Surf’s up at the Snohomish Aquatic Center, but balancing on the skateboard-size boards is a challenge.
BALANCING ON A skateboard is hard enough. Balancing on a skateboard (sans wheels) on moving water requires a new level of skill.
The FlowRider is an indoor wave machine with a fast-moving sheet of water you can surf.
I headed to the Snohomish Aquatic Center to try out the FlowRider there, the only one in the area. When I first arrived at the busy indoor center for a class, my first impressions were: a) I was the only female in class, and b) I was the only one older than 14.
Don’t let that dissuade you. The kids don’t care, and my fellow riders, many of whom come weekly, were chatty, happy to share tips and talk about tricks.
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I was optimistic that previous surfing lessons would help me, but after a wipeout or three, I learned stand-up riding on the FlowRider was more like skateboarding. My brush with skateboarding was brief and slightly bruising, so I was grateful for the FlowRider’s cushioned and watery landing.
For my first 60-second ride, teacher and FlowRider pro Scott Callens set up a board at the edge of the wave. He showed me how to position my feet on the skateboard-size board and instructed me to keep my body facing the same direction as my feet and to use my shoulders to control the board.
He had me make fists and held my hands, and I hopped myself back into the wave that rushes up a small incline.
It was far less steady than I was ready for. Callens told me to lean my weight toward my back foot and bend my knees. He let go of my front hand, then slowly let go of my other hand. I probably lasted two seconds, then wiped out. The rush of the wave flipped me and swept me up and over the top. Whoa.
For my second round, another teacher instructed me to drop my butt toward the water instead of leaning forward. I tried, and fell. I think I lasted five seconds at one point. Regardless, I was breathless after my 60-second session. Riding tests your balance, challenging core and leg stability. Get used to wiping out; everyone did.
For my third round, I opted for a wider bodyboard, riding down the wave on my stomach. A lot of adults prefer stand-up, Callens said, but the bodyboard is easier to figure out.
I had a better sense of the ebb and flow of the water on my belly, as the wave carried me up and down the incline. Callens told me to keep my toes in the water to stay in control and to shift my weight side to side to turn the board. For my second bodyboard round, I learned to pop my knees up onto the board. I watched the kids do “Superman,” throwing the board down the wave and riding the water on their bellies alone.
I enjoyed the bodyboard more than the constant wipeouts of the stand-up, but for my last round, stubbornness took over and I went for stand-up again. I can get this.
I didn’t last long, but I did look out over my front arm and attempted to move my board toward the center of the wave. I wiped out a bunch of times and kept getting back up. This, I assume, is how it goes for beginners.
You have to go regularly to get the hang of the FlowRider. It’s also addicting. It’s an intense balance challenge, and incredibly fun. You get to play in the water and challenge yourself to balance and learn new tricks. Try it out, and let your inner kid out to play.