Bottom hinged oscillating wave surge converters are known to be an efficient method of extracting power from ocean waves. The present work deals with experimental and numerical studies of wave interactions with an oscillating wave surge converter. It focuses on two aspects: (1) viscous effects on device performance under normal operating conditions; and (2) effects of slamming on device survivability under extreme conditions. Part I deals with the viscous effects while the extreme sea conditions will be presented in Part II. The numerical simulations are performed using the commercial CFD package ANSYS FLUENT. The comparison between numerical results and experimental measurements shows excellent agreement in terms of capturing local features of the flow as well as the dynamics of the device. A series of simulations is conducted with various wave conditions, flap configurations and model scales to investigate the viscous and scaling effects on the device. It is found that the diffraction/radiation effects dominate the device motion and that the viscous effects are negligible for wide flaps.