NORTH LINCOLN – Despite having just 3 inches of manmade wave beneath them, some of the best flowriders in the world nonetheless made it look easy Sunday at the second annual Akua Beach Classic Pro-Am Flowdown at Whale’s Tale Waterpark.
Flowriding, whether on a scaled down surfboard or on a bodyboard, is an up-and-coming sport that its many supporters, including the folks at Whale’s Tale, think is gaining traction worldwide thanks to its mix of snowboarding, surfing and skateboarding.
The sport appeals to a younger demographic, although some competitors in the Akua Beach Classic were well into middle age. It has an ESPN-ish X-Games glow about it that could, in the future, translate into a lot of eyeballs and huge paydays for all involved.
For now, however, competitive flowriding is still a sport where you can get right up close to the action.
Seeing the future of watersports, Whale’s Tale in 2017 opened a million-dollar Pacific Surf Design Proflow Double sheet wave surf simulator which allows riders to surf or bodyboard on a wave. That wave travels at 30 miles per hour and contains 40,000 gallons of water.
At that speed and volume, the wave offers riders much of the potentiality of an oceanic wave, but at locations, like North Lincoln, that are nowhere near an ocean.
In 2018, Whales’ Tale hosted the inaugural Akua Beach Classic and attracted 30 amateur and professional competitors.
This year, the Akua Beach Classic saw a big jump — from 30 to 50 — in the number of competitors, said Jesse Anser, who is Whale’s Tale’s spokesman, with a commensurate bump up in the number of sponsors.
Jeb Boyd, the CEO/general manager of Whale’s Tale Waterpark and Alpine Adventures, explained that “flowdown” is a play on words on “showdown” with only one gunslinger, er, flowrider, standing at the end of the day.
On Sunday, that flowrider and winner of the overall pro-class was Joe Moran, of Wildwood, N.J., followed by Matt East, of Las Vegas, Nev., second; and Danny Tepper, of Alpine, N.J., third.
In the 15-minute, coed final heat, each flowrider surfed or bodyboarded until he or she became separated from their ride, and the next competitor dropped in. A three-judge panel rated the riders on skill, execution and crowd reaction.
“Last year’s event was the first of its kind. We were overwhelmed by the support and success. This great event encourages wholesome free expression, camaraderie, and athleticism in a very cool environment,” said Boyd.