Surfers are forever inventing ways to mimic the feeling of gliding across a wave face, that rush of freedom and exhilaration that is intrinsically tied to the act of surfing.
From creating artificial waves in pools so clear you can see the undulations of the concrete floor below to building skateboards and other vehicles that make the streets a de facto wave, we can be an innovative bunch.
In my own quest to replicate surfing’s stoke when the ocean is flat, I’ve acquired many of these devices over the years: a skateboard that allows a rider to flow and carve like a surfer does on a wave; a longboard that glides across asphalt at top speeds under the power of an electric motor; a balance board that both mimics nose-riding and gives me a great workout.
But nothing has come as close to the surfing feeling as my latest purchase. The Onewheel, built by California-based company Future Motion, truly is the most innovative and creatively fun machine I’ve ridden. It’s essentially a skateboard deck halved by a large go-kart tire that houses an electric motor capable of propelling you forward at up to 20 mph for 15 miles with each charge.
The Onewheel doesn’t require a controller to engage the motor. Instead, it has an accelerometer that self-balances a rider once it’s turned on and mounted with both feet. You move forward by leaning in the direction you want to go; you stop by bringing your balance back to center; and you go the opposite direction by leaning that way. Once you get used to how the Onewheel is powered, you’ll never ride a regular electric skateboard again. It’s that good.
With the large rubber tire soaking up every bump, this miracle machine floats like a cloud. And the best part, perhaps, is that it can travel over city streets, beach sand and hiking trails without bogging down and losing performance. It truly is the only electric-powered machine that can venture on any surface.
Riding on the beach, in particular, is surreal. Because hard-packed sand provides less grip than pavement, the ride feels very close to the sensation a surfer gets while gliding along the face of a wave. Just remember to wear protective gear if you try one because falling to the ground is much different than a wipeout in water.
While I still prefer the experience of surfing — with the associated immersion in the ocean and its natural environment — this newfangled thing has made flat days nearly as fun as one spent in the Gulf.