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Alberta's kayak and surf community raising money to build a world class wave on the lower Kananaskis River


Bigger is better when it comes to river waves and the Alberta River Surfing Association (ARSA) and Alberta Whitewater Association (AWA) want to build the perfect surf and kayak wave.

The groups have raised $150,000 through a grant from the province of Alberta and have raised $70,000 from individuals, businesses and other organizations.

Neil Egsgard is the president of ARSA and says they're now a little more than $40,000 short of the total expected cost of the adjustable wave project.

"We looked at the revenue and the economic impact of international whitewater competitions and it's a few $100,000 for every event based on events that we've seen in Canada," said Egsgard. "So we'd be expecting to have an event a year for kayaking one year and then surfing the next year so we're looking at a few $100,000 of new revenue coming into coming into this area just from the one one event a year alone."

The flow of the lower Kananaskis River at Canoe Meadows is controlled by a hydro dam and that makes it the perfect area to engineer an adjustable wave feature made out of steel. Mike Holroyd is the executive director of AWA who first started kayaking on the river in 1993 and knows it's potential.

"If you build it, they will come," said Holroyd. "It's the old saying right and we've seen between the Kananaskis and Harvie Passage, we've got that for the slalom side of things now and so it's really exciting to be able to add to that on the freestyle and on the surfing and and just build that big whitewater community."

Egsgard says the waves in the area today are man made, created by placing a series of boulders on the river bed. He's excited about this project.

"The biggest thing about the new wave is that it's going to be perfect 12 metres wide," he said. "Really wide, so in terms of the sport and in terms of the feeling of flow that you get on the feature, the wider and more consistent the feature you have the higher quality maneuvers, the higher quality the athletics."

Holroyd hopes the funds are raised soon so the engineering plans can be completed for the new wave and construction and installation taking place no later than 2024.

"The goal is to build this wave that we can adjust," said Holroyd. "So regardless of the water levels we would be able to switch back and forth between canoe and kayak and surf and be able to use it anytime."

The Canadian Whitewater Championships are being hosted this year the first week in August on the existing waves of the Lower Kananaskis River.

"So for instance, this wave if it was in place already, that would be the place where we would do the freestyle (events)," he said. "With the quality of this wave we should be able to hold the World Championships in the future so that's what we're aiming for."

And a world class facility in Kananaskis Country could attract more people to whitewater sports and keep those already interested here rather than travelling outside Alberta.

"The surfing population is around one per cent”, he said. "So there's around 30,000 surfers in Alberta who would either travel for surfing, they would do wake surfing, they would do river surfing."

Learn more about the adjustable wave fundraising project here. Top Stories

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