Alan Stokes and Ben Skinner test out the brand new FlowBarrel in Majorca
Wave Loch technologies have been getting people barrelled for years now. But not in a traditional sense as such. ‘Flowriding,’ as it is known is the art of riding artificial waves known as Flowriders and on top of being a ton of fun, offer the opportunity to get barreled with minimal effort, at any time of year and regardless of what the ocean and weather are doing. We caught up with Alan Stokes and Ben Skinner in Majorca last month for the opening of Europe’s first FlowBarrel 10: a 10 foot behemoth of an artificial wave, and got their perspectives on the technology and how riding it compares to the real thing.
Wave Loch was founded back in the 80’s by Californian surfer Tom Lochtefeld, who opened the first FlowRider, (little brother to the FlowBarrel), in ‘91. In ‘93 the larger FlowBarrel was born and throughout the 90’s, notable riders from across the surf, snow and skate industries, including Kelly Slater, Terje Haakonsen and Tony Hawk helped Lochtefeld work out which board shapes and techniques were optimal for riding the jets of water flowing beneath their feet. Since then, FlowRiders and FlowBarrels have been popping up all over the place and the sport of Flowriding has garnered its very own contests, pro riders and following.
Pro flowrider Greg Lazarus boosting above the lip.
The opening of the new Wave House in Majorca is rad for several different reasons. In addition to it being in a stunning spot on planet Earth and aside from the fact that Majorca is far better known for its parties than its swell, the Wave House is the new home to Europe’s very first FlowBarrel 10 – the biggest, baddest incarnation of the original FlowRider (which you can also test out at the complex). Lochtefeld also highlights how, in contrast to a standalone FlowRider, the Majorca Wave House is the company’s first fully integrated hotel resort: “the entire hotel is built around the wave. So I think that as an experience, that’s going to be very cool, because you can get to come and stay in the place you want to ride. Pick your times whenever you want during the day, party at night and then go right up to your room and rest.”
9 times European Longboard champion Ben Skinner had never set foot on a FlowBarrel before coming out to Majorca but had ridden the more mellow FlowRiders back in the UK. When asked about the feel of the ride he commented that: “through turns and stuff it really feels like you’re surfing but general feel is probably more towards wakeboarding or something like that with a lot of water coming at you fast.” The new FlowBarrel, which Skinner tried for the first time out on the trip, took a bit more getting used to but after a few hours or so, he had it on lock: “It’s a hard thing to go and do. It’s like learning something again really. Even being in the barrel, your body is in a different position than it would be if you were surfing. The weight difference is quite massive front to back foot.”
Overall, Skin Dog was loving the thing and we could barely tear him away for five minutes to interview him: “Barrel riding’s probably the best thing you can do in surfing and to be able to do it constantly and for as long as you can stay on for is amazing, so yeah I’m pretty stoked to be here!”
Ben Skinner finding his feet on the new FlowBarrel 10
He also added “it is a full challenge and that’s what’s so good, it’s quite humbling really. We’re here with Alan Stokes who’s one of the best surfers in the UK and to see him actually start very low and within two days be in the pit, laying back – you really get to see his surfing qualities come out.”
And lay back Stokesy did. But as was the case with Ben, he too had to put time in to learn the ropes, costing him a toenail and giving him a few tumbles along the way before he was both loving and killing it: “It’s so fun. It’s just like the perfect barrel. The [pro flowriders] are doing huge airs and stuff but I’m just trying to get barrelled – it’s tricky, the water’s really fast.” When asked about the overall sensation, Alan broke it down nicely, explaining how, “it feels kind of like a cross between snowboarding and surfing I guess because you’ve got to use your edges a lot more than you would if you were surfing and you haven’t got fins, but then once you’re actually in the tube, then it really feels like surfing.”
Stokesy gets barrelled!
The location of the new Wavehouse is surreal to say the least, with an odd but stimulating juxtaposition of natural and man made landmarks. Stokesy comments, “it’s right on the beach! That’s the weird thing – there’s like palm trees and yachts, the beach is filled up, the sun’s out and in front of it all there’s a perfect six foot barrel! [laughs].”
There will always be purists who are somewhat reluctant to try a ‘new’ sport that so blatantly encroaches on familiar, yet altogether different aspects of a core sport they’ve loved for decades. We’re sure, for example, that if given the choice, some surfers out there would sooner take up windsurfing than spend their time on an artificial wave. But for those of us with a more open mind, these impressive artificial waves are worth more than a passing glance. If two of the UK’s most established surfers can have such a good time on the things, it’s highly likely that we can too. Stokesy perhaps summed it up in the most honest and straightforward way: “I reckon if you were saying that it’s not that great and stuff, just because you’re a ‘real’ surfer, then you’re just missing a beat because it’s sick! [laughs].”
So there you have it. Straight from the horse’s mouth!