FlyBoard Looks To Sign Up North American Dealers

Water-jet-propelled human flight is a hot topic in recent years, but FlyBoard aims to be different by keeping the price dramatically lower than its competitors. One way in which that is possible is that FlyBoard uses a customer's existing PWC.

In today’s world of social media, there’s a good chance you’ve already seen video of a guy channeling his inner IronMan, blasting above the water as jet thrust seemingly comes out of his feet and hands. It’s no computer-generated effect. The product is the FlyBoard (flyboard.com), and its North American distributor, FlyBoard Inc., has been signing up dealers since early 2012. Interested? Consider this. Compared to its primary competition, the FlyBoard is very competitively priced. And the product it relies upon for the source of its propulsion is one you’re likely already selling… a personal watercraft.

Water-jet-propelled human flight is kind of a hot topic in recent years. Perhaps the best known example is the JetLev, a waterjet-powered backpack that is linked via a hose to what is essentially a driverless PWC hull below. It’s cool, certainly, but pricey, costing upwards of $100,000. Rentals have proven popular at select resorts, but obviously only the wealthy have added one to their personal toy collection. FlyBoard aims to be different by keeping the price dramatically lower at $6,495. One way in which that is possible is that the FlyBoard uses a customer’s existing PWC.

Designed by French PWC racer Franky Zapata and his company, ZAPATA RACING, the FlyBoard relies not on a driverless PWC-like hull towed below, but instead on an actual, functional personal watercraft. Thrust generated at the PWC is redirected to a wakeboard-like, plastic platform attached to the flyer’s feet, as well as additional stabilizing thrusters in the hands. Setup is surprisingly quick and simple. Users remove their craft’s existing thrust nozzle and bolt in its place a U-shaped pipe that redirects the PWC’s thrust up the supply hose attached to the FlyBoard. A swivel connection at the board enables the rider to spin and twist without kinking or twisting the supply hose. Plastic ball bearings eliminate worries of rust.

One catch? In its standard setup, the FlyBoard’s flyer lacks any control over the intensity of the thrust. That’s left up to a partner aboard the PWC, who determines just how much power to deliver by control of the throttle. For obvious safety reasons, FlyBoard requires the PWC operator be a FlyBoard Certified Operator. Depending on the dealer, certification may be included in the purchase of the board; additional operators can be certified after a $350 course. This “team-like” concept keeps things simple, but I imagine most flyers would prefer control over their own destiny … especially considering the FlyBoard can reportedly send the user as high as 40 feet. An optional Electronic Management Kit ($1,850) gives the rider total control by linking the flyer to the PWC’s throttle through a finger trigger, although a spotter is still required aboard the PWC.

The vast majority of the product’s thrust (90 percent) comes out of cast-iron jets attached to the bottom of the board. The remaining 10 percent is directed to aluminum thrusters at the hands, which are used to stabilize the flyer as well as provide some directional control. Much of where you go in the air is accomplished by leaning the board wake or snowboard-style, toward the toeside edge to go forward, toward the heelside edge to go back. FlyBoard estimates customers will be able to fly the board after less than 10 minutes with a certified instructor, and be proficient in less than three hours.

According to FlyBoard’s director of operations Matt Tutton, the company currently has 15 dealerships, with many more applications currently waiting for approval. Those dealerships aren’t just limited to the obvious PWC dealerships. “Anybody can apply,” says Tutton. “We’ve got independent operations that just sell FlyBoard. Some are boat dealers, some PWC dealers, some do kiteboarding. It’s all over the spectrum, anything to do with watersports.”

All are required to have a representative take a one-day instructor’s course ($1,000) at the company’s corporate facility in Florida, where they learn safe operation of the board, as well as how to instruct customers.

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