ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. -- For professional body boarder Eric Thomas, his love for surfing was born in Hawaii, but his passion for waves has brought him all the way to Colorado.
"In Hawaii we had this wave that was a river wave and we dug it out, and that's how I got introduced to river surfing, and then the addiction just started from there," described Thomas. "First and foremost, it's an endless wave. It's always there, it's dynamic, it comes up and down but I know I can find a wave."
Lucky for Thomas, that search for the perfect wave just got a lot easier.
"This entire project is to highlight the river and to reconnect the community with the river," said project engineer, Ben Nielsen of Merrick and Company.
On August 25, Nielsen will officially open the first two waves of the area's first river surfing park near Broken Tee Golf Course in Arapahoe County. The $14 million project is transforming a half-mile section of the South Platte River into six wave surfing features, as well as trails, a playground, restrooms and beach area. The project is funded through a partnership between the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District, City of Englewood, Colorado Water Conservation Board, South Suburban Parks and Recreation and Arapahoe County.
"The learning curve is quick. Once you learn the safety and the life jacket and a helmet and learning how the currents work, you're gonna [sic] be surfing in a matter of hours," Thomas said.
The park is free and open to the public but there are no lifeguards on duty. Surfers need to bring their own boards and are encouraged to wear life jackets and helmets.
"This is a public park, you don't have to pay to come out and use this. It's just like a park or a ball field like anywhere else. I think it's just a really unique experience for the community," Nielsen said.
Crews are slated to break ground on the second phase of the park in January of 2017. The third and final phase should wrap up by Summer of 2018.