World leader in surfing wave technology.

Fun Shui: How to turn waves into profit

Flowing water represents different things to different cultures. For the Chinese, flowing water is a Feng Shui symbol for wealth. You can see that symbolism on display in Singapore, where the Fountain of Wealth at the Sun City Mall is the world’s largest fountain – five towers in the shape of a human hand, standing 13 metres high and spouting water twice that distance.

Not only does the water flow at the Fountain of Wealth, but inward flowing water also symbolises retention of wealth. At certain times of the day, the fountain is turned off and the public are allowed to walk around inside of the fountain and soak up that Feng Shui.

Flowing water and retention of wealth are also what the Wave Loch FlowRider represents, but in a much smaller real estate footprint: The FlowRider Single flows 150,000 litres of water at 30 kilometres an hour in a real estate footprint of 100metres2, creating and retaining wealth for waterparks, municipal pools, cruise ships, adventurous retail outlets and Arabian Gulf Sultans.

The FlowRider uses ‘sheet wave’ technology to recreate the power and challenge of riding ocean waves. Flygt submersible pumps flow a three-inch sheet of water over a safety surface formed to create a ‘standing wave’. The water moves but the wave doesn’t and that allows the FlowRider to fit into just about any space.




The Adrenalina chain of board-sports retail stores were looking for an angle to make  their first store at the Florida Mall in Orlando atypical. The owners knew that typical sporting goods stores had batting cages and driving ranges and even artificial snow slopes – but what about a breaking wave?

The logistics were tricky: how to store all that water and let it flow in a way that wouldn’t drench patrons and soak the merchandise. The solution to that ambition was a FlowRider Single – 120 metre2 of fun encased in tempered glass. “It took two years to develop this idea and make it a reality,” explains Adrenalina President Jeffrey Geller, adding “the Orlando store had the FlowRider built into the original plan, and the owners of the mall were thrilled. We were innovating by bringing together retail and entertainment and they saw Adrenalina as a destination store.”

When the FlowRider was switched on, Adrenalina Orlando had to turn people away from the door. That kind of response inspired Adrenalina to open up Extreme Store outlets at the Miami International Mall in 2007, a third store in Tampa Bay, Florida and a fourth store in Plano, Texas. Some mall owners are so excited by the extra traffic, they have helped to pay some of the US $2 million cost for installing the wave machine.


On the Ocean Wave

In 2004, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines was looking for a way to make their cruises fun for the whole family – and especially the hard-to-impress 13 to 21 year olds. With no salesmanship from Wave Loch, RCCL asked to install FlowRiders on the sterns of their Freedom-class cruise ships.

FlowRider on a Cruise ShipIn August of 2005, RCCL announced the installation of ‘onboard surf parks’ in the stern of their Freedom-class cruise ships – featuring 10 metre by 12 metre FlowRiders flowing 114,000 litres of water, allowing guests to ride the wild surf while sailing on the high seas. The first of these ships, Freedom of the Seas put to sea in April, 2006, followed by the Liberty of the Seas in May, 2007 and Independence of the Seas in April, 2008.

RCCL featured the FlowRider in broadcast and print advertising, under the slogan ‘Long board. Short board. Boogie board. Onboard’, and it worked. Family interest in the Freedom cruises jumped considerably because, as a company spokesman put it, “if you get the teenagers, you get the families.”

In August of 2008, Royal Caribbean showed new plans for its Oasis line of cruise ships. The largest cruise ships ever launched will be laid out in seven distinct themed areas: Central Park, Boardwalk, the Royal Promenade, the Pool and Sports Zone and Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center.

At that time, Adam Goldstein, President and Chief Executive of Royal Caribbean announced that “we have developed the pool and sports zone and the Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Centre to give our guests even more choices on a unique and memorable Royal Caribbean cruise.” Those choices include two double FlowRiders which will flank both sides of the elevated back deck, giving “four times the flow, four times the joy.”


Global Popularity

In addition to locations on massive cruise ships and in shopping mall retail stores, as of June, 2009, there are 111 FlowRider and FlowBarrel sheet wave attractions installed around the world – at points as far away as Norway; Durban, South Africa; Dubai and Texas.

While the majority of FlowRiders have been sold to privately-owned waterparks, they have also been added to a number of publically owned waterparks and aquatic centres, including the National Aquatic Centre in Dublin, Ireland.

Jared Keeling, Parks & Recreation Director for the City of Republic, Missouri, USA explains this trend: “At the time of construction in 2005, I really feel as though the FlowRider helped put our new municipal aquatic facility on the map. It was so different and unique to this area and brought about a tremendous sense of curiosity among our community and the surrounding communities (and) we received a tremendous amount of free advertising from print and television media covering the Flowrider. Now, in our fifth year of operation, I still feel as though we have a definitive edge over other facilities in our area due to the FlowRider. We have found that we attract families from a 100 mile radius who come to our facility solely because of the FlowRider.

“Often, one or two of the family members will want to ride and the others come along to experience the rest of what the facility has to offer. Repeat business from these park goers is usually assured as the Flowrider takes a while to master and is very addictive.”

In November of 2008, the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder in Western Australia became the first Australian council to follow this path, when a FlowRider was opened at the city’s Goldfields Oasis aquatic and recreation centre.

“We invested $2.3 million Australian dollars in the new water facility,” explains Tony Chisholm, City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder’s Director Community & Development Services, adding “we put in a traditional waterslide and looked at all kinds of weird and wonderful water attractions before deciding on the FlowRider.”

The Oasis placed the FlowRider at the head of a ‘lazy’ river ride which takes the excess flow from the sheet wave and turns it into a current where the residents of Kalgoorlie can go to relax. And in a just a few months, the FlowRider has proven to be more popular than expected, and operates a small, unexpected but welcome profit. “We are 400 kilometres from the beach, and the FlowRider is the next best thing to surfing,” Chisholm states, before concluding that “I was amazed by how quickly the local riders were doing tricks on the FlowRider and now we are in communication with DreamWorld on the Gold Coast to have FlowRider competitions.”


Fun, Fun, Fun

New FlowRiders are being opened every couple of months, and the new wave wave-machines are propelling the expanding Wave House archipelago concept – a retail, restaurant and entertainment complex with sheet waves as the centre attraction. Wave House builds a California/tropical/beach environment which brings the ocean lifestyle to anywhere in the world.

The first Wave House in Durban was followed by the opening of Wave House San Diego in June 2005. Wave House Santiago opened at Mall Sport in Santiago, Chile in December of 2008 while Wave House Zaragoza will be a feature of the Puerto Venecia Mall in Zaragoza, Spain when it opens in 2011. The FlowRider universe is rapidly expanding, even in an economic downturn. The key to this success is not Feng Shui – the operators of waterparks around the world are not being sucked in by any subliminal promises of wealth.

The key to FlowRider’s success is closer to Fun Shui. In a word, riding sheet waves is fun. It’s challenging. It’s addictive. It’s a waterpark attraction that demands skills, and an investment of time, and that time translates into profits for waterparks, shopping malls or cruise ships hoping to attract active guests.

Flowing water in an enclosed system isn’t merely a symbol of wealth in Fun Shui – the Wave Loch sheet waves are generating wealth by attracting business, retaining ‘ridership’ and visitor loyalty and turning guests into devotees.


Los Angeles–based writer Ben Marcus is a former editor of Surfer magazine. He has written ten books including Surfing and the Meaning of Life.

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