These Kananaskis river surfers ride high-risk waves, even in –28 C

River surfers come from far and wide, and form tight friendships as they look out for each other on these dangerous waters.

The Mountain Wave, located on the Kananaskis River, was created from a flat river section in 2014 by the organization Surf Anywhere for the Alberta River Surfing Association.

It took about a decade to get the permission and the time needed to build this wave on public land less than an hour west of Calgary — a process that involved placing boulders in the river to form a channel.

Now, it’s a permanent wave that surfers can ride for free, with the added benefit of ending up in roughly the same spot that you start.

And even in the extreme cold of Alberta’s unpredictable weather, river surfers are out there taking advantage of it.

The following photos and video were taken by Christina Ryan, who spent some time getting to know the surfers and what attracts them to the sport. 

River surfer David Rousseau hikes through the forest to gain access to ride the Mountain Wave, located about 45 minutes west of Calgary in Kananaskis Provincial Park. (Christina Ryan)

Rousseau changes from his winter clothes into his wet suit. Often, surfers will surf year-around, enduring weather as cold as -28 C to be able to get out and enjoy the ride. (Christina Ryan)

Last spring was the first year Kevin Collison tried his hand at surfing, and he fell in love with the sport. The Banff river surfer and retired Calgary fire captain is seen here suiting up. (Christina Ryan)

River surfers come from near and far to surf the Mountain Wave, though its fast current, shifting rocks and remote location make it a more dangerous, high-risk challenge. (Christina Ryan)

Rousseau swims to position himself to catch the wave. (Christina Ryan)

Todd Rice makes a pit stop to ride the Mountain Wave on the way to visit his family in Vernon, B.C. He loves the tranquility of being out on the water surrounded by the beauty of nature. (Christina Ryan)

The occasional fall is bound to happen, even to experienced surfers, as Rousseau demonstrates here. (Christina Ryan)

River surfer Kate Ellis chats with Todd Rice as they wait their turn. Surfers build a tight friendship with each other, as they look out for one another and keep each other safe in an area that often has no cell reception or medical support nearby. (Christina Ryan)

Todd Rice cracks a cool smile on the icy banks of the river. (Christina Ryan)

Kate Ellis is in her second year of learning the ins and outs of river surfing as well as the idiosyncrasies of this particular wave in Kananaskis. (Christina Ryan)

River surfer Edison Castillo catches air on the Mountain Wave. (Christina Ryan)

River surfer David Rousseau takes a fall as he attempts to surf the fast-moving waters. (Christina Ryan)

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