers – one on the left point and one on the right point with two splitting the peak at the foot of the pool. AllWaves says this translates to 2000 rides per hour.

Another note on the technology is that AllWaves worked with the University of Ghent on their unique bathymetry. The water quickly subsides after each set – a plus to minimizing dead time let the water settle.

AllWaves said they are in commercial discussions with several groups at the moment. We hope to see this design thrive and expand across the surf park space but needs to be done in a wave pool with a larger footprint. This, of course, depending on market. And Blair? Well it doesn’t really matter, he makes everything look fun.