PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Surfing is something we usually associate with California, the ocean and warm weather.
But surfing on the three rivers in Pittsburgh?
It may seem out of place, but it’s really happening, so I set out to give it a try.
Of course, to surf, you basically need a board, some balance and a wave. So, how can you surf in Pittsburgh without the wave? Well, you make one with a special boat.
“Underneath the seats here we have about 1,500 pounds of water and then an additional 500 pounds, so we have about 2,000 pounds weighing down this side of the boat to make a wave,” says Ben Calik of Surf Pittsburgh.
This is the sport of wake surfing, a new sport that’s only been around for a decade.
Our captain, Steve Ford, created Surf Pittsburgh to help finance his hobby by teaching wake surfing.
Steve first fell in love with surfing in California, and he didn’t want to give it up when he moved back to the ‘Burgh.
“We would wake board and things like that,” Steve said. “As I got older, wake boarding kind of got painful on your knees and on your back. It’s a lot faster. We realized that anyone can surf at any age. It’s so simple.”
So, I gave it a try.
The first challenge, how to stay warm in 50 degree water and 50 degree weather. After I squeezed my head through the dry suit and got my head, hands and feet into the wet suit, I was ready for the river.
Ben instructs me: “You’ll relax, lay on your back, and you’re going to sit on the board. Sit in the water, but have your feet on the board and your heels are going to be close to this edge. You’ll hold the rope.”
My years of water-skiing where I grew up in Florida help me get up on the first try, but not stay up.
Second try, getting outside the wake is harder than I expected. You have to shift your weight on the board.
By the fourth try, I’m over the wake.
The next challenge, scooting my feet to the middle of the board and then moving closer to the boat, only about 10 feet away.
Just when Ben says I’m doing really well, I face-plant!
On my sixth attempt, I catch the wave… and it’s amazing!
I can’t even believe I’m surfing — not holding onto anything — completely free.
The boat’s only going nine miles an hour and is so close, I can hear Ben instructing me.
“Lean forward. There you go, lean forward,” he tells me, as I try to not let the wave get in front of me.
From PNC Park all the way to the Carnegie Science Center, I surf through Downtown Pittsburgh, something I never thought I’d say.
This is definitely one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Now I can say I’m a surfer girl.
If you want to try it too, it costs $125 an hour for two people. They can accommodate larger groups, too.
Ben and Steve say about 90 percent of the people they’ve taught get up and get a feel for it, though not everyone goes quite as long as I did.
I do think all of my dancing helped with the balance. Good luck and hang ten!