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Waves crash at International Plaza

Surfing is about the pull of the waves under your feet, the wind blowing in your hair — and, apparently, the smell of fried rice and egg rolls seeping from the food court to your nostrils. Adrenalina, an extreme sports store in Tampa’s International Plaza, is bringing an unconventional surfing experience to the Bay Area with Waveloch’s FlowRider indoor surfing machine.

The FlowRider is a large, suspended trampoline covered by a two-inch-thick layer of water. The water is shot across the canvas by underwater turbines that provide enough resistance to keep riders relatively stationary while simulating the feeling of gliding across ocean water.

Paul Bonfilio, Adrenalina’s store manager, said the techniques learned while using the FlowRider can be applied to almost all extreme sports.

“The skills taught by our instructors aren’t just useful for surfing,” Bonfilio said. “Board sports are all alike in the sense that they focus on the ability to balance, so riding the FlowRider feels just like skim boarding, snowboarding, wake and skate, among other extreme sports.”

Bonfilio said the two main instructors, who are hired by Waveloch, coach new and experienced riders in surf techniques during their 30-minute sessions. Sessions cost $20 apiece and are done in groups of eight.

The Adrenalina in International Plaza, which had its grand opening Saturday, is the third location to open in the country. Adrenalina first opened in Orlando and Miami, and Bonfilio said plans to open in Texas and Colorado are underway.

“I guess you can say we’re on the prowl,” he said. “We went public about a year ago and we are looking to expand as much as we can. Adrenalina has now bought the rights to exclusively host FlowRider machines and we aim to bring them to all parts of the country.”

Ryan Hines, USF Surf Club president, said having an Adrenalina nearby cuts travel time for his members significantly.

“There aren’t really any surf spots around here,” Hines said. “We usually end up traveling two or three hours to take a group surfing. The club was talking about taking a group to the International Plaza sometime soon. That would be a lot easier than driving a group of about 40 people to a whole different part of the state.”

Although the shorter travel distance is a convenience for surfers, one month of sessions would cost $100 per participant. However, the bill may not be too hefty for the Surf Club, said Ashley Johnson, Campus Recreation coordinator of sports clubs.

“I try to lobby as much money as I can for the clubs,” Johnson said. “We’ve got 45 active clubs right now and about a third of them ask for funding each year. We present a case for each club, ask for an amount of money for each and Student Government gives us a lump sum back.”

Last year, that lump sum came to roughly $203,800 of the $442,602 requested by the clubs. Of that total, $6,028 was allocated to the Surf Club, which initially requested about $7,500.

With gas prices on the decline, travel around the state may be easier for Surf Club members, but Hines said he isn’t going to rule out any options yet.

“Every now and then we’ll take road trips around the whole state, hitting all the good places to surf, and nothing is like really being out there in the waves, but those trips take a while to organize and are a big commitment,” he said. “I haven’t tried the FlowRider yet, but if it’s anything like real surf, it’s something Surf Club will look into for weekends and short trips when we don’t have time to go traveling.”