River wave

research

Open source and accessible research for making better river waves.


River waves can be sculpted like skate parks.

A single river wave can transform into many shapes.

Transformable waves improve ride quality, expand the user base, and increase economic impacts.

Surf Anywhere, the University of Ottawa, and partners conducted this research to expand river waves from 2D straight line waves to 3D waves more similar to natural ocean waves and river waves. The resultant 3D wave channel utilizing a multi-adjustable kicker system can create a variety of wave shapes at a single location. The wave designs are open source for use in any wave project. River wave design is just beginning to develop and we hope others will continue to expand and share open source river wave design. Additional research is ongoing and will be released periodically. Please contact us if you are interested in conducting research, contributing information, or have any questions.


3D waves

These are some of the researched waves. The waves can be combined in parallel to create complex waves shapes.


Existing 2D waves

All existing manufactured river waves are 2D straight line waves. Below are most of the manufactured waves as of early 2021 ordered by construction date. Most wave names and designers or builders are linked and can be clicked.


The technology

The multi-adjustable kicker system is a simple way to create 3D waves that can mimic and surpass natural river waves. The only moving parts are the individual kickers. The kickers can be moved manually by diverting the flow away from the channel and repositioning the kickers. The kickers can be moved pneumatically or hydraulically using a variety of systems. This concept and suggested technology is open source and the concept or a variation can be used on any suitable river wave project. This information is presented as open source to encourage design and development of more and better river waves.


Research overview and next steps

The research included both surf and kayak waves. Surf waves are steep and smooth. Kayak waves are steep and have piles on the top. Waves created during this research include:

Surf waves in flat bottom channel

  • Perpendicular waves
  • Bowl waves
  • Left and right bowl waves
  • Oblique waves
  • Oblique to perpendicular waves
  • A frame waves

Kayak waves in flat bottom channel

  • Perpendicular wave with pile using attack kickers
  • Wave with pile using attack kickers at end of channel
  • Bowl outside of channel
  • Oblique to bowl outside of channel

Next steps in research and wave development

  • 2021: Model new pit bottom kayak and surf waves.
  • 2021 / 2022: Implement wave system at existing wave locations. Boise Phase 2 is an example of a viable location.
  • 2022: Build 3D waves using the multi-adjustable kicker system in the Lower Kananaskis River in Alberta. Funding dependent.

Additional information to be released

  • Computer modelling results (CFD).
  • Pit bottom kayak and surf wave modelling results.
  • Details of existing river wave technologies.

Published research


Research team

This research was done as partnership between Surf Anywhere, University of Ottawa, Mitacs, Alberta River Surfing Association, and the Alberta Whitewater Association. The research team consists of:

Lead researcher Dr. Puria Asiaban, University of Ottawa and Surf Anywhere, modelling 1/4 scale surfer on wave.
Academic supervisor Dr. Colin Rennie, University of Ottawa, at wave model with Dr. Asiaban.
Surf and kayak wave consultant and river wave operator Ryan Richard, Surf Anywhere, adjusting the wave controls at Bend Whitewater Park.
Kayak wave consultant Sara Jordan, President, Alberta Whitewater Association, riding Skookumchuck Narrows.
Kayak wave consultant Mike Holroyd, Executive Director, Alberta Whitewater Association, riding Skookumchuck Narrows.

Flat bottom channel with no wave structure

The flat bottom channel without a wave structure does not create a useful wave. The images below show the river feature as tailwater increases. These images compared with the following sections highlight the impact of a simple wave structure. Wave channel is 1 meter wide. Maximum flow is about 220 liters per second.

In videos only the tailwater elevation is changed. The flow does not change. Tailwater is the water downstream of the wave.


Perpendicular wave

The perpendicular wave is the only style of manufactured river surf wave that currently exists. The typical perpendicular wave has the following characteristics:

  • Perpendicular to river direction.
  • Substantial secondary hydraulic.
  • Very similar wave height across the entire wave.
  • Very similar contour across the wave.
  • High tailwater starts breaking the wave at the sides.

Small surfer is scaled to show an 8m wide wave. Large surfer is scaled to show a 4m wide wave. Wave channel is 1 meter wide. Flow is about 220 liters per second.

In videos only the tailwater elevation is changed. The flow does not change. Tailwater is the water downstream of the wave.


Bowl wave

The bowl wave has not been manufactured yet at full scale. The bowl wave has the following characteristics:

  • Shoulders of wave upstream of centre of wave.
  • Higher wave height at centre of wave where the flows from the wave shoulders combine.
  • Mirrored contour on left and right side.
  • High tailwater starts breaking in the middle.

Small surfer is scaled to show an 8m wide wave. Large surfer is scaled to show a 4m wide wave. Wave channel is 1 meter wide. Flow is about 220 liters per second.

In videos only the tailwater elevation is changed. The flow does not change. Tailwater is the water downstream of the wave.


Left or right bowl wave

This variation of a bowl wave has not been manufactured yet at full scale. The left or right bowl wave has the following characteristics:

  • Shoulders of wave upstream of centre of wave.
  • Higher wave height at bowl where the flows from the wave shoulders combine.
  • Different left and right sides
  • High tailwater starts breaking at the peak of the bowl.

Small surfer is scaled to show an 8m wide wave. Large surfer is scaled to show a 4m wide wave. Wave channel is 1 meter wide. Flow is about 220 liters per second.

In video below the flow is about 220 liters per second. Flow and tailwater do not change.


Oblique wave

The oblique wave has not been manufactured yet at full scale. The oblique wave has the following characteristics:

  • One side of wave is upstream and the rest of the wave is downstream.
  • Wave height is progressively higher as the wave goes downstream.
  • At high tailwater, wave breaks from the downstream side.

Small surfer is scaled to show an 8m wide wave. Large surfer is scaled to show a 4m wide wave. Wave channel is 1 meter wide. Flow is about 220 liters per second.

In video below the flow goes from nothing to about 220 liters per second then the tailwater elevation is increased. Tailwater is the water downstream of the wave.


Oblique to perpendicular wave

This variation of an oblique wave has not been manufactured yet at full scale. The oblique to perpendicular wave has the following characteristics:

  • One side of wave is upstream and the rest of the wave is downstream.
  • Wave height is progressively higher as the wave goes downstream.
  • At high tailwater, wave breaks from the downstream side.

Small surfer is scaled to show an 8m wide wave. Large surfer is scaled to show a 4m wide wave. Wave channel is 1 meter wide. Flow is about 220 liters per second.

In video only the tailwater elevation is changed. The flow does not change. Tailwater is the water downstream of the wave.


A-frame wave

The A-frame wave has not been manufactured yet at full scale. The A-frame wave has the following characteristics:

  • Middle of wave is upstream of the sides.
  • Highest points on wave are on the sides.
  • Symmetrical left and right sides.
  • High tailwater starts breaking on the sides.

Small surfer is scaled to show an 8m wide wave. Large surfer is scaled to show a 4m wide wave. Wave channel is 1 meter wide. Flow is about 220 liters per second.

In video only the tailwater elevation is changed. The flow does not change. Tailwater is the water downstream of the wave.

The video shows a variation of the A-frame wave with bowls on either side. The flow and tailwater does not change.


Perpendicular wave with pile using attack kickers

This kayak focused wave has not been manufactured yet at full scale. The wave has the following characteristics:

  • Wave is outside of channel.
  • Pile forms in centre of wave.
  • Kickers under wave.
  • Symmetrical left and right sides.

Small kayak is scaled to show an 8m wide wave. Large kayak is scaled to show a 4m wide wave. Wave channel is 1 meter wide. Flow is about 220 liters per second.

In video only the tailwater elevation is changed. The flow does not change. Tailwater is the water downstream of the wave.


Wave with pile using attack kickers at end of channel

This kayak focused wave has not been manufactured yet at full scale. The wave has the following characteristics:

  • Wave is outside of channel.
  • Pile forms in centre of wave.
  • No kickers under wave.
  • Symmetrical left and right sides.

Small kayak is scaled to show an 8m wide wave. Large kayak is scaled to show a 4m wide wave. Wave channel is 1 meter wide. Flow is about 220 liters per second.


Bowl outside of channel

This kayak focused wave has not been manufactured yet at full scale. The wave has the following characteristics:

  • Wave is outside of channel.
  • Easy eddy access.
  • Pile forms in centre of wave.
  • No kickers under middle of wave.
  • Symmetrical left and right sides.

Small kayak is scaled to show an 8m wide wave. Large kayak is scaled to show a 4m wide wave. Wave channel is 1 meter wide. Flow is about 220 liters per second.

In video the flow does not change.


Oblique to bowl outside of channel

This kayak focused wave has not been manufactured yet at full scale. The wave has the following characteristics:

  • Wave is outside of channel.
  • Easy eddy access.
  • Pile forms on one side of wave
  • Different right and left sides of wave.

Small kayak is scaled to show an 8m wide wave. Large kayak is scaled to show a 4m wide wave. Wave channel is 1 meter wide. Flow is about 220 liters per second.

In video the flow does not change.


Wave terminology

Top wave is The Mountain in Kananaskis, Alberta. The bottom wave is the surf wave in Bend, Oregon. Both waves are by Surf Anywhere.
  1. Headwater: Water upstream of the wave.
  2. Tailwater: Water downstream of the wave.
  3. Drop: Difference in elevation between headwater elevation and tailwater elevation.
  4. Slope: The fixed or adjustable slope between the headwater and tailwater.
  5. Kicker: The fixed or adjustable piece that helps redirect water and shape the wave after going down the slope.
  6. Trough: The lowest elevation of water at the transition from slope to wave.
  7. Wave: The surfable feature that is formed by water going over the slope and kicker.
  8. Wave Channel: Channel between headwater and tailwater where the wave forms and consisting of slope and kicker.
  9. Bypass Channel: Channel allowing water to go from headwater to tailwater without going down the slope. Used to control headwater elevation, flow through the wave channel, fish passage, and alternate route avoiding the wave feature.
  10. Adjustability: Ability for wave components to move in a controlled manner. Wave components must be adjustable for high wave quality over large flow range.

Wave structure adjustment methods

There are a variety of ways to create the wave structures. Adjustability is very important but adjustability increases the cost.

Angle and height adjustments
Modelling showed that adjusting the slope angle was not necessary to change wave shapes but that adjusting the kicker angles were very important. Small changes in kicker angle can have large effects on wave formation. Slope elevation is important when considering sediment movement, flood events, and ice events. When the flow is on the angle and height of the kickers and slope can be adjusted by pneumatics, hydraulics, inflating bags with water or air, and other methods. When the flow is off, the angles and heights could be adjusted manually by turn cranks or by change the position of supports. There are a variety of methods to adjust angles and heights.

Position adjustments
Modelling showed that the slope position did not require adjustment for wave performance but that kicker position had a large impact on wave formation. When the flow is on kicker position can be adjusted by moving the kickers along rails, pulling them with cables, using hydraulics or pneumatics, or self contained wheels or gears that are part of the kicker. When the flow is off kicker position can be adjusted by unbolting the kickers from the bottom, moving them and reattaching the kickers. There are a variety of methods for adjusting position.


Key design considerations

These are some of the important design considerations for adjustable river waves:

  1. Tailwater adjustability: The tailwater elevation relative to the wave has a huge impact on wave formation. Small changes in tailwater have large impacts on the wave quality.
  2. Wave structure adjustability: Wave structure adjustability allows the formation of different wave shapes and the creation of good waves in a range of river conditions. For a specific flow, the structure shape can remain the same and create an very good wave over a range of tailwater elevations. When the flow changes, the structure needs to change to provide the best possible wave.
  3. Separate water level control and wave structure control: If the wave structure also serves a primary purpose of water level control it makes wave formation very challenging. Waves are very sensitive to structure adjustments and changing the wave structure to create a specific headwater elevation can make lower quality or unusable waves.
  4. Flow bypass: The flow bypass allows easier dewatering, a control of headwater elevation, a control for flow over the wave structure, fish passage, and passage around the wave feature for vessels.
  5. Easy dewatering: Easy dewatering allows for regular maintenance and inspection. Dewatering also allows for substantial wave modifications that can create different wave types.
  6. Long enough runout for safe exit: There needs to be enough space downstream to allow wave users to safely exit the current.
  7. Sediment removal plan for inside and under the structure: Sediment will build up under and inside of the structure. The structures needs to be cleaned on a regular basis.
  8. Sediment deposition management plan: Waves will cause sediment deposition in the eddies, under peaks in wave trains, and other area of slow moving water. The sediment deposition can change tailwater levels and flow paths. The deposition can happen quickly and can negatively impact the wave. The wave structure can be used to direct river flow to management sediment deposition.
  9. Low risk secondary hydraulic: The river feature behind the wave can be dangerous. This is particularly true for tall perpendicular waves where the secondary hydraulic can be very retentive.
  10. Low risk underwater eddies: Eddies form under large waves. Waves need to be designed so the underwater eddies will release users.
  11. impact risk management: During low flow conditions or for high velocity waves the depth over the wave structure can be shallow. The wave structure design should minimize impact risk for users. The tailwater depth should be as deep as possible to minimize impact risks after exiting the wave.
  12. Paddle in access: Waves should be designed with the ability to paddle back to the wave. For kayak focused waves this should include the ability to paddle onto the wave without exiting the boat. The best surf waves are formed in channel walls so access could include an entry into the wave trough from the tailwater. The tailwater will normally be higher than the wave trough.

 

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