LITTLE CURRENT—The roar of jet ski engines joined the thumping top-40 sounds coming from the 100.7 Glow radio booth to generate a heady mix of excitement in the crowd gathered to watch the flyboard demonstrations being put on at Harbor Vue Marina by FlyOntario. But it wasn’t all look and see, as several members of the crowd signed up to take the waterjet powered board challenge.
“It’s the biggest thing in extreme sports,” enthused Harbor Vue owner Kevin Rose, the water dripping from his wetsuit as he came ashore from his “flight” over the water. “I am going again!”
Mr. Rose brought the demonstration team up from their normal roost on Lake Ontario in order to give Manitoulin a taste of what the sport is all about.
“It is massive in Europe,” said FlyOntario owner/distributor/instructor/performer Darrell Nash. “It took a while to get the clearances for the sport here in North America, Canada and the US.” The biggest hurdle was to get insurance companies onside. “They have made huge strides in the safety and design,” noted Mr. Nash, “and now it is just exploding in popularity here as well.”
Operating the equipment has become a lot more accessible with some of the technical changes that have taken place, said Mr. Nash. “Before you would have to go at it with wrenches and bolts to attach the hoses. Now, there is a unit that you can install on the jet ski where you can just connect it very quickly and easily.”
The flyboard operates by attaching a hose to the back nozzles of a jet ski personal watercraft that then attaches to a set of nozzles that are connected to the boots of the flyboard.
“The flyboard operator controls the power,” explained Mr. Nash. The operator of the flyboard then tows the jet ski out into the bay behind them, with a safety observer along for the ride.
Once safely out in deeper water, the flyboard operator can up the power, launching themselves airborne on a jet powered stream of water. With novice flyboarders, the instructor on the jetski controls the jet flow.
The instructors giving the demonstrations hurtled high above the water, although most of the audience participants were somewhat less adventurous. “It’s fantastic,” agreed Andrew Orr, whose Orr’s Valu Mart in Little Current were one of the sponsors of the event. Mr. Orr took to the skies above the waters of the bay making it look simple.
Actually, it seems flyboards are deceptively simple to operate. “You have to remember to keep your knees locked, which is different from most sports,” explained one participant.
Hydro Flight Sports are currently in over 50 countries and is the world’s fastest growing sport, notes Mr. Nash, with no signs of slowing down.
“This fun sport is easy, intuitive and highly addictive,” he said. “Our mission is to provide everyone with an experience they’ll never forget.”
Some of those viewing the demonstrations took the opportunity to watch the proceedings from Le Grand Heron, the North Channel Cruise Lines excursion vessel, which was anchored just offshore.
“A flyboard is an accessory to a personal watercraft (PWC),” points out the company website at flyontario.ca. “The PWC provides all of the propulsion for the flyboard through a unique set of patented adapters. All of the thrust developed from the PWC is routed through the hose to the flyboard. The PWC then just follows behind giving the rider freedom to accomplish 3D flight. 3D flight means you can fly over, in or under the water freely. The flyboard also floats allowing the rider to relax safely in the water before taking-off, during breaks and after landing.
Flyboarding is much different from wakeboarding, tubing or other watersports. You get the thrill of flying on and in the water without the high speed tumbles. With all the safety features, research and instructor training put into flyboarding, you can be sure that flyboarding is very safe and easy to use.”