The best part of indoor surfing—yes, indoor—is there’s no waiting for the perfect wave. It’s always there. That is as long as the pumps are working. The rest is up to the surfer, and those perfect waves are found at FlowRider.
Both fall within a larger recreational package. The Provo Beach Resort, for example, offers the surfing wave along with bowling, carousel and arcade. The Salomon Center in Ogden offers along with surfing the IFly (an upward-draft wind tunnel), IRock (a large climbing wall), bowling and an arcade.
FlowRider evolved from an idea for generating a wave of water on an inclined surface to recreate an ocean wave for surfers.
The first was opened in South Africa in 2001 and the second in San Diego in 2005.
Today, FlowRiders are showing up not only at recreation centers around the world but also on cruise ships.
High-powered pumps push a sheet of water about two and a half inches deep up an incline at about 20 miles per hour. The surface is a composite membrane designed to absorb impact of a falling surfer. A single lane is roughly 35 feet wide. The two Utah facilities each have two lanes.
There are two methods of surfing—a FlowBoard, ridden upright, and a BodyBoard, ridden horizontally.
Cameron Grass maneuvers the BodyBoard to the edge of the water to disembark successfully.
The BodyBoard is the easiest ride. It requires no real experience. Riders lay on the board, head up and hands gripped around the nose of the board. Rider and board are slowly lowered on the water on a gradual incline and into the flow of moving water. Then comes the challenge, which is to stay aboard. Gravity pulls the board down and water pushes it up, and a little miscalculation can part rider from the board.
There are two methods for maneuvering the board, either by using hands and feet as rudders or by tilting the board to the right or left. Ride time depends on the skill of the rider. New riders tend to have short rides. The more experienced move fluidly, go for spins and flips and extend their ride.
Leaving the surfing lane is simple enough—roll off the board, either intentionally or unintentionally, and the rushing water pushes the surfer up to the top and into a catch pool.
The FlowBoard resembles a large skateboard minus the wheels. It is ridden like a skateboard and is far more difficult to master than its companion board.
Nathan Chowgule makes a cut on the FloBoard and is able to keep his balance.
Not all adventures turn out successful as this surfer found out.
Riders often start by holding the end of a rope for stability. Once released, it then becomes the responsibility of the rider to angle the board to turn and spin without falling.
"But, there's a real learning curve. People do crash. Some really good athletes have come in, thinking they'll master this the first time out, and they struggle. It takes getting used to,” said one manager. "It's different and it's popular. We get individuals, families, birthday parties and even businesses that will bring in their employees either before or after a business meeting."
Requirements are that surfers be 42 inches or taller, and that women wear swim shirts. Only one rider is allowed in a lane at a time.
Sessions are broken down into one-hour blocks. Typically, one side is for BodyBoards and the second for FlowBoards.
The centers also reserve lanes for groups.
And, as noted, the best part is there’s no wait time for perfect waves.