First professional flowriding competition in NH held Sunday at Whale's Tale

Union Leader Correspondent
July 08. 2018 10:12PM
Competitors ride the man-made wave Sunday at Whale's Tale Waterpark in Lincoln which hosted the inaugural AKUA Classic Pro-Am Flowdown competition. (John Koziol/Union Leader Correspondent)

LINCOLN — One of the oldest attractions of its kind in the U.S., Whale’s Tale Waterpark on Sunday took a step toward becoming a center of the new and growing sport of flowboarding by hosting the inaugural AKUA Classic Pro-Am Flowdown competition.

In flowboarding, also known as flowriding, participants ride sheet waves that are pushed up at them at high pressure and volume. AKUA Beach, which opened at Whale’s Tale in 2017, generates a flow of 40,000 gallons of water a minute.

Mike “Pappy” Pappalardo, 51, of Jay, Vt., said flowboarding will be the next hot, extreme sport, noting, “We think we’re running the same track” to mainstream and commercial popularity as surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding.

A master electrician, Pappalardo is also among the growing number of disciples of the gospel of flowriding. He not only teaches flowriding, but as founder of the international, 600-plus member Flow Dogs, he travels the country to compete, teach and encourage people to ride.

Unlike a conventional water slide, which you can ride a hundred times and have the same experience each time, a ride on a flow wave is different every time, said Jeb Boyd, the CEO of Fun NH, which owns Whale’s Tale, Alpine Adventures, and Candia Springs Adventure Park.

Depending on how the rider moves into or on the wave determines the experience, said Boyd.

AKUA Beach has been “wildly popular” since it opened last summer, Boyd said, not only with families — “it’s the wave that brings them together,” he said — but with flowride aficionados who are “riding the wave” and exploring it at different venues.

At present, there are only two Pacific Surf Designs “ProFlow Double Sheet” wave surf simulators in service, one in College Station, Texas, said Pappalardo, the other is AKUA Beach.

Jay Peak has an indoor wave, but the technology that produces it is different and the wave is slower, Pappalardo said, which is why the Flow Dogs now train, and as of Sunday, compete at Whale’s Tale.

Although just in its first year, Pappalardo expects the Flowdown, which Boyd said will be an annual event, to grow, noting that nearly 40 professionals and amateurs, from all over the U.S. and Canada, came out this year, among them Kade Cox and Joel Stevens.

Still in their teens, Cox, 18, is from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and is already a two-time Canadian flowboarding champion while Stevens, 17, of Kissimmee, Fla., is a two-time bodyboard champion who also has a flowboard title and who on Sunday placed second in both categories.

“For their first time, they (Whale’s Tale) are going for broke,” said Stevens, by offering a $3,000 purse for professionals that eclipses that of existing competitions. Cox added that the vibe at AKUA Beach is a positive, supportive one and that the venue is outstanding.

“I think everyone in New Hampshire should come out for this,” said Cox and Boyd endorsed that sentiment, pointing out that the Flowdown is unique in offering both Tandem and Strapped competitions and a go-for-broke “Final Flowdown,” where the winners of each division were able to compete for the grand prize of a five-night stay at the Rincon Surf School & Resort in Rincon, Puerto Rico.

Originally intended as another attraction for existing Whale’s Tale visitors, AKUA Beach has taken off and is directly attributable, Boyd said, to an increase in the number of seasonal passes sold in 2018.

“You don’t need to be good to have fun here,” he said.

Flowriding is a great way to get into shape, especially for skiers and snowboarders, because it works the same core muscles, and “it’s an instant adrenaline rush,” said Pappalardo.

While Pappalardo said it’s “still too early” for flowriding to be a career, the first generation of riders has taken upon itself to make it a sport, and from there an Olympic event.


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