I have often commented how I would have loved to be a Blue Peter presenter. Too old for that now, I reckon Channel 5’s The Gadget Show would be equally as good – with opportunities to try out the latest tech in all its guises.
It was on The Gadget Show that I first saw fly boarding, and it went straight to the top of my list as something I wanted to try. Jason Bradbury said it was one of the most fun water sports he’s ever tried, and I just loved the idea of flying above the water in a James Bond style. My excitement at this idea obviously came across as I received a fly boarding experience from my mother-in-law for Christmas – what an absolutely awesome present – and last weekend I finally had my chance.
Fly boarding is a water jet pack system that sees you attached to a jet ski engine via a long hose. You have the power from the jet ski at your feet – instead of chucking the water out of the back of the ski, the water is pushed through the hose and out through jets on a wakeboard-type board you are stood on. In my case an instructor was sat on the wet bike controlling the throttle, which increased and decreased the strength of the water jets and allowed me to fly out of the water and hover above it. Or that was the idea.
Tattershall Lakes, just down the road from Lincoln, has a Jet Ski Centre with its own lake where they have created an area just for fly boarding tuition. The Centre has all the equipment you might need (I borrowed a wetsuit, helmet and buoyancy aid as I don’t have my own), along with changing rooms and a little café and shop. Once I’d signed my life away (and it was a very long form to sign) and had squeezed my way into my suit, I met with the instructor and listened carefully to everything he was telling me. When I’ve watched videos of fly boarding it’s looked so effortless but I knew my muscles were going to be working hard once in the water, and so I wanted to at least try and get some of the technique right from the very beginning.
Having the grace of an elephant in general meant I knew I was going to be more manatee than dolphin when it came to my posture in the water, and I wasn’t surprised when it took me a long time to get my body to do what I needed it to do. The instructor told me to stand up in the water with my body straight and rigid, and then relax once I was above the water. The board was really heavy and cumbersome and I struggled a bit to move my legs about in the right direction to stand up straight in the water ready to fly into the air. For every five times I tried I nearly made it above the water once, which meant the first time I managed it I was really overexcited and face planted/belly flopped into the water in front of everyone watching. Ah well!
Straight back to it I just kept at it over and over again until I got it, hearing a cheer from my family when I felt the water drain from my wetsuit and the sound of the water change as I got up out of the water and stood there hovering for a few seconds. I felt like I was so high up – the lake was a long way beneath me and I could see all around – it was awesome! I know now, looking at the photos, that I was only ever a few feet above the water, but it felt high!
By the time my half an hour came to an end I was getting up out of the water every time, and was able to relax on the boardand even steer it a little bit. It’s very sensitive and the slightest movement of your weight across your feet moves you around, leading to some fantastic plunges into the water and even a crash into the grey hose (which felt much like a tree trunk), but no harm done and each time I recomposed myself and gave it another go. The instructor started off by asking if I was ready for a workout and he wasn’t wrong, but thankfully my stamina held up and I was always able to spin back over and start again. It actually took me a very long time to remember that the power was on my feet so I didn’t need to move my arms to swim, the jets moved me around quite nicely without any help!
Half an hour in the water was enough for a first go. I wouldn’t say I was pleased when the instructor said my time was up, but I wasn’t disappointed either. If anything I could have done with a half an hour break to have a cup of tea and some more instruction before going back in for another session straight away. Of course I definitely need to go back and have another go now I know what I’m supposed to do with my body, just to get even higher in the air and maybe manage a bit more movement around the lake once hovering.
Fly boarding was as awesome as it looked when I saw it on The Gadget Show, and I would recommend that everyone who loves water to give it a try. Definitely one of the most fun Christmas presents I’ve had.