Former pro-surfer Mark Maritz tells us how to get a wave fix in Bahrain
Time Out Bahrain staff
So, you’re a South African surfer dude who lives for the waves and makes his living travelling to exotic locations with the Pro Surf Tour then you get married and move to Bahrain. What’s a guy to do?
The answer for Mark Maritz came through his work as a house parent at the Bahrain School. On a field trip to Wahooo! waterpark with a group of students, he spotted the Flow Rider wave machine and a whole new addiction was born.
He explains: “It’s actually very different to surfing in the ocean and a lot more challenging than I was used to at home.
“Surfing in the sea is a lot more forgiving whereas, riding the stationary wave you only have a thin layer of water so the movements are very subtle, just from the ankle. Sea surfing uses your whole body.
“On the Flow Rider there’s the potential to get pulled under and I have seen people get injured but it makes the challenge even greater.”
In fact, anyone can have a go at the Flow Rider. It’s usually run with just two pumps which make it doable, with instruction, for anyone who wants to learn.
Initially you will need to give it a go with a body board, laying down to ride the wave is much easier, you have a greater connection with the board.
If you then want to learn to surf, you’ll need to book lessons and you’ll start off standing up hanging onto a safety rope held by one of the instructors which stops you getting pulled back into the wave.
Once you’ve mastered the technique, which Mark reckons is different for every person and takes, on average, about ten sessions, you’ll then get your Flow Rider card and can come and ride the wave unassisted.
And that’s when the fun starts. For those who really like a challenge the machine is cranked up to use the full four pumps twice a week, on Tuesday and Saturday evenings, which is when you’ll see Mark and a small group of competitive surfers doing tricks and spinning through the air.
“It’s great,” says Mark. “At busy times you can have quite a wait to get on the wave but when it’s turned on at four pumps, there are only a few of us riding and it’s a great opportunity to practice tricks or try something new.”
Mark’s one of a handful of competitive skaters who use the Flow Rider but he says the numbers are growing and Wahooo! recently ran a competition which attracted really good attendance with more planned for the future.
And if you think there’s no way an artificial, indoor wave could compete with the real thing, Mark explains that, as well as the camaraderie amongst the boarders, there are plenty of plus points.
“Sea surfing is 90 per cent about fitness, you have to be able to paddle out to the waves, see and ride into the wave and then do it all again and again. With this, there’s none of that, you’re straight into the water and into the wave which means you can really concentrate on what you’re doing.
“Also, because it’s the same every time, you get the chance to perfect manouvres – it’s certainly not like that at sea, every wave is different as is everything you try and do, using the Flow Rider gives you the chance to progress.” Entry to Wahooo! is BD10 for those above 1.2m tall and to ride the four-pump wave is an extra BD4. Call (17 173 000).
The latest craze
What: The newest thing to hit the island’s water sports scene is stand-up paddle boarding or SUP. It’s exactly as it sounds, you stand on a board and paddle. Sounds ridiculously easy right? But trust us it’s not, though it is great fun and you’ll probably be able to get the hang of it in about an hour.
The history: It was originally used as a way to get good photographs of surfers and was then adopted by the surfing community to ease the need for extended paddling out to the surf enabling surfers to catch more waves in a set.
Current day: It’s now the world’s fastest-growing water activity with fans such as Jennifer Aniston and Lewis Hamilton making it look both cool and simple, though it can get fast and furious when done in competition with real waves!
SUP in Bahrain: It you fancy something that’s been variously described as “the most fun I’ve had in a long time”, “a brilliant core workout” and “it feels utterly precarious, like walking on jelly”, then the Amwaj SUP group has limited places to take to the canals at 4pm on Thursdays and Saturdays for BD7 for a one-hour session. You don’t need experience but you must be able to swim. There’s also a 90-minute intro lesson – 30 minutes introduction and 60 minutes paddling – at BD12 for two to four people or BD15 for one-on-one. Call (34 459 457) for details. Lessons resume after Ramadan.