Surf’s Always Up at Surf Style Clearwater Beach
By Saundra Amrhein
The adults hang back with expressions that say, “No way.” Men taunt each other with dares: “I’ll pay you $100 to do it.”
But on this summer afternoon in Clearwater Beach, the adventure is left to spry teenagers and pre-teens, willing to have their legs knocked out from under them and a firehose-like blast of water shot in their faces.
“That looks like fun,” one adult whispered, watching enviously.
The FlowRider at Surf Style’s megastore on Clearwater Beach is an indoor surfing machine encapsulated in a 20-by-12-foot glass box. Inside, a two-inch sheet of water is pushed uphill by motor, moving at 30 mph atop a trampoline-like surface.
When her turn comes, Kayla Martinez, 13, of the Tampa area, steps inside the box, a look of concentration on her face. The two boys entering with her are her cousins, ages 14 and 11, visiting from New Hampshire.
Kayla has tried this before, when she was 9. Back then, she used a body board, riding the waves lying flat on her belly. When her recent birthday rolled around, she told her parents she wanted to come back. She was determined to ride the waves standing on the flowboard.
“They are exhausted when they get off,” said her mother, Lynn Martinez. “It uses every muscle in the body.”
Inside the box, the instructor motions for her. Kayla points to the flowboard. He props it down, perpendicular to the platform, partly in the water. He holds a rope and tells Kayla to clasp the other end.
She steps onto the board. He tells her to space her feet apart. Bend her knees slightly. Relax. Slowly he nudges the board out into the water and feeds her the rope as she moves away from him and lets go.
For two seconds – a beat longer than her cousins on their first turns – she does it. She’s riding the waves, her arms out to the sides for balance. And then, whoosh! Her legs wobble and the board flies out from under her, and she splashes down into the water.
For the next 30 minutes, she and her cousins take turns falling spectacularly: sometimes backward on their butts, the water swooshing them up the hill and out of sight. Sometimes forward on their faces, again carried by the water, but this time with it in their eyes and up their noses. Each time Kayla stays up longer and longer – up to 10 seconds – until on her last turn, she merely steps off the board into the water.
“She didn’t fall down!” said her father, Orlando Martinez.
While some families plan their visits here, many tourists stumble into the FlowRider when they enter Surf Style to shop in its two-story, 50,000-square-feet megastore that offers everything from swimwear to wine, cheese, diapers, dresses and sandals.
Tor Drillestad of Norway saw it when he and his sons, ages 12 and 14, came in to buy souvenirs. Experienced snowboarders, the boys expertly ride the waves with no problem.
“I can see it’s fun,” Drillestad said, sitting in a chair and watching his sons, before adding with an abashed chuckle: “Not for me, I think.”
For more information, visit: www.surfstyle.com or call (888)787-3789.
If you go…
Surf Style, Store # 105
315 South Gulfview Blvd.
Clearwater, Fla 33767