Campers catch a wave

Jul 10 2009 - 9:38pm

Images

(DJAMILA GROSSMAN/Standard-Examiner) Meghan Anderson, 12, rides the waves.
(DJAMILA GROSSMAN/Standard-Examiner) Olivia Arbogast, 7, and instructor Kyler Bill rider a board at the Salomon Center.
(DJAMILA GROSSMAN/Standard-Examiner) Meghan Anderson, 12, rides the waves.
(DJAMILA GROSSMAN/Standard-Examiner) Olivia Arbogast, 7, and instructor Kyler Bill rider a board at the Salomon Center.

On the very first day of summer camp, some of the children could do a barrel roll.

No, it wasn't a camp for young geniuses who want to be pilots. It was Flowrider Surf Camp, where a "barrel roll" is one of many tricks kids can learn to do on a big indoor wave.

A barrel roll starts with the surfer prone on a bodyboard, and ends with a 360 spin into the water and back onto the board. Once campers mastered that, they could do a hubcap -- spinning once like a top, and ending with a barrel roll.

"They (also) learned how to do a trick called a 'pop shuv it,' " said Shaun Hancock, manager of Flowrider Utah at Ogden's Salomon Center.

"That's done by jumping with the board, rotating 180 degrees, and landing back on the board ... to continue riding."

Young surfers

Olivia Arbogast, a 7-year-old from Eden, was signed up for camp by her mother.

"We were just looking for something different and out of the ordinary," said Lisa Arbogast.

Instead of nature walks, arts and crafts, Olivia spent three days on a bodyboard. She was joined by friends, Gavin Merenda, 6, and his brother Ethan Merenda, 9, of Ogden.

"They've been wanting to do this for so long, and I thought at the camp they could learn how to do it ... and I wouldn't have to go in," said their mother, Amber Merenda.

Flowrider camps typically have five kids, and this group was rounded out by Ogdenites Meghan Anderson, 12, and her 14-year-old brother Sheyne Anderson. The Andersons, who grew up on Maui, have tried indoor and ocean surfing before.

"I'm really excited for them to get the skills they need, and be able to take them back with them to Maui," said their dad, Chip Anderson.

The basics

Surfers learn basics on the first day of camp. That includes where to put your feet on the board, and how to fall off.

"You want them to fall on their bum," said instructor Jessica Nichols, explaining that technique allows a rider to kick the board out of the way and avoid landing on a wrist.

Injuries are rare, Nichols says, because the surface feels like a soft trampoline.

That surface is covered by three inches of water, turned into a continual sheet wave by pumps shooting out 55,000 gallons of water per minute -- enough to carry a body over the top of the wave.

"They get thrown up there a little bit, but the walls are padded," said Hancock.

It can be intimidating, especially for little kids. Instructors had to work to get Olivia Arbogast back on the wave after she went over the top.

Kyler Bill, one of her teachers, slowly coaxed her into trying again.

"What I like is that they will let you do what you're comfortable with, instead of just making you do what they want you to do," Olivia said.

Tiny surfers

Campers start on a bodyboard, a shorter, wider board meant to be ridden in a prone or kneeling position. When ready, they move to a long, narrow surf-style board, ridden standing up.

"On the bodyboard, the hardest thing is probably how to turn," said Alissa Gregg, who also worked with the youngest surfers. "Sometimes the kids are so small, and the board is a lot bigger than them, so they can't pull the board enough to where they can turn."

How quickly they learn also depends on how brave they are.

"This group, particularly, likes to ride with us. When we've been riding with them, they're more willing to get in the water, and they're more willing to do tricks," Gregg said. "Last week's group was pretty fearless. The bodyboarder I had was a little girl, probably about 5 or 6. ... I didn't have to ride with her -- I just put her on the board, showed her how to do everything, and she did it."

Surf's up

Meghan and Sheyne Anderson say Flowriding is a lot like wakeboarding.

"Wakeboarding is just being pulled behind a boat on a board, and we teach the same concepts," said Nichols.

She starts by letting students stand on a board, while holding onto a rope.

"I have enough control of the board that I can pull them back in so they don't fall," she said. "If they're steady enough, I take my hand off the board and just hold onto the rope. If they're steady enough to do that, then they're steady enough to surf."

Students say balancing while standing on a board is the biggest challenge.

"Your first time is kind of hard," said Ethan Merenda. "It gets easier and easier the more you do it."

The Andersons progressed quickly.

"They had to learn how to carve (go back and forth across the wave) a little bit, and how to get their balance, but for the most part, they had learned some of the basics," said Nichols. "We could move immediately on to doing tricks, but in a normal class, you could have kids learning that on the last day as well."

Chip Anderson was thrilled to see his teens learning tricks.

"I didn't get to watch yesterday," he said. "But they came home and were really excited. They felt like they learned a lot, and they really liked their instructors, and it made me want to come down and see them today," he said.

He noticed a difference immediately.

"They're way more confident," he said. "I couldn't teach them tricks; that's something that comes from the young instructors. ... I think that's just the younger generation -- they want to try stuff and push the limits more, and I think that keeps it fun for them."

Success

The campers were all smiles on the last day of camp. Olivia rode the bodyboard in tandem with instructors. The Merenda brothers were excited about hosting Gavin's birthday party at Flowrider that evening, so they could share what they learned with friends. The Andersons had shared surf time with their dad, and were doing more complicated tricks.

"They want to do it again every week," said Tamara Anderson, Sheyne and Meghan's mother, "especially our daughter. Now she wants to get into competitive Flowriding."

Hancock says a lot of local competitors, especially in the junior and female divisions, came from past camps.

"They got hooked on it," he said. "Once you start getting better, you want to do it more."

ON THE WEB: http://www.flowriderutah.com

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