Is flyboarding worth it? The complete beginner’s guide

You may have seen flyboarders at a lake or beach, or maybe come across them on YouTube. The equipment looks unusual, and you may think it isn’t accessible for you. That’s really not true. Flyboarding isn’t hard, but it does take some skill and guidance to comprehend how to approach things correctly. 

Flyboarding is worth it, although one does need to take some time to learn the basics and become comfortable with balance before attempting anything fancy. After taking some time out to practice, a person can learn how to do the following when flyboarding:

  • Dive
  • Flip
  • Spin

Since there isn’t much information available on the Internet today that discusses flyboarding fundamentals, I wanted to give you an intro, the history of this new sport, and some resources to try flyboarding or buy your own equipment. Below we’ll cover what flyboarding is, flyboard pricing, and flyboarding safety concerns so that you’ll know the basics about flyboarding. 

How Does a Flyboard Work?

When it comes to flyboarding, much like any sporting activity, it isn’t as easy as it looks. But isn’t that hard, either. With some time and patience, you can learn the basics and then enjoy some time flying over the water.  By learning what it takes to flyboard and the proper safety techniques, you’ll always be able to stay safe when flyboarding.

A flyboard is a flat board (more recently separate boots) that features bindings that you strap your feet into. Underneath each foot, there is a water jet tube. To operate, the flyboard must be attached to a jet ski with an adaptor and a tube. 

The flyboard operates as follows:

  • First, the water from a jet ski’s impeller tube is directed into a long hose instead of using it to move the ski.
  • The water then passes through the tube at high speeds to the jets under the board. 
  • When the water exits the jetpack underneath a person’s feet, the force is enough to lift the rider above the water. 

So, a flyboard is a little like having a controllable fire hose attached to your feet. I wrote an entire post on the mechanics behind flyboard operation. Be sure to read it to learn more. After you understand more about flyboard operation and movement, you’ll be performing tricks in no time. Performing tricks with flyboards is easy to learn.

He’s no longer in business, but it’s a good overview of how this stuff works

Learning Flyboard Movements

Many flyboarding instructors state it takes about three to seven minutes to learn some simple movements so that a person can utilize a flyboard well enough on the water to enjoy some fun (Source). From personal experience, that sounds about right.  

You don’t have to be a young and fit to enjoy learning how to use a flyboard. Any person of any age can take part in flyboarding and learn how to use one. Of course, if you have other experience with other types of boards, like snowboarding or wakeboarding, those skills can transfer over into flyboarding. 

When you start learning how to flyboard, you’ll see right away that you control your movements by utilizing your feet on the flyboard. So, if you want to move forward on your flyboard, all you need to do is lean forward. If you decide that you want to go straight up, you stand straight. While this sounds simple, it is easier to tell you how to flyboard than it is to learn how to do it.

Flyboarding movement concepts are simple, but you’ll still need to practice doing them to understand everything. 

Flyboard Remote Kits for Increased Skills

When you first learn how to utilize a flyboard, you’ll need to work with an instructor. That instructor will control the operation of the flyboard so that you can get the propulsion you’ll want and need according to the way you move. Initially, an instructor will hit the water with you and control the flyboard for you until you start getting more comfortable. 

Once you get a little more used to your flyboard, you can try a flyboard remote kit. By purchasing a remote operation kit, you can flyboard solo. You control the jet ski while in the air without anyone driving the ski. This should only be applied by more advanced flyboard users, and always with a coast guard approved PFD. AquaticAviation sells these types of kits, for example.  

There is quite a learning curve when it comes to using a flyboard solo by remote. It’s very challenging to learn how to start flyboarding with it. However, once a person learns how to use a remote controller, he or she won’t need to be driven on a jet ski, and can instead flyboard alone. 

History of Flyboard Manufacturers

Before you buy a flyboard, you’ll need to consider some quality flyboard manufacturers. Since flyboards are a new concept and flyboarding as an event has only been around as an extreme sport since 2011, there isn’t as much information out there on flyboarding and flyboards as there is about wakeboarding or surfing. 

Zapata Racing’s Flyboards

The first flyboards were invented by Franky Zapata, who is a professional jet skier that grew up in France. Zapata also created the company Zapata Racing, and using that company; he started manufacturing the first flyboards. However, Zapata may not have had the original idea. 

Many people think Zapata got the idea from Jetlev’s R200 Flyer, which was first created in 2000 and almost immediately sold after being created. However, the Jetlev looks a lot more like a jetpack. People have to strap the Jetlev to their backs and control the item with their hands while on the water.

Jetlev’s Concepts and High Prices

Jetlev also developed a high-speed pump as well as a boat that accompanies the jetpack they created. The entire package wound up, costing over $100,000, which tells you why the original idea didn’t take off very quickly. Nobody could afford that high cost. So, Jetlev’s products became more popular as a rental idea for fun on vacation. However, the cost of the product was too expensive for mainstream people to purchase it. 

Zapata’s Added Flyboard Innovation

Since Jetlev had a great idea but no insight on how to make their products mainstream, Zapata Racing wound up taking the concept and trying to make it more accessible (source.) Zapata Racing came up with the concept of using a jet ski for power rather than getting the power for the propulsion from a boat. By using a jet aki, the price of entry could be lowered.

After the Jetlev first came to the market in 2009, Zapata Racing followed up with their additions on that concept and applied their flyboards to jet skis. Zapata Racing brought its flyboard concept to the market in 2011. By 2012, Zapata Racing created the first Flyboard World Championships and held the event in Doha, Qatar. More than fifty flyboarders showed up, representing twenty different countries, and decided to compete for the event.  

The popularity of that event so quickly after the release of the flyboard demonstrates how quickly flyboarding became popular (source). Since 2012, a world championship competitive event in flyboarding has now happened each year, and the amount of flyboarders that show up to participate grows yearly. Both women and men are welcome to compete openly in a variety of categories. 

Another of Zapata’s creations in action

Other Innovative Flyboard Manufacturers

Since the flyboard was such a cool invention, it wasn’t long before other manufacturers of watercraft decided to try and copy that innovation to compete with Zapata Racing. A few such prominent companies include

X-Jets designed a flyboard product that is very similar to what was developed by Zapata Racing. The X-Jet flyboard is called the Jetblade, but it’s just another version of a flyboard under a different name. For people that need something a bit less expensive, Wataboard came into the market to satisfy that requirement. Wataboard makes a more affordable flyboard that’s named the same as the company, Wataboard. 

Innespace also created its version of the flyboard, called the Jetovator.  With this product, an individual feels like he or she is on a bike with a water jet pack attached to it on the water. However, the Jetovator still works and operates like the other flyboards mentioned above already. With so many companies now competing on the flyboarding market, many excellent product innovations have been brought to the market.

With the increase in competition and demand, that means the innovation offered by each company keeps making flyboards that are

  • Better
  • More interesting
  • More entertaining 

Also, because of the increased competition, flyboards are not only becoming better, the price of flyboards is also dropping. That’s because manufacturers like Wataboard also want to introduce affordable ideas that everybody can enjoy and purchase. 

The Price of Purchasing a Flyboard

Now that we’ve examined the most important flyboard manufacturers, we’ll talk about how much it typically costs to purchase a flyboard. The price of these items can vary widely depending on the age and the overall manufacturing capability of the flyboard. 

Let’s say you want the best of the best, which would be a brand new flyboard from the Pro Series. That type of flyboard will cost you between $5,600 and $6,200 on average. If you’d like to save a bit of money, purchasing a flyboard that is a year old can bring down the price by about $600 to $1200 depending on where you purchase your flyboard. 

Much about the price of a flyboard depends on the type of hose that’s necessary and whether you need an adaptor to utilize your flyboard. If you are purchasing your flyboard for the first time, then you’ll need to buy the adaptor kit, fittings, hose and boots or board. If buying used, you’ll need to test the kit for leaks and tears in the hose, as those reduce pressure at the board or boot end.

Difference Between New and Old Flyboards     

The latest models of flyboards from Zapata are more lightweight than the older versions of flyboards. Zapata flyboards that are 2015 or older are about thirty percent lighter than their older counterparts. With a lighter flyboard, it’s much easier for the individual on the flyboard to control the flyboard while it is in the air. A lighter flyboard also means that there is less resistance to the water. 

If you decide to purchase a flyboard model that is 2014 or older, it will be more affordable, but much heavier than the newer models. However, if you are just out to learn and to try and see if you like the sport, it would probably be wise to save some money and purchase an older or used model. That way, if the sport isn’t for you, you won’t wind up spending as much money. 

Also, flyboards that are from 2015 offer another additional improvement feature that also makes them more expensive than their older counterparts. In 2015 and newer flyboards, the flyboard offers adjustable footpads.

That makes it much easier for the rider to customize where his or her feet will go when riding the board. Better foot position means riding the flyboard feels easier and more comfortable. 

On flyboards that are from the year 2015 on, the nozzles are adjustable. The adjustable nozzle allows for the flyboard to provide the rider with more efficiency while on the go. 

Equipment list for flyboarding

To operate a flyboard, you’ll need to own a personal watercraft. Because of exhaust heating issues, try to avoid using a supercharged model. They require more flow to prevent overheating, and using a flyboard doesn’t cool the exhaust system as well as free riding.

You don’t need top horsepower to flyboard anyway. Just buy a mid-range model, convert an older ski to use with flyboarding, or buy a used ski to save money.

Otherwise, when you purchase a flyboard kit, you’ll get everything else you’ll need to operate the flyboard. You’ll usually get all of the following:

  • Bindings
  • Pump
  • Rider hose
  • U pipe
  • Hose breaking
  • Foot straps
  • Swivel
  • Flyboard

So, while you’ll have everything you need to operate when you buy your flyboard, you will need to own, have access to or buy a jet ski. Depending on the personal watercraft you opt for, and whether it is used or new, it can cost you between $4,000 and $14,000. If you just want something used and simple to get started with, you could search eBay listings. 

Flyboard Pricing Factors to Consider

Once you’ve gotten the jet ski part down, there are few flyboard options to consider. Some units are sold as true boards with bindings one one single unit. Others have individual boots and bindings that can swivel independently, giving the flyer more control.

We’ve used both. Personally, my kids have told me the swiveling boot option is more fun. I can’t speak from experience, as I’ve only ridden fixed board versions. There is a little difference in how you control, as you can spin easier with separately controllable bindings.

Speaking of bindings, you can pick from the following:

  • Medium-sized bindings, which are for foot sizes that are about sizes 8-11
  • Large bindings, which cover foot sizes from 11-13. 

If you decide to opt for a flyboard competitor, like Jetblade or a Wataboard, then know that Jetblade costs around $6,000, about the same price as your average flyboard. However, Wataboards tend to run cheaper at $4,000 for everything. If you opt for a Wataboard, just know that it won’t come with the bindings you need. Those will cost you an additional $200 or so to purchase separately. 

If you also want to purchase a remote management kit that will allow you to keep the flyboard going without assistance so that you can operate the flyboard by hand, that will cost another $1400 or so. If you want to compete as a flyboard professional, you’ll need to buy this feature and spend plenty of time training to know how to use it correctly. 

Flyboard Training Course Requirements

You’ll be required to complete a flyboard training course before you can buy and operate a flyboard on your own. For example, if you purchase a flyboard from Zapata Racing, they’ll require that you complete a training course before you can even buy a flyboard from them. When you first use the flyboard, you’ll learn how to control the direction of the flyboard.

While the instructor controls the propulsion power on the flyboard, you’ll learn how to control your ride’s movements and height. You’ll also need to focus on learning how to balance on your board and learn how to shift your weight correctly from side to side. Learning how to ride a flyboard compares in some ways to riding a Segway because it will move forward when you lean forward and go backward if you lean that way, too. 

Buying a flyboard has stricter training requirements than renting. For purchasers, you must learn how to properly attach the equipment to your ski, how to operate the ski, how to be the flyboard rider, and all the safety information necessary for all those different roles. Because of pricing and training requirements, most of the 2500 systems purchased from 2012-2020 have been bought by commercial operations for rentals.

Flyboarding sounds too expensive

For many that have read this far, you’ve come to one of two conclusions: you want to buy this equipment with the idea of going into business or “never mind, it’s too expensive, I’m out.” For those of you who fall into the first category, read my post on 11 ways to make money with your jet ski. Consider your local market and geography. For example, you likely won’t make much of a return on investment living inland in the snow belt unless you buy a used model to keep costs down.

But if you live on the coasts, especially southern regions, or on popular lakes, you may be able to do well buying equipment and getting the training to start your own operation.

For the rest of you, try renting at least once. If you really have fun, set up a few more lessons, or just fly occasionally when you’re in an area that has flyboarding available for bookings. Here’s a list of flyboarding options around the world from Viator. Check the ad near the end of the post for some other options.

If you decide to take lessons or book some rental time, read on.

Flyboarding Safety Concerns 

Flyboarding is an extremely safe sport. Recently, flyboarding was deemed as one of the safest sports a person can learn (source.) Accidents and injuries are very unlikely in flyboarding. There has never been a flyboarding death. You’ll have at least one experienced flyboarder assisting and training you at all times, and sometimes there will be a second spotter who can help.

When you first attempt your flyboarding lessons, you’ll be given some personal safety gear to wear.

  • A life jacket
  • A helmet

While it’s helpful to know how to swim if you are going to flyboard, you don’t need to be a good swimmer to flyboard. You’ll have a life jacket on at all times.

Your First Flyboarding Lesson: What to Expect

So, what can you expect when you complete your first flyboarding lesson? Your instructor will be on the jet ski during your training. Your instructor will also stay a distance away from you so that you don’t land on the jet ski and instead land safely on the water.

Once your jet ski operator has you pointed away from the ski, you will position yourself face forward lying on top of the water. Then your instructor will gradually add power, and you will lift your head and chest. Your waist and legs will naturally follow upwards. It takes a few tries to get the front/back weight balance down, but it comes pretty quickly.

When you first make it out of the water, your instructor will tell you to focus on a single point in the distance, and that can help you learn how to keep your balance. Yoga has used this technique to help individuals balance for centuries. By focusing your glance on a fixed point, you will be able to figure out how to balance more easily on your flyboard. 

Falling into the water will happen and does provide you with the opportunity to learn. When you fall in the water, you’ll be given instructions about your fall. You should listen for the tips on what you did incorrectly and how to fix your stance or balance for the next try. Remember, the jet ski and instructor will never be further away than the length of the tubing, so help is always 50 feet or closer to you.  

When you do fall, should protect yourself by turning to make a streamlined dive. By doing that, you won’t belly flop against the water. Instead, you’ll easily slice through the surface of the water, and your landing against the water won’t feel painful at all.

More likely at first, you will end up collapsing your knees and toppling forward, landing legs first. I can tell you from experience, it won’t hurt at all. The board takes some of the shock, and your life jacket pads things even more.

Follow Your Instructor’s Directions

You’ll also need to carefully listen to your instructor and pay attention to their directions. Flyboarding instructors also won’t allow you to flyboard if there are any strong winds or high tides around. Dangerous weather is something to avoid when flyboarding, and your safety should always be your priority. 

Your instructor will also guide you about how you should stand on the board when you are flyboarding. You’ll be told the correct posture, and that will help you hold your balance. To get your posture correct, try the following tips:

  • Bend your knees forward a bit, but not both at the same time to hold your balance
  • This also helps to prepare you to learn how to turn
  • Stay upright when coming out of the water. 

Proper posture is important when it comes to learning how to control the flyboard. While the above list sounds simple enough, it will take some time and practice to get used to controlling the flyboard based on how you move your body. However, once you get used to it, you’ll find that it’s a very rewarding experience. 

Final Thoughts

When it comes to flyboarding, you’ll find your new hobby not only exciting and enjoyable but also easy to learn as well. Unfortunately, it isn’t cheap to start flyboarding, but once you get going with it, you’ll probably never want to stop. If you do decide to invest in the adventure, you’ll find that it’s well worth the reward. 

The best advice I can give you is to make sure you plan on flyboarding for a long time before you spend the money on this sport. Instead of running out and purchasing everything right away, it might be better to book flyboard trips in your area (I’ve put some options throughout this post) or while on vacations where lessons and experiences are available. Then, if you really enjoy the sport, you can not only buy and enjoy your own equipment but you may be able to offer others lessons and make a little money on the side, as well.

So take a look at your options, book a lesson, and give it try.

 


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Tim Conner, M.D.

Tim Conner, M.D. started boating in 1974. He has been involved in recreational boating continuously since then. Dr. Conner has been active in boating and watersports safety education for decades. He rode his first jet ski in 1997, and rejoined the personal watercraft arena in 2012 with a Sea-Doo GTX 155, followed by 2 supercharged SeaDoos. Scuba certification came in 1988, and he and the family have traveled the world snorkeling and scuba diving for decades. The family has recently taken up paddle boarding. Click the photo for a lot more.

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