Powering desalination processes with renewable energy is a promising solution to address the global issue of water shortage with minimum carbon footprint and environmental impact. We experimentally investigate a sustainable reverse osmosis (RO) desalination system directly powered by wave energy. In this system, seawater is pressurized and pumped to a RO desalination module via a piston pump directly driven by an oscillating surge wave energy converter (OSWEC). An accumulator is adopted on the feed inlet to mitigate the pressure fluctuations under time-varying ocean conditions. Meanwhile, a needle valve on the brine outlet is used to adjust the system pressure and water recovery. A 1:10 scaled model was designed, fabricated, and tested in a wave tank based on the Froude scaling law. The optimal specific water productivity (SWP) obtained in the tank tests with 3.5 g/L feed salinity was 2.23 m3/kWh, indicating a full-scale specific water productivity of 0.22 m3/kWh for 35 g/L seawater salinity. The influence of needle valve tuning on the specific water productivity was experimentally investigated and analyzed. Under a specific operational condition, tuning this valve improved specific water productivity by about 17 % and reduced the system pressure by 24 %, thereby avoiding extreme pressure and improving the system’s capability. This pilot study demonstrates that ocean wave energy is a promising source to sustainably power reverse osmosis desalination and provide freshwater water for coastal regions.