RIO ARRIBA COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – Surfing on the Rio Grande: that’s the dream of some local river surfing enthusiasts and water sports groups. One of those groups just got thousands of dollars from the state to see if they could build waves in northern New Mexico.
“River surfing, it’s all wave. It’s all wave-time. That stuff that you work so hard on the ocean to get to, you can just look at and go stand right in front of it, and park your car at it,” said Ed Lucero, founder of Surf New Mexico.
Lucero wants to make New Mexico a river surfing destination.
“The overall vision is to open up a section of river that’s upstream of Velarde, so basically from Embudo Station to Velarde is a very underutilized section of river that’s just fabulously beautiful and entry-level,” Lucero commented.
There’s a diversion dam in the five-mile stretch that Lucero is proposing to help clean up after years of silt has built up in it. In the process, they would be able to build a surf wave there.
“The plan is to do an assessment of that engineering and to create some additional efficiencies on the diversion into the acequia systems by upgrading that engineering, and at the same time, allowing the river to flow naturally which will help to dispel some of the siltation to recreate a natural river flow,” said Carl Colonius, planner with the Outdoor Recreation Division (ORD) in the state’s Economic Development Department, “That allows for a surf wave, a recreational opportunity.”
“We’re trying to get a win-win: let’s help rebuild these diversions and let’s get a surf wave.”
They’re one step closer to making this a reality, thanks to $26,000 from the ORD’s Trails+ Program.
“We got some money to hire professional engineers, hydrologists to come in and look, people that have built surf waves, you know, some of the best surf waves in the country and say, ‘Hey, this is what it’s gonna take,'” Lucero said.
His vision is to give people a beach; a place where people can pull up and park, have accessible restroom facilities, and even build a bridge across the river to access the Chile Line bike path.
However, the dream to help New Mexicans catch the perfect wave is still in the early stages.
“We want to be really clear this project is really just a feasibility study. This group needs to meet with community residents. They need to float the concept,” Colonius stated, “At the minimum, we’re talking four to five years, and it could be as long as a decade and out. We don’t want to build something that is going to have a negative impact on the local community, on the environment. We’re really cognizant of that and the people that work in this realm carry those sensitivities.”
However, Lucero said this could put New Mexico on the map for river surfers around the region: “Who knows what it’s going to look like in Española in ten years with a world-class wave?”
There is an engineered surf wave on the Chama River below the Abiquiu Dam, but Lucero said the Rio Grande is much warmer and would allow people to surf on gentler waves.
Colonius stated the ORD still has nearly $8 million worth of funding left in their Trails+ program. “We’re working to sustainably grow the outdoor recreation economy in New Mexico through economic and community development, education, outdoor infrastructure investment,” Colonius stated, “$2.36 million out of a pool of $10 million, so we’ve got $7.6 million remaining to be distributed. We’re accepting proposals now.”