Trying to stand on ferociously turbulent water is definitely an effective way to get an adrenaline rush. And indoor facilities allow enthusiasts to experience that all year round, amid the growing popularity of surfing here.
A woman rides the wave on FlowRider. (Im Eun-byel / The Korea Herald)
“In South Korea, it is hard to surf. Japan blocks the waves, so beaches do not really pick up swells. Given this, indoor surfing can be a nice option,” said Lee Sang-jun, who manages Flow House Yongin, an indoor surfing facility, at the Lotte Premium Outlet in Giheung, Gyeonggi Province.
At Flow House, the US-built FlowRider surf generator gushes out 113,000 tons of water per minute at a speed of 27 kilometers per hour -- enough to sweep people off their feet.
Using flowboards, which are much smaller than surfboards, the sport is called flowboarding. It involves the same techniques as surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding.
Flow House has two lanes, which can each take up to 10 people for a two-hour session. Instructors tell participants to bend their knees and crouch toward the right, but this reporter soon found out it is easier said than done.
Even standing up on the board is not easy because the water flows at a fast and furious pace below one’s feet.
The two instructors kept yelling at riders, reminding them how to maintain their balance, but every joint seemed to move against my will. Those who fall are washed away by the wave to the top of the slope in a second.
The Korea Herald reporter Im Eun-byel learns how to ride a bodyboard. (The Korea Herald)
After three or four attempts, one gets to partly understand the “perfect balance” that the instructors have been shouting about for the past 30 minutes.
Riders start to stand on their own and ride the wave -- for about five seconds before falling again.
Being an experienced snowboarder, I didn’t realize flowboarding would be that difficult. However, it requires 10 times the strength of snowboarding to effectively balance oneself on the board. From toe to heel, the balance must be evenly spread.
Bodyboarding is much easier as riders can ride on bodyboards in a prone position. But even lying down, it is quite hard to control movements on the wave.
According to manager Lee, the age of riders ranges widely starting from teenagers to those in their 50s.
“We prohibit those over 55. Of course, safety is the biggest issue. If we overlook one small detail, it could lead to serious injuries,” Lee said.
For those keen to try out flowboarding, keep this in mind: It hurts a lot when falling down, as one cannot really brace oneself for the fall. It is tough to determine when you are about to lose balance, so there isn’t time to prepare.
Nearly 36 hours have passed since I tried flowboarding, and it still hurts, though I did not sustain any major injury.
One thing is for sure. Flowboarding and bodyboarding are sports that give an adrenaline rush.
Flow House Yongin opens daily from noon to 10 p.m. Another branch, Flow House Seoul, is located in Ilsan, Gyeonggi Province. Visit www.flowhouseseoul.com for more information. The website is currently being revamped.
A session costs 60,000 won ($49) for two hours, inclusive of a group lesson. A 15-hour package costs 400,000 won and 32 hours of flowboarding will set you back by 800,000 won. Unlimited use is priced at 500,000 won a month. Only those above the fourth grade can ride.
By Im Eun-byel (email@example.com