If you want to catch a flawless flawless wave all the time, regardless of the weather, try flowboarding. It’s a sport that involves riding a stand-up board on the flowrider – an artificial wave-producing machine that shoots out water at speeds of 32km/h to 48km/h over padded surfaces that mimic the shapes of waves. As such, it produces a stationary wave known as a sheet wave.
We will forgive you for thinking that flowboarding is similar to surfing; Jeff Ranta, wave operations manager of Wave House Sentosa (a flowboarding park), on the other hand, may not. “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 surfboards have. Flowboarding boards are smaller, too (about the size of a small wakeboard), since moving water has greater surface tension and can support a smaller board.
Your First Time Flowboarding
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, which requires you to possess a good sense of balance as, like surfing, you’ll need to stand up on it. But it’s really easier than it looks. “Because the wave is always the same, the learning curve for flowboarding is more gentle compared to other board sports such as skimboarding or surfing, which deals with constantly changing conditions,” says Ranta. That’s good news if you’re new to the sport.
When riding 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. Once you’ve found your composure, all you’ve got to do is keep facing forward. But remember to watch your footing. “The most common mistake is to lean too far forward – you’ll fall flat,” Ranta explains. The best thing about flowboarding is that once you get your balance right, you’ll progress swiftly into the more advanced elements of the sport, he adds.
Controlling Your Flowboard
Now for the meat and bones: Edge control is what pilots the flowboard, very much like how a snowboard works. After you get comfortable steering the board left and right, try doing a 360-degree turn. And when you become a regular, you’ll be able to forcefully turn (or “carve”, in board sport speak) the board counterclockwise until your toes point forward. The point here 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’d have done a full turn. When you get more proficient, more advanced tricks will be possible – and you’d be able to try out The Big Kahuna: the flowbarrel, a wave machine that produces curling, barrel-shaped waves much like the larger ones revered by surfers. Surfing in the city: It doesn’t get any better than this.