“So, what exactly is flyboarding?” This is a question I was asked a number of times last week. I’ve discovered it’s not something you can explain very easily.
“It’s like hoverboard where jets of water shoot out of a board strapped to your feet,” I say to friends who ask. They stare at me, perplexed. “You know, kind of like wakeboarding but in the air.” Still perplexed. I give up and pull out my phone…
“It’s Like a Hoverboard where jets of water shoot out of your feet…”
I first came across flyboarding in Croatia. A tall bloke with a 2ft board strapped to his feet, soaring five metres into the air, throwing backflips, frontflips, diving in and out of the water like a dolphin. I had to try it.
Five months later, back in the UK, we stepped out into a grey car park in Littlehampton to find a muddy estuary alongside a main road. It wasn’t quite the crystal blue waters of Croatia, but what do you expect from England in October?
As we peered over the barrier, there they were. Mike, the owner of WetJets flyboarding company, sat on top of a jetski with his first client of the day wobbling around in the water as two high-pressure hoses shoot from his feet. The sound was phenomenal. The slams even more so.
So, how does it work?
A flyboard is like a mini wakeboard with a water pipe attached to the bottom of it. Picture that pipe strapped to the jet on the back of a jetski. This pipe funnels the high-pressure water into the flyboard and out of two holes placed underneath the feet.
What’s it like?
Difficult. Well, at least more difficult than the guys in this video make it look.
As I flopped into the water with the heavy board hanging off my feet. Mike explained there was no power in the jetski. All the water pressure was being passed through the jets in the soles of my feet.
““Yes!” I thought “I’ve got thi….” Then my legs buckled and I was tumbling face first into the estuary”
We cleared the slipway, the jets propelling me across the surface of the water like a figurehead on a ship. Once in the middle of the estuary, Mike explained that to rise out of the water, you need to keep your legs poker straight at all times.
“It’s like the opposite of snowboarding,” he says. “There’s no knee bending involved whatsoever.” Otherwise this happens…
Your feet have to stay flat. Put pressure on your toes and you’ll faceplant; press too far back on your heels and you’ll fall backwards. It’s tricky, but not impossible.
“All right Nina,” I hear Mike cry over the thundering engine, “here we go… Legs straight!” While I was controlling the steering, Mike was in control of the throttle on the jetski.
I felt pressure surge under my feet. I began to rise skywards. “Yes!”, I thought “I’ve got thi….” Then my legs buckled and that was it. I was tumbling face first into the estuary.
“I didn’t realise how much height you can get – as much as 15m in the air”
This happened again and again and again. I could hear laughter above. Mike’s next clients, a group of 10 guys on a stag do, had arrived.
When I finally nailed it – after only five minutes of slamming – it did feel a lot like flying. I was levitating above the water, cautiously shifting my weight backwards and forwards with as much style as a monkey on a snowboard.
The longer you stay in one place, the higher you’ll climb. I didn’t quite realise how much height you can get – as much as 15m in the air.
Once you’re levitating, the idea is to slowly encircle and eventually start throwing tricks. There’s even a Flyboard World Cup to compete in once you get double backflips on lock.
By the end of our twenty minute session, I was starting to get the hang of it – there was less floundering around on my stomach and more, well, flying.
“The next stage is doing tricks and you weren’t far off!” said Mike enthusiastically. I think he was being kind. Inside, I was hoping he was right.