Todd Rutledge wants to surf the Red Deer River — and it’s not just a pipe dream.
Bringing river surfing to Red Deer is the goal of a new group that intends to make this an election issue.
Rutledge, a member of the Red Deer Surf Society, said he’s already been speaking to some election candidates about this trendy new sport that’s already available in Calgary and Kananaskis — and could soon be approved for Cochrane.
“I don’t want Red Deer to be the last one to get this,” said the Red Deerian, who’s enjoyed river surfing in Kananaskis for the last few years.
“Prairie people usually never get a chance to do this kind of stuff… It’s a really cool vibe…”
Alberta surfers wear wet suits and helmets to protect their heads from potential rock encounters. They balance on standing waves, or tidal bores, on boards that are thicker, wider and shorter than standard ocean surfboards.
Rutledge said he’s already had some limited success surfing on the Red Deer River, near the Troubled Monk Brewery, which has some small natural white-capped waves.
But he and his newly formed Society want to enhance these natural conditions with strategically placed rocks that help create a greater current off the shores of the new Capstone area.
The Red Deer River, just off the Capstone, would be the perfect place, said Rutledge, for two main reasons: The city wants to revitalize the area and the surfing would draw sports tourism, and this portion of the waterway has already been altered by historic logging operations.
River surfers are attracted to Calgary’s The Wave, located under the 10th Street bridge on the Bow River. While this has a natural wave, river surfing enthusiasts are proposing a revitalization project that would include creating an adjustable wave, urban beach, new park and flood mitigation project estimated to cost $10 million.
Rutledge feels the Red Deer River surfing spot should ideally be developed with a new pedestrian bridge that’s planned to connect Capstone with Bower Ponds. He envisions a staircase leading down to a deck and providing surfers with river access.
He was dismayed when Red Deer’s pedestrian bridge was pushed back to outside the 10-year Capital Plan. But Rutledge now believes it’s possible to build a cheaper access — perhaps a floating dock — and some strategically placed rocks, costing about $1 million.
Besides talking to election candidates, his group members are planning to make a formal presentation to city council later this year.