Catching waves without the ocean

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The Flowboarding League of the World Tour isn’t televised on ESPN, but the trendy sport is making waves in Utah.

The Flowboarding League of the World, or FLOW for short, is an organization of flowriding enthusiasts. The sport consists of surfing or bodyboarding on a contained body of water with a wave-forming generator. FLOW puts on the tour each year that premiers some of the world’s best riders in Asia, Europe and the U.S., providing an opportunity for riders of different skill levels and ages to enter competitions at any of the more than 55 flowriding locations across the United States.

Nick Sanchez competes in the Pro Bodyboard competition on Friday at the Provo Beach Resort at Riverwoods. Photo by Chris Miller
Nick Sanchez competes in the Pro Bodyboard competition Friday at the Provo Beach Resort. Photo by Chris Miller

This year’s FLOW Tour consists of 10 stops across seven states, two of which are in Utah, with a prize purse of $27,000. Riders travel all over the country with the tour in hopes of qualifying for the World Championships.

The competitions are split up into divisions: bodyboarding and flowboarding for youth, juniors, men’s, women’s, masters and professional. Each rider is given three three-second runs on the flowrider and their top two scores count toward their total score in the competition. Points are given for how hard their tricks are, how well they use the whole wave and the cleanliness of their execution.

Utah has become a popular attraction for flowriding due to the number of locations in the state and the limited amount of wave-catching individuals can do on the lakes and rivers.

“We come to Utah every year because it has four flowrider locations, which is the most of any landlocked state, Utah also has a lot of snowboarders, skateboarders and wakeboarders that flowride in the off-season because it is something they can relate to,” said Greg Lazarus, one of the directors of the FLOW tour.

He went on to say not only is Utah his favorite stop on the tour because of turn out, but it is great to see how much the sport has grown in Utah and continues to grow.

In fact, Ogden was not only the home of the 2012 FLOW Tour World Championship competition, but the home of the 2012 World Champion himself.

Brad Spencer, a 23-year-old wakeboarder originally from Florida but living in Ogden, became the world champion last summer and is competing for the title again. Spencer competed in the FLOW Tour competition at the Provo Beach Resort on July 26, where he took first place in his individual competition, and currently sits atop the tour’s rankings.

“I have been flowboarding for over eight years now, and the sport has grown, but a lot of people still don’t know about it,” Spencer said. “If I win this year, it’ll be good recognition for the sport in Utah and will hopefully help motivate younger riders to keep with it.”

Locals have discovered it is never too late to start flowriding.

Brian Morgan of Orem started about 13 months and 134 flowrides ago, when he walked by the Provo Beach Resort and said to himself, “48 is too old for that.” But he couldn’t help walking in and trying the sport anyway. Since then, Morgan flowrides at least five times a week and took third place in the master’s division at the Provo Beach Resort’s competition.

As a snowboarder for over 20 years, Morgan said, “You would think they are similar, but they aren’t. When snowboarding, you are moving down the mountain, the mountain doesn’t move. Flowboarding is the opposite though in that the water is moving and you aren’t.”

Morgan was the second oldest in the competition at 49 — the oldest being 59 — and plans to keep riding as he has found there is no age limit to the sport.

The prevalence of snowboarding, wakeboarding and skateboarding in Utah could be a contributing factor to flowriding’s popularity, as having a background in those sports will contribute to the skills needed in flowriding.

“I have snowboarded my whole life, but it took me two hours to figure out how to flowboard,” said Marcus Patterson, Team Utah Snowboarding coach. “In snowboarding you are front-foot heavy, but in flowboarding you have to be back-foot heavy, so it’s a lot different in that way but has similar motions.”

Patterson added that flowriding attracts many snowboarders because they are always looking for a way board during the off-season.

“The sport will continue to grow in Utah, especially because there are so many boarders here, so I eventually want to adapt Team Utah Snowboarding in the summer to Team Utah Flowboarding.”

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