How about catching a flawless wave all the time, regardless of the weather?
That’s what the flowrider – an artificial wave-producing machine – promises. Here’s flowboarding in a nutshell: High-pressure jets shoot out water at a speed of 32km/h to 48km/h over padded surfaces that mimic the shape of a wave. As such, it produces a stationary wave known as a sheet wave. Whichever board you’re on, you’ll need to face the direction the waves are lancing out from.
If you’re on a flowboard, you’ll need to put one foot ahead of the other. You’re known as a “regular” if you’re more comfortable with your left foot forward on the board; you’re a “goofy” if you put your right foot forward. All you’ve got to do is keep facing forward. It’s easier than it looks. Really. “Because the wave is always the same, the learning curve for flowboarding is more gentle compared to other board sports like skimboarding or surfing, which deals with constantly changing conditions,” says Jeff Ranta, wave operations manager of Wave House Sentosa. That’s good news if you’re new to the sport.
A Board Of Its Own
We’ll forgive you for thinking that flowboarding is similar to surfing. Ranta, on the other hand, probably won’t. “Many people have compared flowboarding to surfing – but they’re very different, from the techniques used to the structure of the boards.” (Ironically, Tom Lochtefeld, a surfer from the US, developed the flowrider.) For surfing, you actually have to lean forward to maintain your balance. For flowboarding, you have to keep your weight on the rear foot. What’s more, flowboarding boards are different – they’re completely smooth underneath and lack the fins wakeboards and surfing boards have. Flowboarding boards are smaller, too (about the size of a small wakeboard), since moving water has greater surface tension and can support a tinier board. Plus, it looks cooler.
Stand Right Up
If it’s your first time trying out board sports, the bodyboard (you lie on your stomach on this small, rectangular foam board) is a good starting option, recommends Ranta. It’s easier to maintain your balance since you’re in a prone position, and you can use your legs as rudders to control your ride. The highlight is, of course, the flowboard. But watch your footing. “The most common mistake is to lean too far forward – you’ll fall flat,” he says. Don’t worry about falling, though, because the flowrider’s surface is made of padded foam. The good thing about flowboarding is that once you get your balance right, you’ll progress swiftly into the more advanced elements of the sport, says Ranta.
Tricks and Flips
Now the meat and bones: Edge control is what controls the flowboard, very much similar to how a snowboard works. After you get comfortable steering the board left and right, try doing a 360-degree turn. If you’re a regular, forcefully turn (or carve, in board sport speak) the board counterclockwise until your toes point forward. The principle is to place your weight away from the direction of the wave – that is, backwards, with reference to your body position. In this case, your weight should be on your heels. Subsequently, shift your weight to your left foot and the board will continue turning counterclockwise. Keep shifting, and you’ll have done a full turn. When you get more proficient, more advanced tricks will be possible – and you can take the sport to the next level by trying the flowbarrel, a wave machine that produces a curling, barrel-shaped wave much like the larger waves revered by surfers.
The International Flow Championships 2010 takes place from Oct 28 to 31 at Wave House Sentosa, with the championship finals on the last day. Competing in teams of four in over nine divisions, flowboarders and bodyboarders will be duking it out in both the flowrider and flowbarrel. Each rider gets three runs of 45 seconds each, and is judged on trick difficulty, variety, execution and overall impression. For more details, visit www.wavehousesentosa.com