If you're going to expect some pro tips on how to ride a FlowRider you're at the wrong place. We tried out a FlowRider for the first time at the Wave House in Sentosa Singapore. For one hour we surfed the FlowRider® and for another hour or so, the FlowBarrel®. We found it difficult at first, even with all our board experiences and balance skills from sports such as surfing, snowboarding, wakeboarding and skating. It was a steep learning curve and so much fun. Our initial thought was that it's going to be similar to surfing and river surfing. But it's a sport of its own. We saw similarities and difference to other boardsports and would like to share them with you.
Here are the three most important things we can tell you about riding a flowrider after two hours of practice.
1. You will fall (hard)!
If you fall off the board you are not going to fall into water or snow, you are going to fall on a rather hard vinyl surface. In that sense its more like skateboarding. Yes - there is a sheet of water rushing through, but that doesn't really break your fall because it's only 2 or 3 cm high on the Flowrider. The Flowbarrel has more water rushing by, we would estimate about 4 to 5 cm.
When you fall the rushing water will push you up the slope to a padded back wall. With the Flowrider this is more comfortable as you just get pushed back. The Flowbarrel it can be a bit more fierce as the water pushes you along the curved slope but it's sort of like a waterslide.
To be fair the vinyl surface of the Flowbarrel is kind of bouncy like a trampoline, which the Flowbarrel hasn't. Nevertheless both can still hurt. As in the Flowbarrel there is more water the falling is a bit softer though. Just like in every board sports nasty bails are part of the game especially in the first attempts. But don't get put off by this, its still a lot of fun. No pain - no gain.
Keep this in mind: Put your hands on your chest or around your head, when you fall. Don't land on your hands - you could hurt your wrist. If possible try to land on your behind. Overall just try to keep your limps close to your body.
2. Look at the board!
This seemed strange to us at first. When learning snowboarding you get taught to look up and far and not at the board. With surfing it's the same - don't look at your board but look at the wave and the direction you want to go.
The first thing the instructor of the Flowrider told us, was: “Look at your board!”. It's easier to start riding, as it helps to control the board. And in a way it makes sense: You don't need to watch out for something unexpected coming at you and the water flow is always the same. But it just feels and looks weird. We think as you improve you don't need to look at the board the entire time.
3. Don't move your upper body
As soon as we were able to keep the balance on the board, we learnt how to move along the wave. We went up the slope/wave by shifting the weight from the back foot and went down by putting weight on the front foot. That is all very easy and intuitive. But when trying to make turn, we noticed that, compared to snowboarding or surfing, you shouldn't move your upper body in order to turn. That proved to be quite difficult, as the logic of "move upper body and board will follow" was etched into our brains from snowboarding and surfing.
On a Flowrider you move the board horizontally by shifting weight to your toes or heels. Like that the board slowly goes from left to right or the other way around. You have to be very careful to not do those moves to quickly, as your board might suddenly turns sideways and get's pushed away by the water. With some training you can do faster turns. But in the beginning is was a slow process to be able to turn the boards.
Last but not least: As we mentioned in the beginning, we are not professionals. This is our experience after about two hours of riding the Flowrider and Flowbarrel. We hope these three tips can help you with your first Flowrider attempt.
After the surf sessions we were fortunate enough to sit down with Heinz Iten, a co-founder of the Wave House Sentosa and talk to him about the Flowrider and his passions. Read more about it.