Snohomish's surfing machine wickedly popular
Instructor Kathryn Crowe shows off the FlowRider machine last week.
SNOHOMISH — Avid surfers from Vancouver, British Columbia to Vancouver, Wash. by the Oregon border are flocking to the Snohomish Aquatic Center’s indoor surfing simulator machine.
They travel here like almost a pilgrimage because the Snohomish Aquatic Center has the only FlowRider machine in western Washington.
The rabid rapids fans call themselves the PNW Flowriders and even have a Facebook page.
One of the resident FlowRider coaches, Kathryn Crowe, 20, said it has been growing since its small-crowd beginnings back in January.
“Now, we usually have 20 people each (open) session, and on the weekends, it gets sold out,” Crowe said. She also said there have been many private rentals and the centers’ private classes are getting more exposure.
“I think it’s because at first, people didn’t know what it was or it looked intimidating,” Crowe said. “But when you fall, it’s on a soft foam mat, and the water carries you up. You can drop in, and you’re on a continual wave of water. As more people are seeing it, more people are coming in to try it.”
A growing number of out-of-towners are enjoying going with the flow.
With the only other Pacfiic Northwest FlowRider machines in private resorts and water parks in Moses Lake and Bend, Ore., the popularity of Snohomish’s machine is decidedly steady.
“We even had a girl in here who rented the machine for herself for two hours, because she competes on the FlowRider competition circuit,” Crowe said.
The Snohomish Aquatic Center is owned and operated by the Snohomish School District. The revenue generated by the FlowRider machine alone is not currently known, however, it can be assured the machine has raked in a lot of money. It costs at least $14 for youths to come into the center and surf, more if you’re an adult.
The Snohomish Aquatic Center may consider hosting a competitive tournament, but for now, that remains to be seen as they are still getting into the rhythm of basic operations.
“It’s very unique for the area,” school district spokeswoman Kristin Foley said.
Crowe said that she has seen more kids on the machine in the last few months, but more adults are beginning to try it.
“They get the (surfing) experience without having to travel the distance (to the beach),” Crowe said.
One of the regular adult flowriders is Ryan Anderson of Snohomish.
Anderson and his boys, Dayton, 13, and Cade, 7, come to surf the FlowRider every week.
“We’ve made it into a family thing,” Anderson said. “I’m coming into it from being in my late 30s and trying it, but it’s about bonding with my kids. Someone has taken a nice face plant, and even at 35 miles per hour, you see their every facial expression as they fall. But, once you get out into it and you get the experience, you flow with it.”
Crowe said that there are many ways to ascend onto the wave, which is a continual rush of water at 35 mph. One can either get “towed” in by holding onto a rope from one of the FlowRider coaches, or one can just jump on the flowboard or body board and go for it. Many have braved all ways and methods, but the number one thing Crowe recommends is a good bathing suit that won’t fall off. Females can wear whichever kind of bathing suit they choose, but a one-piece is best, Crowe said.
See www.snohomishaquatic.com for open surf hours and class times for the FlowRider and special rules and safety regulations.
The fee to use the FlowRider is $10 per guest per session plus the regular Aquatic Center admission fee (For example, a FlowRider session would cost $14.75/session for a youth, equalling $4.75 to enter plus $10 to use the FlowRider.)