Flyboarding sends people soaring above lakes
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.”
Adrian Boucher does aerial tricks at Wabamun Lake on his flyboard, which is propelled into the air by water jets below Boucher’s feet.