The summer is almost gone but it’s not too late to try out something that looks like a lot of fun – flyboarding.
This is a pretty new form of recreational fun. It was invented three years ago by Frenchman Frank Zapata who essentially took a jet ski and attached it to a hose attached to a skateboard platform with holes to propel water through it. The Flyboard itself has no engine.
Maybe you’ve seen it on YouTube. Here’s the inventor and his Flyboard team – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cd6C1vIyQ3w.
The sight of one or more people suspended in air over water looks amazingly cool. And we’re not talking about just getting a few feet off the ground – flyboarders can soar up to 50 feet above the surface of the water. By comparison, most platform divers dive from a height of 33 feet (although high-dive platforms are nearly 90 feet high).
The recreational device also allows people to zoom under water at dolphin speed. I’m sure this experience has to be similar to feeling like you have become Aquaman.
Recreational outfitters on Canyon Lake and the Guadalupe River are offering flyboarding rentals and lessons. But you should be aware that this sport is so new that the dangers are still being presented. Most new riders look pretty unstable and so injuries are bound to happen.
Before you rent or buy a Flyboard (priced at between $5,000-$6,000), it would be wise to ask about safety precautions. What kind of equipment safety checklist should be performed? What is the maintenance schedule? I’ve seen videos where people are carrying someone in their arms during flyboarding – this certainly doesn’t look safe.
It should go without saying that you need to be wearing a flotation device and that you shouldn’t be flyboarding anywhere near rocks, reefs, shallow water or shore. Many Flyboard rental websites list a minimum water depth of least 8-10 feet (think the “deep” end of the pool) for safe flyboarding, but others say 12 feet. I’d error on the side of caution and make sure the lake or calm bay you plan for your flyboarding fun is in the 12-feet deep range.
Helmets are good ideas in football, motorcycling and flyboarding. Neck and head injuries can be easily avoided with the use of a helmet, and many flyboarding rental companies require them.
Back injuries also can result from hitting the water at high speeds. Remember the feeling of belly-flopping onto the pool? Think about taking a flop from a height of more than 15 meters.
Yet there is no doubt that with the proper safety precautions, this looks like a load of fun. If you’re new to it, don’t try soaring to the extreme heights right away. Start at low speeds and heights and, if possible, have a seasoned flyboarder guide you.
Videos of flyboarding aerobatics abound on the Internet. Just remember to take it slow, use common sense and return home safely.
Dr. Annette “Dr. Z” Zaharoff heads the Non-Surgical Center of Texas, focusing on non-surgical alternatives to relieve pain and repair injuries. A former professional tennis player who competed in the WTC circuit, Dr. Zaharoff remains actively involved with the US Tennis Association. Learn more about her at www.drzmd.com.