A new way to enjoy Gull Lake has arrived and it is unlike anything the shores have seen before.
Flyboarding is a relatively new extreme sport, first introduced in 2012.
A flyboard is a type of water jetpack that uses propulsion from a personal water craft. Water is vacuumed into the water craft and then is propelled through a hose and into the flyboard, spurring the rider forward.
“Flyboarding is basically just an accessory to a personal watercraft. It’s a toy, really. It’s something people can use to get out on the water and enjoy a new extreme sport. It’s run by a sea–do, not a jetski – big difference,” laughs owner of Gull Lake Flyboarding Travis Young.
“How it works is the sea-do acts a giant pump and instead of forward propulsion it sucks water into the sea-do and pushes it through our unit, out the hose and out the bottom of the board and you fly up into the air with water propulsion underneath your feet.”
After flyboarding was introduced, creator Franky Zapata came up with the idea for the hoverboard. The hoverboard is a similar concept but instead of upward propulsion the rider is pushed forward, as the water stream comes out the back.
“A hoverboard is basically a snowboard. It’s got two bindings and water propulsion comes out of the back. The flyboard is more for stationary movements and flying into the air and doing tricks. With the hoverboard you can move around closer to the water and sort of carve on the water and then fly up into the air and do tricks that way. They’re just two different styles of riding,” explained Young.
“I haven’t tried them both enough to really pick one over the other. The flyboard is a little easier, and that’s the main thing we rent out. It’s a very quick learning curve – if you want to get good, you can do it very quickly with effort and time put into it.
“With the hoverboard, it’s harder to pick up on because you aren’t strapped in – you want to be able to leave the unit if you’re falling. You don’t want to be attached to something that’s falling if it’s got forward momentum.
“The feeling of snowboarding on the water – which is pretty much what you’re doing – is very unique. You can lean back and fly up into the air and maintain hovering by moving forward. I really can’t say I love one over the other because they both offer a very unique and different experience.”
For those sceptical of the safety standards of the activity, rest assured. All instructors are given a minimum of 20 hours on each sea-doo throttle control and on the flyboard. This helps them be aware of potential sensations and accidents that can occur in order to better support new riders.
Right now, users ages 12 and over may use the flyboard and hoverboard as long as they fall into the weight category of between 100 and 350lbs.
In only a few years the sport has grown into national and international competitions. Each year, competitors gather in Dubai to show off the ever-expanding world of flyboarding skill.
“They have North American championships and world championships that are held in Dubai every year. Three riders from Sylvan Lake have gone and competed and two of them finished in the top 12 and one was in the top 32.
“There’s an instructor from Sylvan, Chad Bell, who finished sixth in the North American championship,” said Young.
“A guy landed a triple backflip this year in competition – the sport is evolving at a tremendous pace. The kinds of tricks that people are coming up with are exciting and it’s cool to see these people become the innovators,” he said.
“I’m not amazing on a flyboard – I can do a 360 and a backflip or two, but you’ll see tricks ranging from 50 foot dives into the water to single backflips, to triple backflips – 360s, 720s, 1080s – what people are coming up with is incredible.”
Young said some people will find the sport intimidating but that most people are able to get themselves up within five to seven minutes of their first lesson.
“It’s very rare that we’d have a lesson where that person didn’t get up in the air – no matter their age or how physically fit they think they are. I had a client the other day who didn`t think he’d be very good and he ended up being one of the best people I’ve ever had. He was up within the first two minutes and was doing great. We even taught him 360s on his first lesson just because he was picking it up so quick,” Young said.
“One thing I really want people to know is that it’s almost impossible to compare flyboarding to anything else. It’s not wakeboarding or snowboarding. You have to experience it for yourself. It’s really hard to describe but what I tell people is that you feel like Iron Man with Water – you’re flying and that’s what you feel like.
“Don’t be intimidated by what it looks like. It’s really a much simpler process than what it looks like. It’s not as hard as it looks. I’ve had two clients over the age of 60 this year already come out. It’s something that’s really for everyone no matter their skill level or age or what they think they can do.
“If you can walk, you can flyboard.”
For more, visit www.albertaflyboard.com.