By generating powerful jets of water, the unique FlowRider attractions allow water park guests to surf never-ending waves. Riders can either stand up on modified surfboards or lie down on boogie boards (called Flowboards in FlowRider-speak). Unlike a passive thrill ride, however, it takes some practice and expertise, to master the techniques.
Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 4
Requires a fair amount of dexterity. Most riders wipe out.
Height requirement: 42 inches
See the FlowRider in action: Kalahari Surfari video
Catch a wave
Quite a few outdoor water parks feature FlowRiders. The Kalahari brings the surfing fun inside. Since only one rider can experience it at a time, the low-capacity attraction can generate long lines, particularly during the parks' peak seasons. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since it's nearly as much fun to watch as it is to ride. Also, novice users can pick up some pointers by watching the trials and tribulations of other surfers.
The Kalahari offers either stand-up surfing or lie-down bodyboarding at designated times each day. In order to give the stand up boards a try, riders should have some surfing or previous FlowRider experience. The parks offer surfing lessons (for an additional fee).
Bodyboarding doesn't require any experience, but it sure helps. After some introductory instructions from the operator at the top of the FlowRider, surfers place their bodyboards into the launch ramp, lie down, and coast down the incline into the flow of the jets. Riders can use their hands and adjust their bodies to steer the board. Feet can be also be used as rudders to guide the boards and can act as brakes. Unlike ocean waves that crest as they move toward shore, the FlowRider's constant crest has no forward movement. Surfers remain in place as the water rushes past them. It's an odd and giddy, though potentially exhilarating, sensation.
Wave bye bye
The length of each surfer's time on the FlowRider depends on his or her experience and ability to control the ride. Many greenhorn riders wipe out almost immediately. The powerful jets catch the board and shoot it up and into the loading area. Operators would probably allow another try, but most riders sheepishly choose to leave. Other newbies are able to navigate to the center of the trough and stay relatively still. That can quickly get boring, however, and failed attempts to try some maneuvers generally end up pinning riders to the sides of the FlowRider pool or spitting them out into the loading area.
An operator at the bottom of the FlowRider coaches each surfer. I had a hard time getting the hang of it during my maiden voyage. (Then again I am a middle-aged oaf.) It can be disconcerting for the Flowboard-challenged to see little kids spinning around, flipping over, moving their knees up onto the board, and other amazing feats on command. Clearly they're having a ball on the attraction. With a bit of practice and a touch of skill, most riders could eventually have a ball also.