The History of FlowRider: Reflecting on the Past and Looking to the Future of Stationary Wave Machines

FlowRider has been leading the charge in the stationary wave machine industry for over 30 years. With over 250 waves installed globally, we are proud of our unwavering dedication to innovation, quality, and service.  The second half of 2022 brings some major changes for FlowRider in the shape of new branding and new waves, and as we gear up for the future of stationary waves, we also take a detailed look at the past 3 decades of stationary waves.

Bodyboarder Gives Thumbs Up on Stationary Wave Machine

1980s: The Inspiration for Stationary Wave Machines is Born

FlowRider was born in Tom Lochtefeld’s bathroom in the 1980s. Lochtefeld, the inventor of the FlowRider and the stationary wave machine product category altogether, had a mission to make surfing accessible from anywhere in the world.  He found his inspiration from the perfect barrels at Big Rock in La Jolla, California, and he went to work.  The first iteration of the FlowRider, and any stationary wave for that matter, came when Lochtefeld pumped water over a small ramp in his bathtub.

In 1988, Lochtefeld partnered with Bryan Morris to develop the Raging Waters waterparks, and he was able to experiment with his wave machines.

Lochtefeld Develops FlowRider at Raging Waters
Lochtefeld Develops FlowRider at Raging Waters

1990s: FlowRider Makes Its Debut

Finally in 1991, the world’s first FlowRider wave makes its debut at Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, Texas. The first of its kind, this wave was like nothing anyone had ever seen—a massive stationary wave machine with a curling section—and it still is an enigma in the FlowRider family! This was the precursor to the FlowBarrel, and it’s still fully operational to this day.

Bodyboarder Rides the Wave at Schlitterbahn
Bodyboarder Rides the Wave at Schlitterbahn

2000s: Flowboarding Takes Off

Beginning in late 1999 and the lasting through the early 2000s, the Swatch and Siemens FlowTours took flowboarding to a global level.  These two FlowTours are drastically different the FlowTours of today, which we host at various FlowRider venues.

These early FlowTours featured two mobile FlowBarrels, and it introduced the sport of flowboarding to a worldwide audience. Major pro board sport athletes got involved, like Rob Machado, Terje Haakonsen, Bill Bryans, Tony Hawk, Chris Miller, Kelly Slater, and many more. Board enthusiasts around the world became hooked on flowboarding.

Kelly Slater shreds on the FlowBarrel
Kelly Slater shreds on the FlowBarrel

2010s: Leading the Way in Stationary Wave Machine Innovation

FlowRider continued to grow in the 2010s, opening many of its over 200 waves during this decade. In 2012, we joined forces with WhiteWater, which allowed us to achieve a more global presence, open more waves than ever, and put even more focus on innovation and client relationships.

The market for FlowRiders in hotels and on cruise ships greatly increased, as families often plan trips around the attractions of where they are staying. We began to see clients like Royal Caribbean, Marriot, and Westin install FlowRiders at multiple locations, highlighting the vacationer’s call for a fun amenity like a FlowRider.

We also made our waves bigger and better than ever. In 2015, we built our first WaveOz, a FlowRider at 180 degrees in the round, at Thermas in Brazil. After a successful launch of that wave in three more locations, we then created the FlowRider Triple, which is ten feet wider than our classic FlowRider Double.

WaveOz at Thermas in Brazil
WaveOz at Thermas in Brazil

We also focused on updating our ride technology, including integrating our inflatable ride surface technology into various products. This allows us to make our waves bigger and better than ever, and it has the added benefit of creating soft wipeouts.

2020s: Flowing into the Future

The beginning of this decade has already been quite eventful for FlowRider. We introduced not one, but two new products in 2021: the FlowCurl and the FlowRider Edge. These are arguably our most unique waves yet, and they both really focus on making flowboarding more accessible. The FlowCurl is a more manageable FlowBarrel that people of any skill level can ride, and the FlowRider Edge brings FlowRider to the backyard market!

And with everything we have in store in the next few years, this decade will be our biggest yet!  Over the past 30 years, we’ve made huge strides in innovation, quality, and service, and we will soon be launching a new brand identity that will reflect that even more. We’ll also be introducing a deep flow stationary wave machine, or a river wave surfing experience, to truly achieve the vision of bringing surf anywhere in the world.

Bodyboarder does flip for the FLOW Tour

While we launch new branding and a new product, we are always grateful to our incredible community of flowboarders that we have gotten to know over the past 30 years through our FLOW Tours. We look forward to continuing those relationships and getting to know the next generation of flowboarders!

We’ll always have the same quality and service people know and trust, but we enter the future with a new look and excitement for our new waves!  If you’d like to be part of the future of FlowRider, reach out to us via our contact page.