A lake.A boat.People.Something called an airchair. It all adds up to a high octane, adrenalin rush called Hydrofaloosa on Pine Lake, south of Red Deer.
It’s year number six for the event which attracts upwards of 50 hydrofoilers ranging in age from nine to their mid-60’s.
Now about that name.
“We kind of polled the guys and asked what should we call this event and that seemed to be the one that worked,” said Darcy Notland, one of the people behind the annual Hydrofaloosa.
He has a crew of about 25 helping with organizing and feeding the riders and the campground operators are very generous and supportive of the event, he said.
What really works though is the fun these guys have as they get pulled by a powerful boat, dig into the water and then launch themselves and their air chair some 20 feet above the surface.
“Some people would consider it an extreme sport because you’ve got 40 inches of aluminum bar with two wings on it,” said Notland. “But the biggest defining character of it is the air.”
Contestants do flips and jumps from the wake or off to the side of the boat. While slalom skiers like the glass-like water conditions for their sport, hydrofoilers are happy to see a little chop on the water as it helps them find the surface when they are coming out of the flip.
Participants come from all over western Canada and the Northwestern United States to compete, including David Tubbs from Sandpoint, Idaho. He got hooked on the sport when was 13 years old.
“One time I was watching a skier go by and I thought maybe that was a ski for the handicapped and then he goes and throws this huge backroll and I said I’ve got to do that.”
The structure of the event at Pine Lake is simple enough.
“Basically a free-riding day is the first day. We have a little bit of a clinic format to it on the second day and on the third day we do a fun competition,” said Notland.
Big air is key to winning the prized belt which resembles something from the WWE. Each rider is video-taped and the height of the jump is determined by using a frame count on the camera with the winner claiming the Big Air title. While the competition may be for the belt and for the fun of it, there is always something else on the line, said Notland.
“Bragging rights. It’s a bunch of guys and you get a bunch of guys together, there’s always a competition that results.”
Getting that big air is a combination of body posture, handle pressure on the chair and your basic technique, said Tubbs.
“You really want to go out as fast as you can and as hard as you can and redirect your energy as fast as you can from down to up and that shoots you into the air.”
The riders work close with the crew in the boat who need to be in synch with all that is going on and the spotters of course are watching if a guy has a bad landing, said Tubbs.
“They are also very encouraging if you are having a bad day.”
It’s really a great spectator sport and a unique way to spend some time at a lake, enjoying the fresh air and the camaraderie.
For the riders like David Tubbs, it doesn’t take long for the adrenalin to start rushing through his veins.
“When you hear the boat rev up. When you’re getting out of the water and the water’s rushing by you, it’s go time,” he said.
So next August, check out the Hydrofaloosa at Pine Lake for your own adrenalin rush.