“I’ve got to share this with Calgary,” thought owner of Outlier Surf Luke Morstad after trying river surfing for the first time. From the moment he jumped off his stand up paddle board during to join a group of surfers paddling into a wave in the Kananaskis, he was hooked. From the friendliness of the surfers to the adrenaline rush of the wave he immediately knew he wanted to share the sport with family and friends - and while he was at it, the whole city.
Luke had been splitting his time between studying business administration at Mount Royal University and travelling the world when he first tried river surfing. The kindness of strangers offering to teach him to surf the day he first stumbled upon a wave birthed one of the companies four main values – community. The other three are safety, respect and adventure. After having my own adventure with Outlier Surf, I can’t think of a more fitting set of values for the company.
My husband and I met with Luke for a lesson in Calgary after planning a quick excursion where we didn’t venture too far from the city. We had spent time in the water ocean surfing and kiteboarding, so we thought we would try our hand at river surfing. It seemed too good to be true that we could mix our love for the mountains and surfing in our land-locked province, but that was exactly the opportunity the Kananaskis held. An equally unique experience though, was driving by skyscrapers before parking to walk to the 10th street bridge wave. It was otherworldly arriving at a surf scene right in the heart of Calgary.
The wave is stationary, and is caused by the large volume of water flowing over a rock that creates the surf spot behind it. Surfers then ride back and forth along the face of the wave, without changing position in the river. When done right, surfers exhibit a display of grace and fluidity on top of the surging water below. It looks fun. Our first experience resembled grinning baboons flailing in the water, and even at that, we were hooked. It was hard to force ourselves to take a break when we were spent, because the fun of the wave lures you back in. You don’t need to have any surf or water sport experience, but being a proficient swimmer is a must. In Calgary there is an eddy (a small circular flow of water opposite the current) that allows surfers a relaxed paddle back to the line up after taking a few powerful strokes to exit the current.
After our evening session, we headed west for a night of camping in the mountains before meeting up with Luke again at a wave intuitively named, “the Mountain,” built as a joint project between the Alberta River Surf Association and Surf Anywhere. It was a more humbling scene with much faster flowing water, but with the same friendliness from the line-up we had experienced in Calgary. The Mountain wave fires year round unlike the flow rate-dependant wave in the city, but is one surfers must approach with caution because of the quicker flow and colder temperatures in the non-summer months.
Both surfers and non-surfers alike can enjoy the camaraderie of the sport and natural beauty of the area hanging out at the Mountain Wave. The environment is fun and laid back, and is sure to get you stoked.
Luke has relied on the friendliness and care of strangers for the past number of years during his travels. When immersed in a new culture far from home, community takes on a new meaning, and rivals the closeness of family. This type of community and feeling of being amongst friends is a founding value of Outlier Surf and is exactly what you will experience during a lesson. It’s not found solely at Outlier Surf, but rather the company provides a natural extension of the inland surf community. The rush of surfing the river pulls people in, but it’s the community that keeps them coming back.
Luke isn’t changing the scene with his belief in “fostering an inclusive community” but rather his values blend in as stated on the website because it’s their “people shape who (they) are.”
You can check them out here to start planning a surf experience of your own.