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The 10 best Expert Flowboarders, five expert lady Flowboarders and six Expert bodyboarders from as close as Pacific Beach and as far as Texas gathered at Wave House San Diego to compete in six divisions. The winners of four of the divisions won paid travel to Singapore, for the International FLOW Championships at Wave House Sentosa in Singapore in the second week of October.
Competitive flowboarding on the FlowBarrel in San Diego has been evolving for the last four years, and this IFC Qualifier was a launching pad for a number of innovations, including the use of an electronic scoreboard, which increased the pressure on the competitors and the pleasure for spectators, as everyone knew who needed what.
In each round of each division, riders took three runs of 45 seconds. The contest was judged by Rob Chalfant, Sean Brody, James Hodges and Manny Vargas who diligently sat through 17 heats with scorecards in hand, judging each ride on a scale of one to 10, looking for DEVO: Difficult, Execution, Variety, and Overall Impression.
To increase the drama, riders capped each of their rides by busting the biggest move in their bag of tricks. For strapless flowboarding the Degree of Difficulty is up to 360 finger flip varials, and the Next Big Thing is a strapless backflip – which many have tried but none have pulled off in competition: “With strapless, the limit is endless,” said Greg Lazarus. “ If you can think of how far skateboarding and wake skating has come then there is no reason why flowriding cannot adapt those tricks. It seems that riders are getting higher air and bigger tricks.”
The IFC Qualifier had competition in four Expert and two Amateur divisions. The Expert Standup had a three-heat semifinal which sent two riders each into a six-person final. Greg Lazarus is a Wave Loch employee and one of the top pros in the world, having learned his paces at Wave House Durban, then moving to California to work for Wave Loch and the Wave House family of companies in order to progress the sport of flowboarding: “This event was truly one of the best events I have been in,” Lazarus said. “ The level of riding was out of this world and each rider was pushing the limits. Not only were the riders adding pressure, but using the electronic judging system was added value as each rider knew what score they needed to finish first. Separating the strapped and strapless divisions was a good call as these are two completely different disciplines and each rider gets to show their versatility. With such great prizes this event had the cream of the crop and each heat could have been a final anywhere else.”
The IFC Qualifier started at noon and finished at 7:00. A crowd of 1,000 people roared with approval as the performance level increased throughout the day, and no one seemed to notice the rain squall that came through, as there was so much moisture in the air anyway from all the spray getting thrown by the competition.
In the Expert Women’s division, strapped scores between Kristen Barney and Heather Savant came down to the last ride by Barney who managed to outscore Savant by a mere .04 point, while their strapless scores were .09 apart. Kristin Barney has dominated women’s standup flowboarding the last three years, winning the Nationals and also taking third in the Alt Games. But she felt the heat from Savant: “Heather Savant has really stepped it up - I was nervous,” Kristin said. “The competition is definitely feeling warm!! The bar has raise considerably this year in all divisions.”
Barney will be representing Team USA at the International FLOW Championships in Singapore, and she is aware there is some heat waiting for here there, too: “There is a girl on the South Africa team named Marta Jekot,” Kristin said. “She is a pro snowboarder and did very well in the World Cup this year. I think she will be the one to beat.”
Both strapless and strapped battles between Greg Lazarus and Eric Silverman had the crowd on their feet screaming for more but in the end, both riders won a spot on the US team: “Knowing that I had to go head to head against Laz, I just needed to settle down and ride like it was any other day on the wave,” said Eric Silverman. “Otherwise I don’t think I would have been able to ride my best.”
Bob Danek is the father of Expert Bodyboard dominator Tyler Danek, and he has watched as many bodyboarding heats as anyone: “I thought the level of riding in the Expert Bodyboard division was very good,” Bob Danek said. “In my opinion the biggest landed tricks in the comp were Tyler's ARS and reverse roll, and Dane Hirata's GORF. Derrick did a double forward roll but landed on his back or side first and Tyler did a double reverse roll but also landed on his back and didn't complete both rolls in the air.”
At the end of a long day of flying and spraying, Bryan Durland won the Amateur Flowboarding division, and the world will be watching out for him soon.
The four Expert division winners were Greg Lazarus, Eric Silverman, Kristen Barney and Tyler Danek. In October, they will travel halfway around the world to Singapore, for the International FLOW Championships, which will go down as part of the Opening for Wave House Sentosa. The four riders from Wave House San Diego will mix with riders from Wave House Durban and Wave House Chile. There will also be a Wildcard Round, where riders who did not make the local teams can fly to Singapore on their own steam and compete against each other for a slot in the big show.
FLOW stands for Flowriding League of the World, and it’s an expanding world with Wave House franchises in Durban, South Africa; San Diego, California and Santiago, Chile, with Wave House Sentosa opening in Singapore in October and Wave House Zaragoza opening in 2010 – and other Wave House on the boards for 2010, 2011 and 2012. There is also the Wave Loch FLOW Tour, which had sixteen events over the course of the summer, with the Tour Champions in each expert category advancing to International FLOW Championships in Singapore as well.
Flowboarding will be new to Sentosa, Singapore, a place that has long been a crossroads for traveling surfers, but doesn’t really have good waves. The Opening of Wave House Sentosa is going to be an eye opener for the local rogues, as they are going to get a big dose of the current level of Standup Flowboarding and Bodyboarding on the “Future of Nature” as Wave House Sentosa will feature a FlowBarrel every bit as powerful as the Bruticus Maximus.