Overview

Posted on June 29, 2019

What is the World Wave Project?

World Wave Project (WWP) believes in low impact modifying of the seabed to create surf breaks while improving marine environment and coastal resilience. Surf breaks are made by sculpting under-performing areas of seabed into ones that produce surfable waves, for beginners through to those seen at world-class surf breaks around the world.  


What does sculpting mean?

Sculpting of the seabed requires minor removal and/or addition of material to the seafloor.  


Is it possible to create new waves?

There are hundreds of thousands of kilometres of surfable coasts around the world, although a small fraction of surfable waves where Mother Nature brings favourable winds, swell, and seabed conditions all together, more sites than this where it’s almost all together and vast areas of coast not close.

Wind and swell conditions cannot be changed but the seabed can be modified to improve ecological and wave conditions. The seabed prior to and during the wave breaking has a major influence on the form of the breaking wave, with the speed that the waves peels (the wave peel angle), and then intensity with which it breaks which is most important to surfing – waves need to peel and have a steep face in order to surf them.

Over the past 25 years the concept of creating new surfing waves has been proven with the construction of artificial surfing reefs and wave pools. However, in almost every case the success of an artificial reef has been short lived due to the difficulty of building structures in the surf zone that are stable enough to maintain the design shape for extended periods. The majority are of sand- filled geotextile containers (often used because of the perceived ease to remove if the projects didn’t work, and for safety factors; neither reason has proven valid, sandbags are hard to remove and sand filled containers are just as hard as rock). Recently, more traditional construction methods using large rock have been used and the structures are lasting better (and so therefore the surf breaks), e.g., Borth and Palm Beach

WWP  believes it is possible to utilise surf science, marine ecology, and good engineering to make sustainable and environmentally positive changes to the seabed to create high quality waves, particularly where solid seabed substrate materials are being sculptured. 

The process requires thorough fieldwork, baseline model (physical and ecological) of site and surrounds, an iterative numerical and physical modelling process, environmental impact assessment, construction management planning, permitting, underwater construction, transfer of flora/fauna to identified sites, and hydro surveys compared to design.

Ecological enhancement has been a proven factor in artificial multi-purpose reefs (MPRs) built to date. The principles are simple – stable and complex substrate provides more surface area and more ecological niches, and consequently have higher biodiversity than mobile and/or featureless substrates. Other factors such as flushing of lagoon areas and increasing local currents can also improve the environmental conditions. 

Building offshore multi-purpose reefs (MPRs) can also protect from coastal erosion; i.e., take the material for a seawall offshore and underwater designed to break waves conducive to good surfing, creates habitat and protects the cliffs from erosion, while ensuring the beaches remain (seawalls protect land and erode beaches due to reflection, which is an ongoing issue in populated areas, including California).


Isn’t creating a new surfing wave experimental? 

There is a belief that sculpting waves is experimental, untested and untried.  This is not correct, in fact the controlled removal of reef is undertaken all around the world.  Sculpting the seabed to change ‘almost’ breaks into surfable breaks is novel, although there are a number of successful surfing reefs that have been built on the seabed around the world and a similar number of inland surfing facilities that utilise the same surf science approach.  

The approach is not haphazard and is being underpinned by high resolution bathymetry surveys of the sites, side-scan sonar of the sites, multiple instrument deployments (waves, currents and water levels), drone surveys, global datasets (40-years of wave and wind climate data for the area), and state-of-the-art numerical modelling, all of which are incorporated into detailed design and Environmental Impact Assessment.


Why create new surfing waves when we have great waves already?

Over the past twenty years the surfing population has exploded and as a result the number of quality locations and waves around the world have become more crowded. There are hundreds of thousands of kilometres of surfable coasts around the world. However there are only a small fraction of surfable waves where Mother Nature brings favourable winds, swell, and seabed conditions all together. 

There is a lot of time, energy, and money being invested into wave pools.  They have a significant role in the future of surfing but require massive up-front costs, significant water resources, and significant power to operate.   A sculpted wave is powered by nature, with relatively minimal upfront capital cost and generates no carbon.  

Wave pools try to mimic the ocean, but surfing in a concrete pool with large mechanisms to generate waves doesn’t match the experience in nature.


Will the environment be damaged? 

WWP is committed to creating new surf breaks that will have a net gain for the marine environment. While the removal and/or addition of material is intrusive it is a very short lived exercise 

This is achieved through:

  • Identify environmentally suitable locations where:
    • there already exists an almost surfable wave that needs minimal sculpting to make it a world class wave, limiting the material removed – reducing costs and required changes to the seabed 
    • only working on bleached coral reefs and locations where wave action has turned live coral into limestone or rock reefs with limited marina flora and fauna
  • Detailed marine data collection, modelling and environmental baseline
  • Public consultation (including Government, NGO, State and public consultation)
  • Detailed design and low impact strategy development (Safeguard valuable flora and fauna)
  • Seabed improvement plans (on and offsite e.g. new colonisation of corals)
  • Ongoing monitoring and handover to local guardians

How can new surf breaks protect the coastline from rising sea levels and coastal erosion?

Building offshore coastal reefs can protect the shoreline from erosion and rising sea levels by dissipating energy out at sea on solid rock seabed rather than extreme weather events washing away unstable coastlines such as beaches and unprotected land.


Will the process of sculpting waves have a long term environmental impact?

Any risks to the environment will be avoided and mitigated by a construction environmental management plan (CEMP), and as concluded by independent experts the reef will regenerate relatively quickly, as has been evidenced with other sites in the past (rather than never being repaired or fixed, regeneration is a natural process that is very evident in the area following cyclones.  An important point to understand is the type of impact, that is a ‘pulse’ impact such as WWP considering (or a tropical cyclone) is very different with respect to the impacts and recovery compared to a ‘press’ impact such as reclaiming large areas of intertidal and shallow subtidal habitat, an outfall permanently changing water quality, a marine farm permanently changing waves, currents, and the benthos, etc.  The marine environment recovers from pulse impacts such as modification of the reef, while a press impact changes the area permanently (or at least while it is operating)


How can the new reef improve the marine environment?

Ecological enhancement has been a proven factor in artificial surf breaks built to date. The principles are simple – stable and complex substrate provides more surface area and more ecological niches, and consequently have higher biodiversity than mobile and/or featureless substrates. Other factors such as flushing of lagoon areas and increasing local currents can also improve the environmental conditions. 


What happens to the coral removed?

Dead coral is relocated to form a more stable and complex substrate.  To protect reefs from continued increases in sea temperatures the old reef material is upcycled into new reef blocks and populated with super corals that withstand increases in temperatures and are less susceptible to coral bleaching.  

Any live coral species identified in baseline marine studies will be transplanted to other areas within the reef not impacted by sculpting.  

All marine activity is closely monitored by government agencies (eg Department of Environment) and independent marine consultants to confirm marine flora and fauna significantly improve after sculpting is completed.  


How long does it take for new coral to regrow?

Fast growing super corals grow 10x faster than most coral species.  Replanted live corals take 6 – 12 months to adapt to new reef surrounds  


Does WWP create bigger waves that could potentially damage local property and housing?

We cannot create bigger waves by slight changes to the shape of a reef (that will consequently cause erosion).  The waves are generated by winds, often thousands of kilometres away.  Similarly, the shape of the reef has no impact/effect on storm surge.  The wave breaking patterns will change slightly, although these changes are offshore and do not change the amount of wave energy, while processes such as refraction can help to lessen wave energy reaching the shore by redirecting it more onto the reef (i.e., reduce erosion, which many multipurpose reefs have been designed to achieve).


Does the wave breaking more heavily end up disrupting other species?

There is no impact on fish species as there is only a small modification to very large reef structures.  Less than 0.05% of a reef structure is removed through sculpting