Arizona Travel: Westin Kierland and the FlowRider (Surfing in the Desert)


Today I have a guest post from Kate Eschbach. The day after my family returned from a trip to Arizona I was invited to visit the Westin Kierland and experience the FlowRider… the timing couldn’t have been worse for my family but luckily for Kate’s family they were right nearby. I’ll be writing about the Westin again, my kids are going to have to experience surfing in the desert too. 


We arrived Friday afternoon at the Westin Kierland and we were introduced to the FlowRider and Steve Richardson, the “Wave Master”.

The FlowRider is a water boarding simulator. It combines surfing, snowboarding and skateboarding into one amazing ride. Riders will be able to feel the power and force a wave. The Westin Kierland is able to accommodate anywhere from 300-500 riders per hour – so you do not have to wait too long to enjoy your 15 seconds of fame – or more if you can stay on that long.

It is designed with a trampoline like surface, making the inevitable wipe out much less likely to end in injury. They stress that riders of any age are welcome! You must be 42″ tall to body-board and 52″ tall to flow-board.

My nine year old son and twelve year old daughter were not sure that if they were going to brave the cold snap we were having here in Arizona, but as soon as they turned on the FlowRider and Steve was showing them tricks, the kids were heading over trying to figure out what size wet suit they should put on! The idea of learning to surf in the desert was just too tempting.

Since you are either riding the FlowRider or waiting your turn to ride, there is a very nice seating area and restaurant for parents and others to sit and relax if they choose to just cheer everyone on.

As the kids nervously walked up the side, I hoped that they would really enjoy this and just go for it!

And they did! Nate was the first to go and from the minute Steve helped him on the board, he was all smiles!

I was still breathing a huge sigh of relief that no one had asked me to put on a wet suit.

Steve was at the top of the FlowRider, helping them get on and giving them pointers and another adult was at the bottom. I felt absolutely at ease watching them head up to the top to ride again with huge smiles on their face! By the end, all the kids knew each other’s names and were cheering for each other.

That night the kids just couldn’t stop talking about how much fun they had! They called Grandpa just to tell him all about it. (Grandpa grew up in Corpus Christi, so surfing is second only to walking.)

The kids are already begging me to go back again. The FlowRider is the perfect addition to their Adventure Water Park which already includes a 900 foot lazy river and 110 foot water slide. This summer, the Westin Kierland will be holding a week long camp, and I can’t wait to research that!

Plus, I would love another excuse to stay at the Westin Kierland. At sunset, a Bagpiper plays as he walks the hills of the golf course. Mom and I were able to make it to the fire-pit Friday evening just in time to hear it.

“Like” Kierland FlowRider on Facebook or visit for the latest news and events, and Wave Master Steve’s personal blog.

You’ll have to try it someday. The view is stunning and the service is outstanding. All evening, they made my family feel like rock-stars.

FlowRider no water


This is the FlowRider without any water. Remember you’re in the middle of the desert.

Kate Eschbach Photography FlowRider


Here are Kate’s kids trying out the FlowRider. These aren’t kids who have ever surfed or been on a boogie board.

Kate Eschbach Photography first time on FlowRider

First time boogie board on Flowrider

It looks like someone’s getting the hang of it.

Elena Shaka

Beecker Carve



fun on the flow rider

Steve Richardson Wave Master


Max Sing

desert surfing
It looks a tiny bit different when the pros give it a go.

And every evening at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa pays homage to the contributions made by the Scottish Immigrants who developed Arizona’s railroads, mines and towns. Here you’ll see bagpipers at sunset.

Kate Eschbach Photography bagpipers


On a personal note, Scottsdale is a fabulous vacation spot with amazing shopping and The Westin Kierland Resort and Spa is right next to the best of it.


Sayulita: The hippie enclave you MUST visit in Mexico


While staying at Gran Velas in Riviera Nayarit we took a few trips around the region.

My favorite day was spent exploring this tiny little town called Sayulita. It was about a twenty minute scenic drive through the mountains from Riviera Nayarit to Sayulita. The roads weren’t particularly well maintained but the forest was stunning and the slow drive down the mountain where the green canopies parted to reveal azure blue seas.

The town is a typical seaside town. The homes are small and low slung, the streets are cobblestoned and crooked. Children try to sell you string bracelets for just a peso or two and pharmacies do brisk business with American housewives looking for Ritalin and Xanax.

What makes Sayulita unusual is the artisanal community that has sprung up. When we arrived there was a farmer’s market in full force with organic and gluten free offerings.

sayulita farmers market

sayulita farmers market gluten free

Captain Pablo and his wife live in a beautiful casita right on the beach (you can see it’s gate on the top left of the frame). They are from Portland, Oregon and have two sons who are professional surfers.

sayulita surf lessons

There’s a little campground there that looks like a lot of fun for young adults (but not me) as well as quite a few rental homes. When you’re there look for the tortilla factory, if your back is to the ocean it’s up the hill and to the right. Buy a bag of fresh tortilla chips, they are a treat not to be missed.

The Hotel Des Artistes is NOT TO BE MISSED. The art gallery is amazing. You could stay there and spend your days lounging in Sayulita. I haven’t seen the rooms at the Hotel Des Artistes but I’ll give you a little glimpse at our lunch. Take a look at how they serve dessert for large parties.

On our way back to Gran Velas we stopped to watch a Polo Match with the La Patrona team. The horses were beautiful and it was fascinating as I was sitting next to a journalist who happens to be associated with a thoroughbred rescue. She was explaining to me how polo can be deadly for horses and how it’s not a sport that she’d support. But while watching the horses really didn’t corner that quickly (which is how they break legs and lose their lives) and the riders seemed very cognizant of the safety of the horses.

So we sipped fruity cocktails and enjoyed it guilt free.

Polo Grounds

I Need a Good Story for this One


Friday afternoon I had a little kitchen accident. I won’t bore you with the details because there isn’t a chance in the world that one of the details would make me look smart or competent. This was day three, and I assure you that day four is no better.

black eye

When you walk around town with a black eye everyone asks how it happens. I’ve found that looking people dead in the eye, shrugging and saying “bar brawl” unnerves them. They all look at you in disbelief and say, “Really?” I reply, “No” and smile and everyone laughs. They then tell me I’m funny and forget to ask what happened which saves me a small amount of humiliation. Small. I’ve also found that telling our friends that Mr. G. punched me was not met with laughter, but rather anger. Maybe I’m not all that funny? Perhaps you can help me with a better story for the shiner?

Since Mr. G. was traveling on Friday I let Jane have friends sleep over. I left school with three girls and Alexander and went straight home to knock myself out. I was so frustrated that I flung $40 at the kids and sent them to the diner around the corner to go have French fries and milkshakes for an afterschool snack. I told them to leave a 15% tip but only 10% if the waitress wasn’t nice to them because they’re kids.

After my meltdown my Mom and Stepdad (Doc) came over for dinner and I proceeded to order out. We got California Chicken Café because with Mr. G. still out of town we have to eat all the food he hates in a hurry. Alexander and Doc played catch in the backyard for about 843 hours. I don’t know what it is about boys and men that they can throw a ball back and forth and never tire of it.

The girls were extra sweet to Alexander so when they went upstairs at 10pm I stayed downstairs and enjoyed some time alone (on twitter…of course). When I headed upstairs at 10.30 the three girls were in Jane’s room gathered around a computer and all the lights were on on Alexander’s room but he was sound asleep. I guess it was a longer day for him than I’d realized.

Saturday morning was a whirlwind of friends popping in from out of town, Jane playing soccer and Alexander playing baseball. Jane’s two friends ran all over town with us because I was going to take them to the Family Day Picnic. The Family Day Picnic is this massive picnic at a camp that has waterslides, dunk tanks, a soda stand, swimming pools, foam machines and more. It’s what you’d see when Hollywood makes a corporate picnic, actually, it’s what you have seen when there’s a picnic on TV. The site is often used for TV and film.

As we were heading out the door Mr. G. called, his plane had landed. We waited so that Mr. G. could join us at the picnic. Apparently I was out to punish my husband. He lasted approximately seven minutes. At $35 a person that brought us to $5 a minute and the most expensive picnic ever attended by a Gottlieb. We went and had a nice lunch together.

I returned to the picnic and my two kids plus three extras. Belted six of us into a car that seats five and prayed like hell that my illegally tinted windows were illegally tinted dark enough.

Naturally three of the four freeway lanes were closed and our twenty minute drive turned into an hour and fifteen. I arrived home with too many children and the shakes.

I think we all collapsed Saturday night after the three friends had been picked up by their parents. Sunday morning Jane and I got up early so I could take her surfing. After she’d enjoyed surf camp so much a there’d been a groupon for surf lessons. Since it was reasonably priced I snatched one up. I had a beach bag ready to go and I was ready to spend a morning sitting on the beach watching my daughter surf.

No. Such. Luck.

Surf lessons are limited to three surfers per instructor and Jane was paired with two adorable twenty somethings who kept calling me “Mom” and squealing. It’s entirely possible that Jane noticed that I was about to deck one of them when she begged me to surf with her. I walked back into the surf shack and they found another instructor who took us out.

Jane and I had a lot of fun on our longboards. There was no sand and we were surfing over rocks in Malibu so we paddled where we might otherwise have walked with our boards. While I was remembering how to pop up Jane was hanging ten and riding every dinky wave that came her way. After about an hour I decided to actually USE our lesson and I let the instructor set me up for waves and I stopped paddling.

I’d forgotten how free you feel on the water. Even in a crappy crowded bay surrounded by fisherman and Euro tourists I felt free. I didn’t think about anyone, or anything I just thought about getting in front of a breaking wave and letting the force of the ocean move me. When I would come to rest near the shore I’d lay myself down on the longboard and watch my daughter’s face glow as she caught wave after wave after wave. She’d hurry back for another ride indiscriminately loving them all.

We surf a little like we do everything else in life. She does it her way and I do it mine.

I Worried About All the Wrong Things


Yesterday I left my house at 10am and drove the Mexican Border to retrieve my daughter from a week at surf camp. Her camp was nestled between an Air Force base and the Tijuana River Estuarine. It’s not the sort of place you find accidentally, you’ve got to have a plan to get there.

Traffic was magnificent from 10 to 11 so at at 11.30 I stopped in the OC and had sushi with Ciaran and felt good about the world. Then I had this hideous panicked moment where I realized I could possibly be late to pick my daughter up and I all but ran out of the restaurant in order to get back on the road.

I’d taken Mr G’s car because it’s been crazy hot and his seats are air conditioned. I should have taken my car because my seats are soft. After an hour or so more my bottom hurt like crazy and I found myself wishing for more fat on my ass… surely this is the only time in my life this wish will be made.

I arrived at Camp Surf just a minute after 2pm and the kids were in the water surfing. SURFING my little girl was out there paddling away on a long board. As much as I don’t want to live by the beach now, the beach was my childhood, and this Manhattan Beach kid almost peed her pants when when that little furshintkener started walking up the board to hang ten.

The hideous drive was absolutely worth it. My kid was walking across her board.

jane walking the board. I missed the best moments... of course.

And then she came out of the water and was pointing to her foot, and of course her friends all gathered round. She left in search of vinegar and I realized she’d been stung by a jellyfish. I’d spent my childhood being stung by jellyfish too, but we did the smart thing, we peed on our stings. We didn’t have to go roaming around a beach in search of a squirt bottle of vinegar. A little piss did the trick.

After Jane had been sprayed with vinegar she finally came to me so I could hug and kiss her. She coughed and sniffled everywhere. “That sounds awful.” I said, “Have you been like this all week?”

She nodded at me, and her counselor said that she’d been coughing all night long for the week. Jane went on to tell me that she’d spent one night in the infirmary and that she was bummed to have missed the morning surf session that day.

Then we went to the farewell barbecue and I got a sampling of camp food. There are no words. My poor sweet daughter.

When I’d brought Jane to camp I’d deposited $30 into an account for her to use at the camp store. They were allowed to buy a soda and a candy bar each day as well as tees, sweatshirts and some surf styled jewelry. At check out parents and their kids head to the store to get any change that might be left at the store. Jane told me she’d spent it all on candy and bracelets.

I worried that my daughter had been buying bracelets to buy friends.

We hopped in the car and started the long drive back to Los Angeles. Jane told me about her new friends at camp and a few of the brattier girls. She explained to me that they used grapes to demonstrate family trees and that Karen’s was the most complicated as she had four mothers and a father who wasn’t the sperm donor (hint: three divorces and mostly marriages to women with one man thrown in for luck). Jane coughed and sputtered a few times, she begged me to listen to Hits1, we listened to two songs and she fell asleep.

Our trip back to Los Angeles was full of serendipity and we passed by LAX just as Mr. G’s plane was landing. I nudged Jane to wake her up, pulled into a mostly deserted airport and watched as my daughter flew across the room to launch herself at her father while screaming, “DADDY”.

She hacked and coughed and Mr G gave her all the sympathy and hugs a little girl needs.

We drove home and she gave Mr G the same rundown she’d given me. At this point I’d spent seven hours driving and another 15 minutes as a passenger. To say I was feeling punchy was quite the understatement. When Jane told her Dad that she spent all her money on candy bars and bracelets I added, “for her friends” and Jane looked at me and said, “No mom, I bought them for you and Dad and Alexander.” I felt like the worst mother in the world.

We got home, unpacked and she ate basically everything in sight. My parents arrived a few minutes later with Alexander who lost his reign as an only child.

We’re back to being a family. Three of us are having a nice and restful Saturday, one of us is very very sick upstairs and watching TV all day.