City of Kelowna may keep its rare indoor surfing machine after all

City of Kelowna staff is recommending council go ahead with upgrades to its FlowRider machine which is needed to keep the indoor wave surfing machine in operation.

City council to vote on $300,000 upgrades to its FlowRider machine in the 2019 budget

Kelowna was considering removing the FlowRider machine because it is costly to repair and out of service for months at a time. (willard_pics/ Hive Miner)

The prospects for Kelowna keeping its FlowRider indoor surf machine have improved, with City of Kelowna staff recommending council approve $300,000 in needed repairs and upgrades.

The machine at Kelowna's H2O Adventure and Fitness Centre is the only indoor surf machine in British Columbia.

The FlowRider is described as the "ultimate indoor surf simulator." It creates artificial waves, which users ride using boards.

Its future was put into question in December 2017 during budget deliberations. The city funded a study to look for alternative attractions to the FlowRider which is nearing the end of its service life and needs expensive repairs and upgrades.

City staff considered replacing the surfing machine with a training pool where users could do lap swimming and hold aquafit classes and aquatic therapy sessions, said Jim Gabriel, the city's director of active living and culture.

"At the end of the day, we kind of circled back. We are looking at doing the repairs to the FlowRider and a budget request for 2019 and to move forward with them," Gabriel said.

The repairs and upgrades are estimated at $300,000. A final decision on whether or not to fund the work will be made by city council in December.

Challenging for world bodyboarding title

Kelowna teen and two time Canadian bodyboard champion Jonathan Hintz campaigned to save the FlowRider through an online petition that collected more than 10,000 signatures.

Jonathan Hintz placed third at the 2017 World Flowboarding Championships in Mexico after training on Kelowna's FlowRider machine. (Jonathan Hintz)

Hintz, 17, started indoor surfing at the H20 Centre when he was 11 years old and turned his passion for the sport into a professional career.

He's excited that Kelowna is leaning toward keeping the waves flowing at the H20 Centre.

"(I was) kinda thinking I was going to have to make my way out of the sport, which would have really sucked," he said.

"Still having this wave, I can continue to train and hopefully go from that third in the world title to first."

With files from CBC's Radio West.

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Brady Strachan

CBC Reporter

Brady Strachan is a CBC reporter based in Kelowna, B.C. Besides Kelowna, Strachan has covered stories for CBC News in Winnipeg, Brandon, Vancouver and internationally. Follow his tweets @BradyStrachan