Flow boarding or flow riding is a late-20th century alternative board sport which incorporates elements of surfing, body-boarding, skate-boarding, skim-boarding, snow-boarding and wake-boarding.
The first flow rider was installed in Texas in 1991. Participants ride on artificial waves that are technically known as “sheet waves.” Powerful pumps project a three-inch layer of water at speeds ranging from 20 to 30 mph.
Tyler Hentges of Court House has developed and mastered his flow boarding skills since he started working at Wildwood’s Splash Zone Water Park Flow House in 2013. He began competing one year later and this summer was invited to the professional tour with a Vermont-based team called “Flow Dogs.” The group is comprised of some of the best flow boarders in the United States and Australia who range in age from 16 to 50.
Starting July 17, competition took the 20-year-old to Virginia, Texas, Indiana, California, Nevada and Utah. The son of Jeral and Randy Hentges, Tyler earned five second place finishes in men’s events and ended the tour with a second overall placement in the Men’s Flow Boarding National Championship.
Hentges became involved with flow boarding after his father was contracted to build a sign for the flow rider establishment. The Middle Township High School graduate was working with his dad and thought it would be fun to ride so he applied for a lifeguard job at the facility.
One year after joining the crew Hentges now manages the flow rider. The 5-10, 165-pounder has always been comfortable with board sports. He’s active in motocross and karting as well as skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing, and swimming.
“I love learning new tricks and getting the adrenaline rush from flow boarding,” said Hentges, whose team is sponsored by Ash Flow Boards and 13ROZ Flow Boarding. “When you’re out there it gives you the feeling that nothing else matters. The challenge is to get better every time.”
Hentges, who maintains a routine of stretching to prepare for competition, is uniquely qualified to com[are flow boarding with the well-known water sport of surfing. “Flow boarding is similar to all water sports but in reality it’s a sport all its own,” he said.
His goal is to become a full-time professional rider. “I want to be one of the very best,” said Hentges, who added that athleticism is very helpful but any body type can compete in flow boarding. He stays active all year and tries to flow ride as much as possible in the off season.
Hentges said competitors are judged by the tricks they perform and the difficulty of those maneuvers. The person’s style and use of a wave are also factored in. Events include body board and stand-up for categories such as professional, men, women, junior and master.
Mike Pappalardo mentors Hentges. The pair met in 2013 and consider themselves friends for life.
“This sport is similar to wakeboarding, surfing, skateboarding, and snowboarding,” said Hentges. “Flow riders are like family and everyone helps everyone.”
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