According to Wikipedia the fastest-growing board sport is performed not on the side of a mountain, a river, lake, ocean, or the very ground we walk, but upon an artificial sheet of water not more than a few inches thick racing under your feet at speeds upwards of 30 miles an hour.
Welcome to the world of Flowboarding.
A sublime alchemy of almost every board sport on the planet, flowboarding – and its requisite wave machines referred to as FlowRiders – can now be found at over 100 locations spread across 5 continents; setting up in venues such as shopping malls, water parks, and cruise ships.
Unlike most of it’s board sport brethren however, the technicality of flowboarding accelerated at a rapid pace and immediately became a spectacle worthy of showcase. Riders such as 2010 FLOW Champion Eric Silverman attested to performing inverted tricks within 12 hours of his first ride (disclaimer: results not typical). Taking advantage of such unique in-house entertainment the inventors took their product a step further and enveloped it in a state of the art music venue appropriately titled: Wave House.
I had my first experience just last year having moved to San Diego, coincidentally the birthplace of the sport. In the heart of Mission Beach lies an expansive beachfront compound nested under the shadow of historic Belmont Park’s iconic ferris wheel.
There’s a variety of wave machines that vary in difficulty. The Wave House San Diego is home to the FlowRider and the FlowBarrel. In the opinion of this author – one who has a competency in almost every board sport varying from ‘doesn’t suck’ to ‘better than average’ – they’re both pretty damn difficult at first although the flat flow of the former is considerably less intimidating than the raging pipe rolling in the latter.
The boards vary, although they’re generally more skateboard than wakeboard maintaining a narrow profile and foam core. The board may feel heavy in your hand but once you jump on and begin to edge yourself into the flow it quickly turns weightless and the experience starts to emulate what I imagine it feels like to walk a tight rope. Speaking of ropes, it’s not uncommon to see beginners holding one (with the wave operator at the bottom manning the other end) as keeping your nose pointed downhill is of paramount importance.
One miscalculated shift of weight and you’ll find yourself on your ass, quickly being propelled up an unforgiving uphill water slide that, on occasion, has impressively launched me over the terraced landing zone into the perimeter wall – essentially serving as a human backstop. Sounds fun, right? It’s extremely humbling but if you can endure the resulting stiff necks and sore bottoms, it’ll inevitably lead to an additive and downright enjoyable experience.
Upon graduating to the FlowBarrel, you’ll be presented with the option of board bindings and the unlimited possibilities that accompany them. Frontside 9’s? Sure. Double flips? Hell yes. At this point the wave becomes a unique forum of artistic expression – and based on what I saw at last summer’s College World Championships – the potential of which we’re only beginning to realize.
The time is now to seek out your nearest flowboarding location and join the party.