The first Flyboard video I saw was a game-changer. There was a man in a wet suit, slowly emerging from the ocean. His head, now shoulders, now torso, grow out of the water. And then — BOOM! — the man shoots straight up at race-course speed.
He’s wearing Iron Man boots, but instead of supernova light beams shooting out from the soles of his boots, there are impossibly powerful torrents of water shooting out from the soles of his boots. The man zooms 10, 20, 30 feet above the sea, then makes a figure eight, Iron Man shoes still blowing water, and dives back into the ocean. Time passes. He pops up over there, like a porpoise, just like a porpoise, zooms vertical again, three, four stories high.
This is flyboarding, a sport, and more to the point, equipment, invented by Frenchman Franky Zapata in the spring of 2011. Since then, flyboarding has spread worldwide. Its YouTube video had 2.4 million views in 15 days. In October 2012, there was a Flyboard World Cup in Qatar. Another one in 2013, this time with competitors from 21 countries, including such beach-friendly nations as Poland and Estonia.
It’s just beginning. When you’re talking sports, and the lust people have to watch sports, the prospect of a new sport taking off, if you’re on the ground floor, is the prospect of huge money.
Meet the ground floor: Blaine Jeffery, 38, married, father of two boys, works in online marketing and advertising for the Victoria Conservatory of Music. He is the proprietor of Flyboard Magazine. Jeffery took his first flyboard ride in July 2013, began publishing Flyboard Magazine on August 1. Three months later he’s in Qatar covering the Flyboard World Cup. I reached Jeffery at his home in Victoria, BC. Follows is part of what he said.
“I had seen a video of flyboarding and been blown away by it. I thought, Wow, they’ve had a 2012 World Cup. This is a real sport.
“I went online and couldn’t find anything to read about it as a sport. I would find the odd article that said, ‘Here’s Franky Zapata’s crazy new invention.’ It was very fragmented...so, I gathered up enough content until I felt confident I could launch on August 1.
“It’s not like I turned it on and had a million unique views. It was the embracing and support from the flyboard community that told me I had done the right thing. They were really ready for this, really appreciative of this, and really wanted to support it.”
Trip to Qatar: “I’m getting great support from Zapata Racing. They said, ‘If you can get yourself over here, the rest is taken care of.’ So, with a little bit of angel investment from family, I got my plane ticket together. I brought my cousin, who’s a filmmaker. He had the gear and the knowhow. We went to Qatar and shot and interviewed.
“It’s incredibly exciting. Certainly, coming back from the World Cup, I’m as excited as I could possibly be. The level of flying I saw [was] extreme. Certainly when you’re 50 feet in the air doing double backflips and flying at crazy speeds, it can be extreme.
“But, also, it’s a sport the general public can play. It can be the most gentle, fun, watersport to try. Water skiing and wakeboarding put a bit of wear and tear on the body. Flyboarding? A certified instructor can take care of you, gently raise you out of the water a few feet, you get your balance, you have a couple of fun falls from just a foot off the water — it’s just a splash, it’s nothing. And the next thing you know you’re up four or five feet and you’re hovering around, and you’re starting to get the gist of it and you’re having a blast. It feels very exhilarating, but it’s very low risk.
“I think that has a ton of appeal and that’s what’s going to allow this sport to really, really grow. This sport is absolutely ready to blow up.
“Right now, I’m the lone wolf. It’s not going to stay that way — I know that. Flyboard is starting to get on people’s radar. The landscape is going to change over the next few years, but I’ve positioned myself, at least within the community. I’ve been here from the beginning.”
Putting out the magazine: “I am honestly doing every single thing. That’s the beauty of online. Barrier to entry is low. Nobody actually knows how many people are behind it. It’s me running the show.”
Blaine Jeffery can be found at flyboardmagazine.com. Interested readers can rent flyboards in San Diego at Aquatic Aviation.