A method and apparatus for measuring erosion rates of sediments and at high shear stresses due to complex wave action with, or without, a superimposed unidirectional current. Water is forced in a channel past an exposed sediment core sample, which erodes sediments when a critical shear stress has been exceeded. The height of the core sample is adjusted during testing so that the sediment surface remains level with the bottom of the channel as the sediments erode. Complex wave action is simulated by driving tandom piston/cylinder mechanisms with computer-controlled stepper motors. Unidirectional flow, forced by a head difference between two open tanks attached to each end of the channel, may be superimposed on to the complex wave action. Sediment traps may be used to collect bedload sediments. The total erosion rate equals the change in height of the sediment core sample divided by a fixed period of time.