Florida on a Tankful: Surfing without the beach in Kissimmee

By Scot Fais, Feature Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, March 24, 2017, 7:34 AM EDT

While the closest beach is a 45-minute drive to the east from Kissimmee, the community south of Orlando can boast it, too, can catch a wave.

"Any time anybody asks me what a FlowRider is, they think of the singer or something," said Jon Reese, the sports coordinator at the Gaylord Palms Resort.

Blond and slim, Reese is a walking posterchild for Florida's surfing culture. He makes "hanging 10" in the Gaylord Palms outdoor "Wake Zone" look easy. 

"It's not so much athletically inclined as it is a mental block," Reese said of the FlowRider distributed by WhiteWater.

The two-story surf simulator features a blue mat that sits at an incline where water travels uphill, creating a wave Reese says is strong enough to allow a 300-pound adult the opportunity to boogie on a board.

"It's hard to practice with, but you get the hang of it," said soon-to-be-pro Trey Cooley.

The Orlando fourth-grader grader spent part of his spring break challenging the FlowRider.

"The water pushes you and it's funny when you get splashed," Cooley said, recalling how the force of the water pushed him up the mat and tossed him out to dry on the upper platform.

To create a wave with such force, Reese says the FlowRider borrows a page from the jet planes flying overhead taking off at nearby Orlando International Airport.

"Airplane-sized engine jets (are) at the very bottom of this thing," Reese said of the motors concealed under the base of the FlowRider.

How hard could it be to get on a boogie board?

"Mr. Scott, are you ready?" Jon shouted at Scott Fais as the moment of truth arrived. "Lift up your chest. Elbows down. Now lean on them."

Believe it or not, with Reese's friendly suggestions, it doesn't take long to begin doing tricks.

"Whooo!" Reese yells in appreciation for an attempt well done. But, can you master the Gaylord Palm's FlowRider in one session?

"Master is a more touchy term than I would like to say than get a hang of it," Reese said with a wide grin. "To master, a couple of weeks, a year, three years," he said, laughing. 

Visitor Information:
FlowRider instructional sessions can be reserved in 30-minute periods. Prices vary by season. All FlowRider participants must be a guest of the Gaylord Palms Resort. However, the hotel anticipates offering a monthly pass in time for summer.

Tankful on Television:
Catch Florida travel stories like the one above on Television four days a week across Central Florida. The award-winning Florida on a Tankful with Scott Fais airs on News 13 Thursday through Sunday. See new segments in the Bay Area as well on Bay News 9. Stories air beginning at 6 a.m. on both channels as a Spectrum exclusive.