Flyboarding is a relatively new watersport that’s becoming more popular. But like with any powered watersport, there are risks of injury during participation. Luckily, with a few precautions and some common sense, many of these dangers can be avoided.
Seven potential dangers of flyboarding are:
- Drowning accidents
- Marine life
- Falling on rocky shoreline, reefs, and docks
- Head, neck, and back injuries
- Intoxication from alcohol and drugs
- Sun exposure
The good news is that all of these dangers can be safely avoided by observing the necessary safety measures and acting reasonably. Keep reading to find out more about the potential dangers of flyboarding and how to prevent them. Viator, a TripAdvisor company, offers flyboarding lessons and rentals around the world. Click here to see Viator’s most up to date offerings.
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Flyboarding dangers and risks
- No life jacket: This is the #1 factor in all water sports fatalities. The Coast Guard reports that in drowning fatalities, nearly 85% of all fatalities involve a swimmer not wearing a life jacket. (Source: Bureau of Reclamation). If a swimmer is knocked unconscious, they may drown before rescue attempt can be made. With so many different body types and preferences, it’s impossible for me to recommend a specific jacket. But BuyWake has an extensive catalog of quality life jackets to choose from.
- Inability to swim: The ability to swim (without flotation devices) is generally regarded as a recommendation for participating in watersports. Wearing a proper flotation device designed specifically for your chosen activity mitigates the need to be a good swimmer.
- Collisions with boaters and other watercraft: Skiers, wakeboarders, flyboarders, and other watersports enthusiasts can be struck and killed in boating accidents when they end up stranded in the middle of an open boating channel. Flyboarding should not be done in areas with heavy boat traffic.
- Intoxication: Impairment from alcohol remains a major factor in boating crashes and deaths (Source: Maritime Executive.) If a person becomes unconscious under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, they can drown even while wearing a life jacket. Intoxicated flyboarders are also more likely to succumb to operator error from physical impairment, increasing the chance of an injury.
Drowning While Flyboarding
In flyboarding, the water is the most significant danger to contend with most of the time, but it’s the easiest risk to reduce or eliminate. Here are some steps you can take to prevent drowning while flyboarding or performing in other extreme watersports:
- Know how to swim: It should go without saying, but you should avoid watersports that involve extreme stunts, such as flyboarding, until you’re a strong swimmer who has full confidence in the water even without a flotation device. Not only will this make it easier to learn flyboarding with confidence, but it also decreases the chance of a fatality in case your life jacket fails, or you’re caught in the path of an oncoming boat.
- Wear a life jacket: No matter whether you’re boating, flyboarding, skiing, or performing some other type of activity on the water, you should be in a life jacket. Life jackets come in a variety of styles and classifications depending on the level of flotation needed and how much agility a person needs on the water. For swimmers who are confident in their ability to swim, inflatable life preservers can provide some protection while still allowing freedom of movement.
Even though drowning accidents are uncommon in watersports, the risk can be almost completely eliminated by wearing a life jacket. Being prepared for the water by having the proper equipment and training to be confident in the water can go a long way toward preventing a tragedy.
Marine Life While Flyboarding
While attacks on swimmers from marine life are relatively rare in comparison to other accidents, they aren’t unknown either. Each year brings a handful of unfortunate encounters with marine wildlife for swimmers worldwide.
Here are some of the potential wildlife dangers that flyboarders should be aware of:
- Sharks: While this is the first thing a lot of people think of when active in salt water, the risk of shark attacks is infinitesimally low. Movies, TV and the news have conditioned us to think of sharks as cold-blooded killers, when this simply isn’t the case. While surfers in high risk areas are occasionally attacked, it occurs due to mistaken identity with the shark seeing the surfer as food. Unprovoked shark attack deaths average less than 4 per year worldwide (Source: Florida Museum). Indeed, sharks need our protection rather than our misinformed fear and loathing (tragic and unnecessary shark slaughter numbers.)
- Jellyfish: While most jellyfish will only offer people a painful sting for their troubles, there are certain types of jellyfish, such as the box jellyfish, that contain some of the most toxic venom in the world. (Source: National Geographic) This poison attacks the entire nervous and cardiovascular system, causing intense pain and eventually death.
- Alligators and crocodiles: Many alligators and crocodiles will quickly vacate an area that is invaded by loud motorboats and flyboarders, but flyboarding in areas where these large reptiles are native can be potentially deadly. Alligators and crocodiles work as ambush predators and are attracted to things landing in the water, so a flyboarder can be a tempting target.
- Seals and sea lions: While these playful dogs of the sea are popular with wildlife photographers and sightseers alike, swimmers should always remember that they are wild animals capable of delivering a dangerous bite. They might be cute, but seals can inflict a severe bacterial infection that is resistant to antibiotics through their bites. (Source: Health)
- Coral reefs: Coral reefs are beautiful as well as critical to the world’s ecosystems and weather, but there are many varieties of coral—such as fire coral—that can give painful stings to unwary swimmers if contacted. Flyboarders and other watersport enthusiasts may encounter fire coral or other poisonous corals by an unhappy accident. Besides being injured by landing on coral, a flyboarder can also damage the reef by touching it. (Source: The Kohala Center)
Seeing marine wildlife in its natural habitat is one of the best parts of participating in watersports. However, it’s important to remember that not only can these wild animals pose dangers to humans if they become frightened or threatened, but they are also often protected in many areas from human interference.
Here are a few steps you can take to avoid the dangers of wildlife while flyboarding:
- Do not flyboard in or near sensitive marine environments. Loud boats and jet ski motors should be avoided in areas where wild animal populations are protected, as these human activities disrupt them. But we should all avoid reefs, breeding grounds, and other sensitive environments when jet skiing or flyboarding. Restrict your flyboard activities to channels and waterways that are primarily occupied by humans.
- Avoid areas known for aquatic predators. Many areas that are frequented by aquatic predators such as sharks or alligators have signage and other warnings prominently displayed. These areas are probably not the safest areas to go flyboarding.
- Do not approach native wildlife, no matter what kind it is. While seals, sea lions, dolphins, and killer whales look friendly enough, never forget that these are large, powerful predatory animals that are easily capable of injuring or drowning a swimmer. Even dolphins known to be tame and friendly with humans have been known to injure swimmers. (Source: The Telegraph)
Staying safe around native wildlife while flyboarding is mostly a matter of avoidance. Stay out of the way of marine wildlife, and they’re sure to stay out of yours!
Falling on Hard Surfaces While Flyboarding
Flyboards can operate up to 50 feet (15 m) in the air, which can be potentially dangerous regardless of whether you land on the water or hard surfaces such as shoreline, docks, protruding reefs, jetties, and other hardscapes. Not only does a flyboard lift you high enough to drop you from a dangerous height, but it can also propel you straight into hard objects if operating incorrectly.
To avoid falling onto a hard surface while flyboarding, flyboarding activities should be performed in an open channel of water that is deep enough that a flyboarder’s risk of injury is reduced if they drop from the maximum height.
Flyboarding should never be operated near obstacles like:
- Jetties and breaks
- Docks and boathouses
- Shallow coral reefs
For more on learning how to flyboard, be sure to read my post How Hard is Flyboarding or my Beginner’s Guide to Flyboarding. I was over 50 years old when I first did it. It’s definitely worth a try if you have the opportunity.
Neck, Head, and Back injuries While flyboarding
Most seasoned flyboarding operators know better than to give flyboard lessons or operate flyboards near any hard surfaces in case of a crash landing. Still, novices and veterans alike should give docks, jetties, and other obstacles a wide berth when operating a flyboard. It only takes one mistake to end up with permanent disability.
Neck, head, and back injuries may result from hitting the water at high speeds and unnatural angles.
There are a few ways you can reduce your chances of a neck, head, or back injury while flyboarding:
- Wear a helmet. Many flyboarding rental outlets require helmet use during operation. A helmet can prevent concussion or more severe brain injury. They may reduce risk of extension injuries of the neck by limiting distance that the spine can extend. Note this hasn’t been confirmed by any formal study. There is a possibility that helmet could result in an sudden unnatural movement, or jerking, of the neck upon impact with water at high speed. Low profile helmets may reduce this risk, but no one has formally addressed these issues.
- Take flyboard lessons. As with any activity or sport, proper training goes a long way towards preventing serious injuries. Flyboarding accidents have not been reported in any significant numbers, but the risks are real. Having an experienced operator and instructor in the early phases of learning is just good practical advice.
The more prepared you are to flyboard with both equipment and experience, the less likely you are to make an operator error that could potentially hurt or kill you.
Intoxication While Flyboarding
Since intoxication is one of the most significant contributors to drowning deaths in watersports, it’s safe to say that alcohol and drugs should be avoided completely when flyboarding. Not only can these substances lead to loss of concious through their sedative properties, but they can also lead to gross motor dysfunction that causes operator errors (and subsequent injuries).
The person who is flyboarding should be sober, and the person who is driving the jet ski should be sober, as well. There’s no room for intoxication on the open water—everyone involved in an extreme sport like flyboarding must have their wits about them at all times.
Not only is it dangerous to be intoxicated while flyboarding, but it is also illegal as well. Flyboards are used with a jet ski or PWC, which subjects them to drinking-and-boating laws that can lead to an arrest and even the loss of your boating license. All states have boating under the influence (BUI) laws. (Source: FindLaw)
The bottom line is: don’t flyboard while drunk or high.
Weather While Flyboarding
When it comes to weather dangers while flyboarding, a little common sense goes a long way. The same conditions that making boating and swimming in bad weather dangerous are equally dangerous when flyboarding. Here are a couple of the dangers of flyboarding in inclement weather:
- Drowning: Turbulent waves can capsize boats or jet skis and can also down a flyboarder if their pulling craft is capsized. While relatively rare, waterspouts can also spring up quicky over bodies of water in bad weather, increasing the chances that a flyboarder may be caught up in the storm. No jet ski or flyboard can withstand the force of a tornado on the water.
- Electrocution: Lightning strikes are a common occurrence on shorelines and waterways, which means that if a thunderstorm is within ten miles of your swimming area, you should not be in the water. Lightning strikes aren’t as frequent on the water as they are on the land, but when they do occur, they can be conducted across the surface of the water, electrocuting anyone in their path. (Source: Ocean Today)
The primary way to avoid bad weather while flyboarding is to do just that—be sure to check local weather forecasts before a flyboarding day to make sure that the water will be calm, and the skies will be clear. Keep weather alerts on your phone turned on while out on the water.
Exposure to the Sun While Flyboarding
Overexposure to sun while flyboarding or performing other watersports can turn a great afternoon into an awful one. Overexposure to the sun in aquatic environments can lead to the following complications:
Sunstroke: Sunstroke occurs when a person becomes hyperthermic (104F+) or overheated to the point of organ distress. Also known as heatstroke, sunstroke can become life-threatening quickly if left untreated. Especially in hot and humid climates, sunstroke is known to kill upwards of 600 people each year. (Source: Medical News Today)
Dehydration: Without proper drinks and hydration, boaters and other water enthusiasts can quickly become dehydrated. Dehydration can lead to a variety of nasty symptoms, from pounding headaches to dizziness and irritability. (Source: Boat Ed)
Sunburn: Sunburn is radiation-based skin damage caused by over-exposure to UV light. This can occur quicker while participating in watersports because of the reflective nature of the water’s surface. Sunburn is not only a painful condition, but it is also a risk factor for developing skin cancer in later life.
To prevent over-exposure while flyboarding, taking the following precautions:
- Wear sun gear. Don’t go out on the water without wearing sunscreen, polarized sunglasses, and other UV-protective gear to prevent over-exposure to the sun. Take frequent breaks in the shade to cool off between outings and reapply sunscreen often.
- Drink plenty of water. Water should always be available for drinking throughout the day while flyboarding, as it is easy to forget otherwise until a person is already sick and showing the symptoms of dehydration. Drinking water before the onset of dehydration is much preferred.
- Limit time out on the water. It’s easy to get over-exposed to the sun when you’re on the surface of a lake, river, or ocean, so be sure to take frequent breaks to avoid pushing yourself past the breaking point physically.
It’s easy to get caught up in the fun of flyboarding and not realize how long you’ve been out on the water until you start to get sick from heat exhaustion or dehydration, so make sure that you’re prepared before you head out and have all the equipment you’ll need to stay comfortable and safe.
Flyboarding has drawn increasing attention at lakes and shorelines around the world since it’s first appearance in 2012. While it’s fun to watch, it’s even more exciting to do. Flying over water is just, well, cool as hell. But flyers should always keep an eye on safety.
The best way to prevent accidents or other dangers while flyboarding is to go out with a flyboarding professional. Under the right guidance and with the right preparation ahead of time, the chances of an accident occurring are extremely low.
Get out there and give it a try.