Fly­board­ing sends peo­ple soar­ing above lakes

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Outside - CAI­LYNN KLING­BEIL

Soar­ing nine me­tres above Waba­mun Lake, Rod­ney Big­gar is a strange sight.

His feet are strapped into boots and he’s stand­ing on a small board, con­nected by a long white hose to a nearby SeaDoo. That con­nec­tion pro­pels jet noz­zles un­der­neath each foot, driv­ing the board and Big­gar up into the air.

Peo­ple stand­ing on the shore gawk as Big­gar spins, flips and dives, ex­e­cut­ing nau­ti­cal gym­nas­tics. Big­gar is on a fly­board, a fu­tur­is­tic wa­ter sport that draws fre­quent stares.

Big­gar and Brody Wells coown Al­berta Fly­boards and have spent the last two years in­tro­duc­ing Al­ber­tans to fly­boards, which were in­vented by a Jet Ski racer in France in 2011.

Big­gar and Wells started of­fer­ing lessons at Syl­van Lake in cen­tral Al­berta in 2013, and added fran­chises this year at Waba­mun Lake, west of Ed­mon­ton, and Cold Lake, north­east of Ed­mon­ton close to the Saskatchew­an border. Their com­pany also of­fers group events at Jack­fish Lake, in Park­land County.

Zapata Rac­ing, the maker of the board, touts fly­boards as a “new ex­treme sport phe­nom­e­non,” but Wells said it’s easy for any­one to learn. So far this year, more than 200 peo­ple have tried it at Waba­mun Lake.

While the pros can be seen soar­ing close to 14 me­tres above the wa­ter and com­plet­ing back­flips, a 20-minute les­son will get a begin­ner about 1.5 to three me­tres in the air.

“I still re­mem­ber my first day try­ing it,” Wells said. “It was easy, fun and so ex­cit­ing. It’s hard not to stare down at the board the whole time and just look at how high you are.”

Be­ing on a Fly­board is akin to hav­ing your own jet­pack. As a rider stands on the board and wa­ter spurts out be­neath his or her feet, the in­struc­tor on the Sea-Doo (or any per­sonal wa­ter craft) con­trols the power of the wa­ter and reg­u­lates the height of the rider. It’s sim­ple for the rider to ma­noeu­vre the board in any di­rec­tion.

A hose, 18 me­tres long, con­nects the Sea-Doo and the board. The rider’s arms are free, com­pared to an ear­lier edi­tion of the board that in­cluded hand­held sta­bi­liz­ers.

Wells first dis­cov­ered the ac­tiv­ity while look­ing on­line for sports to try with his Jet Ski, and said he was im­me­di­ately in awe.

“It’s com­pletely dif­fer­ent, un­like any­thing else I’ve ever done,” he said.

Wells taught Rick Mercer how to fly­board on Syl­van Lake for a 2012 seg­ment on the Rick Mer- cer Re­port, and a video shows the comedian ex­claim­ing “no way!” and laugh­ing as he rises above the wa­ter.

Rid­ing a fly­board pro­vides a leg and core work­out, Wells said, one that he con­sid­ers less tax­ing than other wa­ter sports, such as wake­board­ing or wa­ter­ski­ing.

“They in­volve a lot of pulling,” he said. “This is more of a bal­ance ex­er­cise.”

Greg Southam/Postmedia News

Adrian Boucher does aerial tricks at Waba­mun Lake on his fly­board, which is pro­pelled into the air by wa­ter jets below Boucher’s feet.

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