Surfers around the globe are always on the hunt for the perfect wave seeking that barrel of opportunity. We are blessed in San Diego with having multiple surf breaks during certain swells catering to the sport of surfing and boogey boarding nearly year round. However, when the ocean is flat, there is very little to no opportunity to catch any waves with the exception of a man made FlowBarrel and FlowRider system. In search of the endless “left” barrel, I took my adventure to the WaveHouse in San Diego on Mission Beach. http://goo.gl/maps/84Jle
FlowBarrel – Wavehouse
The WaveHouse in Mission Beach offers two different systems for surfing and boogey boarding adventurers: FlowBarrel and FlowRider. The FlowBarrel is labeled as the mother of all artificial wave machines and is the closest man has come to recreating the power, challenge and beauty of Banzai Pipeline (Hawaii’s surf reef break). This 10-foot wave machine known as Bruticus Maximus, pumps 100,000 gallons of water per minute over a uniquely shaped ride surface creating the endless barrel.
Flowbarrel (Surf and Boogey) – WaveHouse
After signing the release of liability waiver and getting my wristband, I stepped onto the stage and spoke with fellow participants to better understand this wave. The wave looked like a lot of fun but also a little intimidating as I watched others attempt this barrel ride. Participants have the choice of riding the sponge or standing up on the surfboard (a little larger than a skate deck).
Having never attempted a ride on the FlowBarrel, I decided it would be best to start with the sponge. I got a few tips from my fellow riders and launched myself onto the wave. Everyone told me keep weight on my left elbow while pushing down with my left hand and pulling up the right rail with my right hand. As I got positioned on the wave, I attempted to complete the list above but did something wrong as I got swallowed by the barrel and spit out.
Watching some of the participants on the FlowBarrel made it look so easy but I knew after my attempt that practice would be key. The FlowBarrel really shines when someone of great skill rides this endless barrel. This guy made the wave look easy and demonstrated to most of us how one should be able to ride this machine.
For those looking to learn how to surf on the FlowBarrel or FlowRider, the staff offers the ability to do tow in surfing for added balance. The lifeguard simply holds on to a piece of rope as the rider holds on to the other hand.
FlowBarrel Finish Zone and Hot Tub – WaveHouse
After every rider has fallen, they get sucked into the barrel and spit out to a padded area on the side. You go at a pretty fast speed during this process and it is highly recommended to cover your head with your hands and arms for added protection. Those who wish to warm up in between waves can jump in any one of the 2 hot tubs available on the platform and watch other riders perform on the wave.
FlowBarrel Main Stage – Wavehouse
Overall I had a lot of fun on the FlowBarrel and wish I could have tried the FlowRider as well, which doesn’t include a barrel. All riders are on display on this stage as patrons to the WaveHouse enjoy cold cocktails and food while looking on. I learned to not take myself so serious on this barrel of fun as most of my attempts were short lived and I got used to getting tossed over the falls and spit out. Your time on the wave is based on an hourly basis and one should expect to get at least 5 rides or attempts with many more possible depending on your motivation level during the hour.
When I decide to go next, I might try wearing a spring suit or padded shorts to protect my legs when I fall. The whole area is pretty well padded but I found when I got spit out of the barrel that some of the grate like equipment for drainage had a tendency to burn my hamstrings and butt a little bit. As the sun starts to set, the lights come on while riding the wave giving the feeling that you are really in the spotlight. The WaveHouse is a great place for entertainment, to dine, take in a drink and watch these riders perform at their best or cringe at their falls. Let the music sweep you away as you stare out into the ocean or out of the barrel at the FlowBarrel at the WaveHouse in Mission Beach.
Most importantly be careful and have fun. Some of the wipeouts may put you in a daze so always remember to cover your head with your arms and hands.