Surf's up - on the Thames

Surf's up - on the Thames - 12th January 2008
(Credit: The Age)

LONDON: Two-metre waves are to break on the Thames at an attraction aiming to tempt urban surfers to taste the "quintessential California surf lifestyle" in a disused dock in East London.

From 2011, the world's first outdoor artificial surfing machine will try to rival ocean breakers using cleaned river water. The Venture Xtreme project at Silvertown Quays has secured outline planning permission; building work to transform the former grain dock will begin this year. An artificial beach with palm trees, boardwalks and rentable fire-pits and barbecues is planned for post-surf relaxation.

The £20 million ($44 million) project is the brainchild of Steve Jones, an adventure sports enthusiast who climbs, canoes and surfs and believes that urban surfers, mocked as "weekend warriors" by coast-dwelling locals, want to take to the waves after work instead of going to the gym.

Surfers can expect to pay £30 for an hour's session that will offer at least 10 waves a rider, each rolling more than 100 metres. The wave machine can be set to make the surf break left and right from a central peak. Floodlit surfing and screens highlighting riders' best moves aim to attract an estimated 100,000 surfers and body-boarders a year, as well as half a million spectators.

Not everyone is convinced that riding a wave generated by dumping 560 tonnes of river water from a cistern into a dock captures the essence of surfing. But Duncan Scott, the chairman of the British Surfing Association, said: "Everything about the experience is fake, but the fun is real."

Guardian News & Media