Get a taste for the high life with flyboarding
Want to be launched into the air then (hopefully) soar above the ocean like an eagle? Try this fun new adventure sport.
- October 2019
“We’ve never really had anyone who hasn’t been able to flyboard,” says instructor Kyle Parker while he laces up my flying boots. Kyle’s trying to soothe my nerves but all he’s doing is feeding my insecurities. Could I be the first person who can’t flyboard? My balance is OK – I’ve surfed all my life and snowboarded, too – but logic isn’t my strong point and I’m not very good at listening either. It has struck me that this flyboarding caper involves fairly large doses of both.
Kyle tells me that the thrust from his jetski will be routed through long hoses up into my flyboard, which is essentially a pair of boots with jet nozzles underneath. He says I should position my feet like I’m standing on the ground and keep my arms down by my sides. Or hold them up in the air... Which one did he say? “Don’t forget to push your legs down when you feel the thrust coming,” he adds.
A French bloke called Franky Zapata (yep, that’s his real name) invented flyboarding back in 2012. He figured using propulsion to thrust him into the sky was the closest he’d get to flying. There are several places you can have a go at flyboarding in Australia but Queensland’s Gold Coast is by far the prettiest. We’re in a sheltered bay full of yachts in the Broadwater, right beside Sea World.
Gold Coast Watersports’ co-owner Kate Forrester says that while the majority of their customers are thrillseeking teenagers, she’s also had flyboarders in their 70s and many international tourists.
Kyle reminds me again to keep my legs straight as I rise into the air. He says the hardest thing about flyboarding is our tendency to fight against the propulsion. Despite his warnings, I fold my legs up into my stomach; so as I rise above the water, I’m immediately pitched forward. On my second attempt I keep my legs straighter, but this time I topple backwards.
You might be more familiar with jet packing, where a jet pack is strapped to your back and two handles are used for steering (as James Bond did in the 1965 film Thunderball). But I have no handles – instead I use weight distribution between my legs to move around and my shoulders to turn. My third attempt is a different story – I keep my legs straight and, when I rise into the air, I keep my gaze focused on a bloke on a nearby yacht who’s laughing at me.
Then I notice I’m five metres above the water and drop like a sack of potatoes. “Don’t look down,” Kyle yells. On my fourth attempt, I fly like a bird. I’m so high I can see the tips of the Surfers Paradise skyscrapers. I’m winking at pelicans and screaming like I’m 10 years old again.
Kyle lowers me. “OK, you can hover. Now let’s fly,” he says. So it’s one thing, apparently, to stay up in the air but it’s another to move around. And so I test out the strength of my helmet as I fall, over and over, while ducking and weaving around the jetski. When I can manage an entire revolution of the ski, Kyle throws me another surprise: dolphin diving.
I dive face-first into the water and re-emerge (with straight legs) into the air. Once I’ve got the knack of dolphin diving (I’d prefer not to say how long this takes), Kyle says it’s time for me to go higher. “We can get you 10 metres up – or more!”
And that’s when I experience the incredible sensation of flying high. Kyle looks tiny below me and at first I find it daunting. But once I gain confidence, I find it exhilarating. There’s something about the view from up here; soaring over the water like Superman, I can see for miles. There’s a sea eagle checking me out and I swear the sun feels a little warmer. Franky Zapata figured this was the closest humans would get to flying so I go with it for as long as I can, because I’ll probably never glide this high again.
What: Flyboarding with Gold Coast Watersports
Where: The Gold Coast, Queensland
Price: Book anything from a five-minute fly ($99) to 30 minutes ($249), plus briefing time.
Mariners Cove, 60 Seaworld Drive, Main Beach, Queensland, 0404 445 000LD 4217
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