FlowRider at Surf Style takes enthusiasts on simulated adventure

CLEARWATER

Inside the Surf Style megastore on Clearwater Beach, a handful of youths in swimwear brave a thin layer of 80-degree water surging toward them at 25 to 30 mph.

Some ride body boards on their bellies; others stand on "flowboards."

They wriggle. Giggle. Wipeout.

Meanwhile, parents hover outside the giant glass tank, cellphone cameras in hand, documenting this novel fun called flowriding.

No question, this simulated surfing activity in which a powerful stream of water rushes up a sloped, cushioned platform to emulate a giant wave, is a gnarly delight for both participants and spectators alike.

Live streaming video can be seen at surfstyle.com.

"Flowriding is different from surfing (in the ocean) because the water is coming toward you, not from behind you," explained Surf Style spokesperson Erin Domash.

And, she said, wipeouts don't normally hurt.

"The FlowRider has a trampoline surface so if you fall down, you bounce back up," she said.

These indoor surfing machines eliminate the threats of sharks, lightning and powerful undertows, but the slippery activity is not without risks. Serious injuries have been reported in the industry and participants are required to sign waivers.

There are no age limits, but riders need to be 42 inches or taller. Instructors dole out tips and hold ropes for novices until they get their balance.

"It's not scary, just a lot of fun," proclaimed Connor Woodward, 7, of Chapel Hill, N.C.

"Yeah, it's great. It's the whole enchilada — surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding," said his brother Dylan, 12.

FlowRider enthusiasts should come prepared with bathing suits and towels. It is suggested that girls and women wear one-piece bathing suits, or, water shirts to cover bikini tops, thereby avoiding embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions.

Domash said the FlowRider, which opened at their store on Labor Day 2011, appeals to all ages, including some regulars in their 60s and 70s who come for the enjoyable and unusual workout.

Tank manager Joe Rodowsky said he has seen some of the more experienced riders perform skater tricks like "kickflips" and "shove-its" (where the board is rotated in midair). Some even do headstands on the board.

A national competition featuring some of the world's best riders, Flow Tour, is coming to the Clearwater Beach Surf Style store Aug. 27.

"People can come see some really crazy stuff," he said, noting that the competition will start at 10 a.m. and likely last until about 6 p.m.

At 50,000 square feet, this Surf Style is the largest of 40 scattered throughout the Southeast.

Besides hosting "the only indoor surfing experience for 150 miles," the two-story retailer overlooking the Gulf of Mexico offers beachwear items, a convenience shop featuring fudge and saltwater taffy, a skate shop, henna tattoos, lifeguard products, Guy Harvey merchandise, a tourist information center, and a selection of surfing, skimming, boogie and standup paddleboards.

"Everything you could possibly need for the beach," Domash said.

Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at treeves@tampabay.rr.com.

if you go

FlowRider, a simulated surfing experience

Where: Inside Surf Style, 311 S Gulfview Blvd., Clearwater Beach

Hours: Store hours are 8 a.m. to midnight daily. FlowRider hours are 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. daily with the last session beginning at 11 p.m. Free 10-minute sessions from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. for new riders. (Please note that during the summer, campers use the facility from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., so it's best not to show up at that time.)

Cost: $20 for 30 minutes. A summer special offers $30 for one hour through August.

Parking: A parking garage is connected to Surf Style (enter on Coronado Drive); parking tickets are validated with use of the FlowRider and merchandise purchases.

Information, or to book a session: Call toll-free, 1-888-787-3789 or visit surfstyle.com.

FlowRider at Surf Style takes enthusiasts on simulated adventure 07/22/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 4:47pm]

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