Aino Pohjola The first artificial Artwave was surfed on in October, and now Artwave wants to spread the joys of surfing all over the world.
Finland’s reputation as a surf country skyrocketed last autumn – all because of one wave. The first artificial Artwave was surfed on in October, and now Artwave wants to spread the joys of surfing all over the world.
In the autumn of 2011, Atso Andersen voiced out loud a crazy-sounding idea at Aalto University’s Design Factory. Would it be possible to create both artificial and mobile waves in Finland, a country full of unsurfable water?
— People in high places have told us this isn’t going to work. That’s the best possible sign that we’re on the right path, says Andersen, the coordinator of the project.
Fortunately there were believers, too. Soon the gang was testing the waters in a children’s pool at the Espoonlahti swimming pool – after hours, of course.
— After a lot of effort, the scale model started forming a magical view: a rising wave. That’s where it all started, Andersen reminiscences.
By spring 2012 Artwave had been accepted into Aalto University’s entrepreneurship programme, an invention announcement had been submitted, and patenting was on the cards. The quick pace of development was acknowledged by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation Tekes, and it provided Artwave with funding in the spring of 2013.
Last October an Artwave was surfed for the first time.
— It was a happy and humble moment. In sports terms, we scored a goal at an important moment, says Andersen.
Get on board, everyone
A huge group of people has been involved in Artwave, from Finnish surfers to frequency changer providers. It has also offered a topic for four academic dissertations.
Learning to surf with the help of a machine is safer than in natural waves, where streams, tides, pollution, animals, and other surfers need to be taken into account. (Photo: Aino Pohjola)
Andersen describes the technique as simple. The machine aims at maximising the water’s tendency to create waves.
— People who build ships want to decrease wave-making resistance, we want to increase it using as little energy as possible.
The ultimate goal is to make surfing more accessible to all age groups. Out in the world the sport is popular, and according to Andersen, it’s ”one of the finest forms of exercise”.
— Does surfing appeal to a teenager more than many other sports? If this gets young people more into exercising, we’re onto something big.
Andersen compares Artwave to ski lifts at ski resorts. Learning to surf with the help of a machine is safer than in natural waves, where streams, tides, pollution, animals, and other surfers need to be taken into account.
”We don’t go to vulnerable areas”
Surf parks with their artificial pools are already in existence. What makes Artwave different is its mobility. The machine is easy to install and it’s planned for natural waters, so there’s no need for big investments. The waves can be customised.
The only requirement is a large enough, 4-metre deep area of water and a sturdy beach. Access to an industrial energy source is a bonus.
Energy consumption is kept to a minimum in all possible ways. Andersen points out that the consumption is surprisingly small to begin with, because making waves comes naturally to water.
— We create waves together with the water by listening to what it tells us about its movements.
The point is to leave no trace in nature. When the machine is removed, the area is as it was.
What if a Saimaa ringed seal is nesting nearby?
— We simply refuse to surf in vulnerable waters, Andersen says.
With a drop of Finnish madness
Andersen calls Artwave a masterpiece of Finnish engineering. The whole idea has a slice of Finnish insanity in it, as well as the way in which it connects with the natural environment.
A huge group of people has been involved in Artwave, from Finnish surfers to frequency changer providers. Atso Andersen (left), Aleksi Raij and Pekka Ijäs at a planning session. (Photo: Aino Pohjola)
— There are no waves in Finland, but we want to go surfing. We don’t stay around wondering what to do; instead, we make a wave machine.
Artwave wants to go global. The recipe is simple:
— We ship the product to its destination with two quiet blokes. They set things up, tell a local surfer to give it a go, adjust the settings, and get out a perfect wave. Then they grab a bite to eat and go home. If something breaks down, they come back and fix it.
Potential customers are event managers, holiday and ski resorts, and city councils. The interest has been keener abroad than in Finland.
Currently Artwave is looking for partners, planning the next stage in development, and negotiating additional funding.
Andersen himself wants to catch a wave or two, too. For him, surfing is a huge deal.
— I got on a surfboard once, and everything started to look different.
Text: Anne Salomäki
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