I’ve never surfed. The last time I skateboarded was when I was 7. I only tried snowboarding once and quickly figured it was a bad idea, when little kids at the bunny slope started complaining about me holding up the lift line by constantly falling down.
The way Flowrider works is that a thin sheet of water flows up a slope at 20 to 30 MPH and creates an artificial wave that you can surf. Or can try. If you’ve never done it before, it’s best to start from bodyboarding and get used to the sensation of water flowing at you, losing your balance and crashing towards the back wall. I’d say it doesn’t hurt, but the bruises I found the next morning tell a different story.
After a while sitting on top of the board started to feel like a piece of cake, so with a sudden boost of confidence I figured that sure, I can try standing up! Flowrider boards aren’t the huge surf boards you’d be used to but more like skateboards without wheels, and I should have known how it would go. There’s a rope you can hold on to to help you stay put, but you’re still all responsible for finding your own balance.
Finally on my fourth try, I found something that resembled a balance, and boy was I excited when I could let go of the rope and stay upright for at least three seconds!!! Of course I don’t have photos to prove, because my friend with the camera was probably too busy laughing at my last fall down. A couple tries more and I was ready to move over to the inviting pool. Flowrider is definitely fun, but also definitely hard!
I plummet into the warm ocean, splash and gasp for air, salt water filling my nose, splashing some more. When I make it back to surface, I try desperately to blow the water out of my nose and rub the salt out of my eyes. “You ready?” the jet ski pilot shouts and I shake my head. Wait, a moment, I need a moment to get myself back together! And then it’s on again.
Flyboarding is not the easisest sport, but all worth the practice.
There are several different types of flyboards, and the one I tried out was one of the easier ones. Harder boards have more buoyancy which means it’s “easier” to do flips and turns, but the board I tried was more stable and easier to stand on, which is perfect for a total beginner. That still didn’t make it easy. I’ve always thought I have fairly strong legs, but it was still hard standing when the board was forcefully pushing me up to the sky.
The jet ski pilot handled the force of water flowing from the board, which was great: one less thing for me to think about. I had enough on my plate trying to balance and keep the board horizontal. The only way I could rise up on top of the board was aiming the flow of water straight down, and a smallest movement to any direction plummeted me back in the sea. Good thing water is my favorite element, because there was little time to prepare for being whisked under the waves.
After five minutes, the thought of giving up passed through my mind – but only passed. In ten minutes I was already flying up in the air for minutes at a time. I’d found my balance, and I have no clue how. It just happened!
The training session lasted for 15 minutes, after which I retreated back to dry land to breathe and relax, and to follow others’ attempts at flying. Later in the day, I got another chance at flyboarding, and finally I felt like I was “soaring like a bird”, like they had promised I would. Dolphin jumps I gladly left for another time.
A week ago I already felt like I had landed in the middle of paradise – and then the bell boy led me to my room where the balcony opened to an amazing view of the Atlantic, straight to East. Sunsets are beautiful, but sunrises are even more so, and what could be better than viewing them straight from your bed?
Colorado weather was good enough when it was time to head to Florida, but still the warm wet air of Southern Florida caught me off guard when I exited Miami airport in search of a taxi to my final destination, Fort Lauderdale. I spent nine days in South Florida, and this is what I loved:
Hollywood Beach Boardwalk. Bands playing almost every night at the band stand, and the feeling of warm sand between my toes right off the airplane.
Fort Lauderdale Beach and an ocean that was still warm in November. The lights around here are turned down in the night to not confuse sea turtles nesting on the beach.
John U Lloyd State Park with a beach completely untouched by development. If you think Florida’s beaches are too touristy, this is for you.
The 175 steps leading up to Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse. The museum is small and you won’t be able to get a close-up with the lense, but check out the views!
Those couple magic minutes, when I figured out how to flyboard. Totally worth the ten or so minutes spent splashing into the water at awkward angles.
Four alligators spotted while airboating around night-time Everglades. Wroooom!
One alligator that we spotted with Iiro while driving along an “alternative” toll-free route to Big Cypress Swamp. The route was a dirt road in bad shape, and our rental car was a Toyota Prius, but hey, we made it – with a wild alligator sighting to boot!
A mile of boardwalks around a swamp next to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Indian Museum. Don’t step off the boardwalk, a sign told us, and looking at the impenetrable wetlands, this seemed like one of those “don’t microwave your cat”-signs of pure obviousness. Hard to believe people actually lived in these swamps!
One big bad swamp buggy, whose sole passengers Iiro and I were. The ride might be a little more bumpy than usual, the driver said and charged straight into the swamp. Fun!
150 miles to Key West, which we didn’t drive but FLEW! The small Piper airplane took us low enough for me to grasp the sheer size of the Everglades.
The 100,000 or so party people who had come to Key West’s Fantasy Fest with us. “Crazier than New Orleans on Mardi Gras” said one local and I don’t find it hard to believe…
Dozens of new tavel bloggers I met at TBEX travel blogger conference.
Two “old” travel blogging pals from Finland, who I finally got to know face-to-face. Moikka, Sanna and Ulla!
The top-rated award-winning queen size air mattress that our friend in Fort Lauderdale had gotten to host us for the last couple days of our stay. And this is completely without irony here.
This post is part of Instagram Travel Thursday, a celebration of travel photos on Instagram and the stories behind them. You can find me on Instagram as @globecalledhome. The rest of the participants are below.
Coming up next week is something I wasn’t really expecting much from in the beginning, but that I’m completely utterly head-over-heels excited about right now. I’m heading off to my first travel blogger conference ever, and on Sunday morning, I’ll jump on a plane towards South Florida and TBEX North America. It’s going to be two days worth of talks on blogging, content creation and traveling, and of course enjoying the beautiful South Florida. The latter is thanks to an invitation that I got for a hosted pre-conference trip with an adventure theme – and when someone says adventure, I’m always in!
During the trip I’ll enjoy life at the Margaritaville Resort at Hollywood Beach. Did you think the only Hollywood in the US was in California? Well think again, because Florida’s also got its own Hollywod, and unlike its Californian namesake, this one’s also got a beach! Hollywood Beach is situated midway between Fort Lauderdale and Miami, and it’s one long beach boardwalk lined with restaurants, shops, and of course the beach. Next week it’s going to be around +30C, so I’ll make full use of the resort’s pool as well as the Atlantic’s waves. But this trip won’t be just beach life…
On Monday, I’ll get to try flyboarding at Pompano Beach, a bit north of Fort Lauderdale. According to the info I got, I’m supposed to “soar like a bird and swim like a dolphin”, but let’s see what kind of a flying fish my performance will resemble the most. If it turns out to be harder than you’d think, I’ll switch over to doing a little stand-up paddling in the lagoon. As a hard-core lighthouse fan, I’ll also get my dose with a tour of Hillsboro Lighthouse.
Everglades is a region of tropical wetlands that extends to a much wider area in South Florida than you’d think just looking at Everglades National Park. The plan is to spot some gators just a rock’s throw from Fort Lauderdale at Sawgrass Park. The best way to get around the marshes is by an air boat, which I’ve only seen before in movies. The next day, I’ll get to tour John U Lloyd Beach State Park‘s mangrove mazes and reefs with a kayak!
All this adventuring is going to make me hungry, and luckily the program’s got some great sounding restaurants on it. The part I’m mostly looking forward to is fresh seafood, as that’s kind of hard to come around to in my present land-locked home.
In the conference, I’ll meet up with a couple Finnish travel bloggers – Sanna from Siveltimellä and Ulla from 50 State Puzzle – and together with Iiro and a couple of other Finnish guys we’ll head off to the always-fabulous Key West. October 31st, also known as Halloween, is on Saturday, and Key West is going to have a parade with floats and everything that we just can’t miss. It would be a long drive to Key West by car, so we’re saving some time by hopping on a private airplane – which I’m looking forward to just as much as Key West!
We’re still planning on heading deep into the Everglades National Park before we head home. The park’s a UNESCO world heritage site, and it spans more than 6000 square kilometers – more than twice the size of the country of Luxembourg! We’d better not get lost there…
South Florida’s much more than just beaches – and I’m heading there in less than 48 hours!