In June, 2014 I was privileged to to try flyboarding — a very new sport at the time — while on an adventure-themed press trip in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. For those not familiar with flyboarding, it involves strapping on a pair of boots a lot like the ones worn by Iron Man while in the ocean and then jetting into the air by means of powerful water jets on the boots fed by a hose attached to the output of a nearby jet ski. It’s entirely as fun as it sounds. A Note: I’m personally not a big fan of fuel-powered sports — and I encourage anyone who tries flyboarding to also consider how much gas is being burned to fund their hour-long-session — but it is pretty awesome and I am glad I tried it once.
Learning to Flyboard
Flyboarding is pretty easy to get the hang of, but there is a bit of a learning curve to it. People who are accustomed to maintaining balance on moving surface, such as skateboarders, surfers, skiers, and snowboarders, will probably find it a bit easier than others. Here are the steps that my instructor took me through.
Step 1: Levitating
The first step in learning to flyboard is learning to simply stand on it, which is not quite as easy as it sounds. To do this, you will position yourself upright in the water with your feet beneath you. When you give your instructor the thumbs-up, he will increase the throttle, and the jets on the boots will propel you you up out of the water.
As many of my fellow board-sport lovers have learned over time, when learning to ride a board that has a life of its own it’s easier to keep your balance by continually adjusting back and forth than it is to try to stand upright and stationary. On my first few attempts, I tried to blast up out of the water and stand stationary, but each time I quickly fell. So, next I tried maintaining balance by tilting the board forwards and backwards in rapid succession, constantly adjusting to keep myself upright. It was surprisingly easy to stay upright this way.
Step 2: Front Dive
Next, my instructor told me to dive into the water and then try to turn 180 degrees and shoot straight back up out of the water back into a standing levitating position. This only took a few tries. The instructor gave me a bit of a boost into the air by throttling the jets and then I dove into the water. I allowed myself to go fairly deep to allow enough room to turn around and then simply curved my body by sticking my chest out and throwing my head back, which turned me back toward the surface. The trickiest part was maintaining my balance once I was back in the air.
Step 3: The Dolphin
This is where things start to get fun. The dolphin looks a lot like it sounds. You dive into the water, turn around and fly back up into the air, and then immediately dive again, and repeat this over and over, just like a dolphin. There is a bit of a trick to this. It’s really just like repeating the diving manoeuvre over and over. Because of the foreword motion you’ll feel tempted to exit the water at an angle moving forward. You really don’t want to do this though, because you won’t gain enough height to keep going. You want to exit the water going almost straight up.
The only forward motion will occur when you are diving, not ascending. There is one important thing to note here. When I was doing this, I misheard my instructor. I thought he told me to keep my arms by my sides, so I was hitting the water with my head (wearing a helmet, of course). After slamming my head into the water a dozen times it started to get pretty sore. The lesson: keep your arms out in front of you, like you’re diving, to break the water before your head hits it.
Step 4: Back Dive
This one requires little explanation. It’s just like the front dive, except you throw your arms up over your head and try to dive backward into the water. Not seeing where you are going may feel a little intimidating, but this is pretty easy.
Step 5: Back Flip
This is the last manoeuvre I tried, but I wasn’t able to master it. This trick requires a lot more height than the others because you are trying to complete a full flip in the air and still land with enough distance between you and the surface of the water for the jets to keep you aloft. There is also the issue of keeping your balance when you land from the backflip. When you try a backflip your instructor will have to open up the throttle to jet you really high in the air.
The instructor will wait for you to get your balance and give him the thumbs up. Then he’ll rocket you up into the air. The key here is to try and time your backflip with the peak of your ascent. When you think you’re near the peak throw your arms and head back as hard as you can and then…well…basically hope for the best. I can’t tell you how to land a backflip, because I wasn’t able to. But, if you make it this far in your first lesson, you’ll probably be too tired to even care. I sure was.
Disclaimer: My trip to Puerto Vallarta was provided courtesy of the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board. However, the things I chose to write about the trip were completely at my discretion and all opinions expressed in this article are my own.