Ogden to host Flow Tour event in August

Apr 13 2010 - 11:43pm

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(BETH SCHLANKER/Standard-Examiner) Justin Banz, of West Point, competes in the men's stand-up division during Wave House Flow Tour Series at the Flowrider at the Salomon Center in Ogden last year.
(BETH SCHLANKER/Standard-Examiner) Justin Banz, of West Point, competes in the men's stand-up division during Wave House Flow Tour Series at the Flowrider at the Salomon Center in Ogden last year.

OGDEN -- Think it's odd that Californians would come to Utah to surf? Believe it, brah.

In mid-August, the Flowrider Utah surfing simulator at the downtown Salomon Center will host this year's Wave Loch 2010 Flow Tour National Championship, the premier event in the nation for the sport of flowboarding.

The three-day competition, scheduled for Aug. 12-14, is expected to draw up to 150 of the top flowboarding athletes from around the country.

Title sponsor Wave Loch Inc., based in La Jolla, Calif., manufactures surfing simulators and similar attractions for sale to waterparks and recreation centers worldwide.

Tour Director Chris Granone said the Ogden installation, which was built by Wave Loch, is ideal for hosting the championships because of its larger size.

"It's a double, so it allows the competitors to display their full arsenal of flowboarding maneuvers," Granone said. "It's a powerful ride, one of the premier venues in the west."

Flowrider Utah Manager Shaun Hancock said hosting regular Flow Tour stops over the last two years helped get a foot in the door toward bringing the championships to Utah.

"We have a small team that travels on the tour, so they see our support and how we want to help grow the sport," Hancock said. "I have a passion for it, and our building is perfect for it. The facility sells itself. Nowhere else in the world is there a building like ours."

Granone said indoor installations are typically associated with hotels, while outdoor setups are generally found at waterparks or community pools.

"With the rock wall and gym and the other stuff there, it's not the typical layout of a Flowrider," he said.

Hancock said hosting the championships will help further Ogden's reputation among outdoor enthusiasts, even though the competition itself will technically be held indoors.

"We'll be on the world stage of flowboarding," he said. "The riders will be here for four or five days, so they'll be able to see some of the other things we have to offer in Utah as well."

Flowboarding is comprised of two styles: Bodyboarding, in which the rider lies flat on the board; and stand-up flowboarding, which is more like surfing.

Within the Flow Tour are five divisions of competition: Juniors (17 and younger); mens (ages 18-34); masters (35 and older); womens (all ages); and expert, the professional division in which prize money is awarded. Each division is separated into bodyboarding and stand-up events.

There are also three levels of events that determine how much prize money is awarded. A-rated events come with a $1,000 purse, AA-rated events award $2,500, and AAA-rated events like the championships dish out $5,000 in total prize money.

Competitors are awarded points by a panel of judges. Points from each tour stop are tallied, and the top boarder in each division is named at the championships.

Hancock, a competitor himself who took third overall in the masters division last year, said his first passion is bringing more kids and females into the sport.

In an uncommon move, he offered prize money to the womens division at the tour's Ogden stop last year.

"There's no reason why there can't be an expert womens division," he said. "We need prize money to get more girls interested in the sport."

In fact, he said, some of the top-ranked women are locals. Last year's womens world champion, Jessica Nichols, works at the Flowrider.

Granone said the Flow Tour started 12 years ago with four or five events. It has since grown to 16 regular stops around the nation, plus the championships.

"It has matured into quite an awesome sports promotion vehicle," he said.

As it did in 2008 and 2009, Flowrider Utah will also host one of the regular Flow Tour stops on July 24, but this is the first year it will host the national championships. Last year's finals were held in Alabama, so tour organizers decided to bring them to a western state this time around.

A number of outside festivities are planned around the championships. 23rd Street will be closed near the Salomon Center to create a "vendor village" for tour sponsors. A course will be set up for riders to navigate on locally made Kahuna longboards, and BMX riders will be showing off tricks and aerials. There will also be live music, food and drink, and attractions for kids.

"It will just be a big party for everyone," Hancock said. "It's not just a surfing event. We want people to come and hang out for a day or two."

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