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A flow-boarder aboard the Royal Caribbean ship Freedom of the Seas
A body-boarder on a Flowrider

Flowriding (or Flowboarding) is a late-20th century alternative boardsport incorporating elements of surfing, bodyboarding, skateboarding, skimboarding, snowboarding and wakeboarding.[1]  Flowriding takes place on an artificial wave called the FlowRider or the FlowBarrel.[1] These waves were created by WaveLoch Inc.

The FlowRider and the FlowBarrel are artificial waves that are called "sheet waves".[1] In order to create a sheet wave, water is pumped up and over a surface which is engineered to replicate the shape of an ocean wave.[1] The result is a stationary wave in which a rider can mimic the movements of other board sports, such as moving up and down the wave, carving, and jumping.[1] Since the wave does not move forward, the riders movement is derived from the water flowing over the stationary surface.[1]

There are seven different types of sheet waves that can be used for flowriding[2] however the two main wave structures which are recognized at a competitive level are the FlowRider Single and Double and the FlowBarrel.[3] The sport has two different types of boards that a rider can choose to ride on.[1] These are the flowboard and the bodyboard.[1]

WaveLoch Inc. created the idea of the Wave House which is an entertainment venue based around their artificial wave technology.[4]

In the early 2000s, the Flowriding League Of The World (FLOW) tour was established which hosts a World Championship event each year.[5]

History of Flowriding[edit]

Although the first artificial waves in a pool were developed back in the 19th century by King Ludwig of Bavaria, they required a completely different technology from that of flowriding.[6] The activity of flowriding is closely associated with “FlowRider”, a technology created by Tom Lochtefeld, founder of WaveLoch Inc. that shoots more than 60,000 gallons of water per second, with a speed of 32km/h to 48km/h on a padded, inclined surface.[7] At full capacity, 100,000 gallons of water per minute can amount to waves as high as 6 feet.[8] With this technology, flowriders, those who lie, kneel or stand on a board, attempt to balance on these artificial waves, called sheet waves, and more professional riders seek to perform tricks.[9]

In 1987, Lochtefeld was inspired to create this technology when he observed waters seemingly flowing up a wave in La Jolla.[10] It seemed that the wave was travelling backward.[10] A second inspiration came to him when he saw surfers ride shallow waves without touching the ocean floor.[10] The upward motion of water through a shallow wave then became the essence of the Flowrider, shooting a thin sheet of water up a curved surface.[10] To perfect this design, Lochtefeld hired Carl Ekstrom, known for his surfboard designs, to create the perfect, easy-to-ride, continuous waves.[10] After multiple trials on miniature FlowRiders, in the 1980s, Lochtefeld started testing a FlowRider prototype at Raging Waters water parks.[10] In 1991, the first FlowRider machine was successfully installed at The Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, Texas.[10] Along with this success, a new type of FlowRider, the “FlowBarrel” was unveiled at Summerland Resort, in Bø, Norway in 1993 and received instant popularity.[6]

Following an international success, a patent application was submitted on March 28, 1995 for FlowRiders while the first international Flowboarding competition successfully took place with celebrity participants such as Kelly Slater, Terje Haakonsen, and Tony Hawk.[citation needed] Furthermore, in 1999, Lochtefeld secured a contract and investment from Swatch to create the first mobile FlowBarrel, built specifically for a promotional tour.[8] The first event took place in Munich, Germany where Bill Bryan took home the prize as the champion.[11] By 2000, 25 FlowRiders were available around the world, in countries such as Mexico, Japan, South Korea and Germany.[8]

In 2001, the first Wave House venue was established in Durban, South Africa and became the prototype for other venues in the future.[6] 2006 marked the first time when a FlowRider was added on the deck of the Royal Caribbean cruise ship “Freedom of the Seas”.[12] From then on, every Royal Caribbean’s ships are situated with FlowRiders on their sports deck.[12] In 2015, there were in total more than 200 FlowRiders available in 35 countries.[13]

Wave Design[edit]

The technology made by FlowRider, Inc. grants the ability to simulate different forms of ocean waves.[14] This company is the only one that produced a device that is currently available in the market.[14] At first, the devices were able to provide the simulation of breaking waves.[14] A breaking wave is a wave whose amplitude reached a point where the wave energy is transformed into powerful kinetic energy.

The breaking wave simulation attracts body boarders and surfers.[14] Generally, the surfers move in a downward direction as the wave moves forward or they can move relative to the wave and execute certain movements.[14] Flowriders get their speed from the energy of the water flowing at them, and can perform basic to sophisticated turns and tricks within a relatively small area.[15] The curved surface of the FlowRider machine matches the actual curvature of a wave, and the curvature changes throughout the surface in order to provide a more realistic wave.[14] The water is then pumped from the bottom up along the curved surface.[16] These powerful pumps project approximately 7.5 cm (3 in) layer of water at speeds ranging from approximately 10 to 15 m/s (35 to 55 km/h; 20 to 35 mph).[16] The biggest difference between the machine and an actual ocean wave, is that the flow rate of the water being pushed along the surface of the FlowRider is much larger than an actual wave.[14] Finally, a vacuum helps keep the riders from skipping dangerously along the surface of the water.[14]

A flowrider performing a trick


FlowRider, Inc. continues to focus on creating different designs for this machine.[17] The designs included are the FlowRider Compact, Single, Double, Triple, and Wave in a Box.[17]

FlowRider Compact[edit]

The FlowRider Compact is the smallest version of the FlowRider.[18] Created to be transported easily, it measures around 85 m2or 900 ft2.[18] It weighs about 84,400 kg (186,000 lbs), and holds about 75,700 L (20,000 gal) of water in the tank, and needs 180 amps (90 kW/hr) to operate.[18]

FlowRider Single[edit]

The FlowRider Single is the original smaller version of the more popular FlowRider Double.[19] It is larger than the compact, but still provides easy transport.[19] The Single measures 110.22 m2 (1188 ft2).[19] It weighs 161,300 kg (362,000 lbs), and holds 106,000 L (28,100 gal) of water. In order to operate this machine, 360 amps (90 kW/hr) need to be used.[19] All these versions provide specific padding that has been placed in order to increase durability along with the safety of the riders.[19] The technology behind this design allows a 3-4 inch sheet of water.[19] This version can be found in different resorts or parks in places like Texas, Virginia, and California.[19]

FlowRider Double and Triple[edit]

The FlowRider Double continues to be the most popular design.[20] This version can be found in places like Utah, California, Florida, and Singapore.[20] This version measures 161 m2 (1,728 ft2). It weighs 238,7000 kg (530,500 lbs), and holds 160,000 L (42,200 gal) of water, and 180 kW/hr of electricity are needed to power this machine.[20] The difference between the Single and the Double other than the size, is an inflatable barrier dividing the Double, which allows for two people to ride it at the same time.[20] Similar to the other designs, the surface of the ride is tensioned in order to increase safety for the rider.[20]

The FlowRider Triple has a similar design to the Double.[21] The Triple measures 195.2 m2 (2,226 ft2), weighs 232,700 kg (513,000 lbs), holds 212,500 L (56,000 gal) of water, and requires 570 amps (270 kW/hr) of electricity.[21] Similar to the Double, it provides the option to be divided into three sections by 40 ft dividers or to be left as a larger version of the Single.[21]

FlowRider Wave in a Box[edit]

The FlowRider Wave in a Box contains a similar size and design as the Single and Double.[22] It measures 175 m2 (1,895 ft2), weighs 94,000 kg (2017,200 lbs), holds 60,570 L (16,000 gal) of water, and requires 360 amps (180 kW/hr) of electricity.[22] The biggest difference with this design is that it is a self-contained unit, which means that the machine is completely self-sufficient and not dependent on the civil works.[22] The design includes a tank along with its own pump system.[22]


The FlowRider company created a different machine that allows riders to experience a different form of wave called the FlowBarrel.[23] The design provides a way to recreate a tube riding.[23] Tube riding is a term that surfers use in order to explain riding inside the curve of a breaking wave. The FlowBarrel contains two different types of designs.[24]

The FlowBarrel Ten measures 345 m2 (3,724ft2), holds 454,000 L (120,000 gal) of water, weighs 507,000 kg (1,100,000 lbs), and requires 1240 amps (640 kW/hr) of electricity to power.[23]

The FlowBarrel Ten Double is similar to the original FlowBarrel Ten, but the only difference is that instead of one barreling wave there are two, which provides the opportunity to have two people riding instead of one.[25] The FlowBarrel Ten Double measures 621 m2 (6,688 ft2), holds 908,000 L (240,000 gal) of water, weighs 1,027,000 kg (2,264,700 lbs), and requires 2170 amps (1120 kW/hr) of electricity.[25] Both designs allow the use of the bodyboard and the flowboard.[25]

WaveOz and LatiTube[edit]

The WaveOz is a 180 degree surf machine.[26] It is shaped like a large semicircle, which provides the opportunity for multiple people to remain on the ride at the same time.[26] This continues to be the largest FlowRider creation along with the largest ride surface for any wave simulator.[26] It measures 647 m2 (6,959 ft2), weighs 800,000 kg (1,760,000 lbs), holds 760,000 L (200,000 gal) of water, and requires 1,365 amps (630 kW/hr) of electricity.[26]

TheLatiTube is another unique design of the FlowRider machines.[27] It holds around 6,135-127,585 L (17,207-33,704 gal) of water.[27] This design is slightly different because it does not provide a sheet of water, but rather use nozzles controlled by remotes that provide the water for the riders.[27] This design has four different versions: pocket single, pocket double, pocket switch, and custom double switch.[27]

Board Design[edit]


The flowboard is also known as the 'stand-up board' in flowriding.[28] Boards differ in shape, materials, lengths and the angle at which the board curves. Generally they take a similar appearance to that of a wakeboard and can be further categorized into strapped and strapless boards. Boards with footstraps are generally used only on the FlowBarrel, but strapless boards are used on both the FlowRider and FlowBarrel. Flowboards range in length from 90 to 110 cm (35 to 43 in), and in width from 28 to 35 cm (11 to 14 in). They weigh between 1.4 to 2.8 kg (3 to 6 lb).


Bodyboarders ride standard bodyboards in the prone, kneeling, or drop-knee position. Each position forms the basis for its own set of tricks. In most competitions, bodyboarders are required to do tricks in both prone and kneeling positions.

Wave House[edit]

The term Wave House refers to the entertainment venue concept invented by WaveLoch, Inc, which aims to bring the surfing lifestyle to each of its locations.[29] There are currently six official Wave House locations around the world,[29] but there are dozens of locations in which FlowRider and FlowBarrel waves are installed for public use.[30] These venues are often similar to the Wave House concept and are located in their own buildings, at waterparks, and even at shopping malls.[29] Many of these locations are hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean.[30]

Flowriding League Of World (FLOW)[edit]

The Flowriding League of the World (FLOW) which was established in the early 2000s is the main competitive league for flowriders.[31] FLOW breaks up the world tour into sub-tours in the United States, Europe, Asia and Canada.[32] FLOW hosts multiple tour stops in each of these regions in order to give competitors the opportunity to build up enough points to qualify for the World Flowboarding Championships (WFC).[32]

World Flowboarding Championships (WFC)[edit]

Each year FLOW hosts the WFC at a different Wave House around the world.[33] The past few years have been in Punta Cana in South Korea(2019), the Dominican Republic (2018), Mexico (2017), and Singapore (2016).[34] Within the WFC there are two events: one on the FlowRider wave and one on the FlowBarrel wave.[33] Each Wave House around the world is responsible for finding two male Flowboarders, one female Flowboarder, and one Bodyboarder to represent their region of the world.[33]


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  2. ^ "All Products". www.flowrider.com. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  3. ^ "Flow Championships". Wave Loch LLC. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  4. ^ Paulsen, Leonard. "Wavehouse | Powered by WaveLoch & SurfLoch - surf pools, wave pools & surfing attractions". Wave House. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  5. ^ "About - FlowBoarders | The best of Flowboarding 24/7". FlowBoarders | The best of Flowboarding 24/7. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  6. ^ a b c "Timeline". Wave Loch LLC. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  7. ^ "An Introduction To Flowriding". Men's Health Singapore. 2010-10-06. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  8. ^ a b c Warshaw, Matt (2005). The Encyclopedia of Surfing. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 9780156032513.
  9. ^ Press, The Associated (2007-08-12). "Making Waves, and Riding Them". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Cohen, Jon (1999-08-01). "Making Waves". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  11. ^ "The Mexican". SURFER Magazine. 2007-10-08. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
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  13. ^ "History". Wave Loch LLC. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
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  15. ^ "Flowboarding: Riding the waves". ActiveSG. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  16. ^ a b "An Introduction To Flowriding". Men's Health Singapore. 2010-10-06. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  17. ^ a b "Our Technology". www.flowrider.com. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  18. ^ a b c "FlowRider Compact" (PDF). FlowRider.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g "FlowRider Single" (PDF). FlowRider.
  20. ^ a b c d e "FlowRider Double" (PDF). FlowRider.
  21. ^ a b c "FlowRider Triple" (PDF). FlowRider.
  22. ^ a b c d "FlowRider WIAB" (PDF). FlowRider.
  23. ^ a b c "FlowBarrel Ten" (PDF). FlowRider.
  24. ^ "All Products". www.flowrider.com. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  25. ^ a b c "FlowBarrel Ten Double" (PDF). FlowRider.
  26. ^ a b c d "WaveOz SS" (PDF). FlowRider.
  27. ^ a b c d "LatiTube". FlowRider.
  28. ^ Damon, Poppy. "Feeling the Flow – Adam Wildman, Flowrider". Australian Times. Blue Sky Publications Ltd. Retrieved 6 March 2014.
  29. ^ a b c Paulsen, Leonard. "Wavehouse | Powered by WaveLoch & SurfLoch - surf pools, wave pools & surfing attractions". Wave House. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  30. ^ a b "Locations". www.flowrider.com. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
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  32. ^ a b "FLOW Tour". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  33. ^ a b c "Flow Championships". Wave Loch LLC. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  34. ^ "WFC". www.flowboarders.com. Retrieved 2019-11-08.

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