Surf Lakes reveal plans to open to the public
WHEN the Surf Lakes wave-making research and development facility opened near Yeppoon 18 months ago, locals had only one question on their lips: "Will it open to the public?"
After initially ruling out the option of opening it up to the general population, Central Queenslanders and surf fanatics across the country will be delighted to learn that Surf Lakes' developers are now working towards opening the facility for public use - projected to open within the next 12 to 24 months.
With flat water activities such as sailboarding, stand-up paddle boarding and triathlons on offer, as well as their patented "5 Waves" technology pumping out 2000 perfect waves an hour, Surf Lakes could be an invaluable community resource and potential tourist drawcard, further raising the profile of the Capricorn Coast.
It was eight years ago when surfer and mining engineer Aaron Travis hit upon the idea of using a coffee plunger to make waves in a backyard pool, progressively building larger scale devices, creating models with enough power to produce waves in large lakes.
Once the technology was perfected, the perfect location was sourced - next to the Rockhampton-Yeppoon Rd, in the shadow of Mount Baga, where construction of Surf Lakes was commenced three years ago.
The company's current 1,400 tonne plunger with its unique concentric wave generation technology has gone on to attract significant attention, as well as investment and licensing opportunities for their full-sized lake and smaller scale versions.
Speaking from Sydney after several months spent camping at Surf Lakes (due to the border closures), Surf Lakes media and marketing director Wayne Dart shared with Morning Bulletin his insights into the promising project.
He was not only excited by the prospect of Surf Lakes going public, but he and everyone he talked to - from residents, to surfers, to politicians - could envision the site's limitless possibilities.
After running very successful test days in August and September, Mr Dart said they were upgrading the facility's mechanical and surrounding features with a view to rolling out the next phase of wave testing in February 2021.
Mr Dart stated that Surf Lakes leased their 15 HA site from a cattle property owner, and were working on a plan to acquire an additional 100 acres; provided they were successful in their quest to secure the necessary development approvals and funding for a commercial facility.
"If we are able to get the approvals, we'll certainly begin to understand what will be required to upgrade it to have it open to the public as soon as we can," Mr Dart said.
"At the moment it's just a research and development facility on a paddock, literally in the middle of nowhere with no facilities surrounding it, and the infrastructure including roads, carparking, and everything will have to be assessed.
>> Chorus of support for Surf Lakes going public
"We'll be going through the appropriate processes with Livingstone Shire Council (LSC) to make sure that we're fully aware of what is required and the council has to agree with the prospect of us opening to the public as well."
He said the high level conversations they've had with LSC, and other levels of government have been "really positive".
"We've had local, state and federal politicians visit during those last test sessions and every single person walked away fully stoked with what they saw, and very eager to move forward if possible," he said.
"Everyone realises that it's such a massive positive development for the community and cater for not just the advanced level of surfer."
Surf Lakes were looking to roll out the commercial development in three stages.
"We're looking at trying to get the facility open to the public and get people surfing as soon as possible," Mr Dart said.
"Initially we'd be looking at having a reasonably low key eco-camping and glamping facility with minor food and beverage components to start off with.
"We're wary of the cost of a huge development given that we are looking at a relatively new market so we expect that the facilities will evolve over time."
Their focus was on creating a safe family orientated facility where locals could visit to enjoy flat water activities for a nominal price.
A rough cost of $50 per hour where surfers could catch a minimum of 10 waves was proposed, which would be subject to change to meet the market.
Mr Dart said it was "embedded into the company's DNA" that every one of their projects had not just a social conscience, but was environmentally sustainable.
The initial water to fill Surf Lakes was purchased from LSC, but Mr Dart said they were focused on establishing holding dams which could capture water in wet season to progressively replenish the lake.
Surf Lakes would be aiming to make the project as "off-grid" as possible, capturing energy with a five acre solar farm, along with wind energy and recycling the energy generated by the lake's wave power.
Ocean conservation and rehabilitation was another key focus for the company, Mr Dart said they would be looking to provide educational opportunities for the community on important ocean related environmental issues.
Mr Dart said they had been consulting with LSC about hosting a community information session, either before the end of the year or in early 2021, and he hoped to share more information on that shortly.
"Everyone who looks at Surf Lakes is excited and the prospect of surfing perfect waves every single day, for any surfer, is exciting," he said.