It all started with a YouTube video showcasing Frank Zapata on the outrageous FlyBoard. Zapata, owner of Zapata Racing, has extensive experience in watercraft as he is both a profession personal watercraft (PWC) racer and runs a manufacturing house. Zapata Racing has been developing performance PWC with meticulous quality standards for years, based in France.
Back in spring of 2011, Zapata and team began to develop what is now known as the FlyBoard. The team's experience in rapid prototyping meant that within a few months they had a working prototype and, not long after that, had a working prototype that could actually fly with stability over water. And then the YouTube video went viral, with nearly 2.5 million views in 15 days--a strong indication that the Flyboard was something people were very excited for.
It was then that our episode guest Brandon Robinson saw the video and went to his father to say, "this is it," in response of finding a fun invention with big potential in the U.S. Flyboard Inc. was formed and Brandon and his father became the exclusive importers to the U.S., Canada, Caribbean, Central America, and South America
Being an importer means that Zapata runs the production side, and the Robinson family handles the marketing and sales. In addition, since Brandon has spent more time than almost anyone with the FlyBoard, he also trains new customers and those who want to become instructors.
The FlyBoard is similar to the JetLev water jetpack that we covered a while back, but the FlyBoard is unique in that it doesn't have its own follow-behind propulsion unit. Rather, the FlyBoard can be connected behind any existing PWC, like a jetski. With only a few bolts, the long hose runs from the PWC to the base of the FlyBoard. In addition to the unique propulsion style that places thrusters below the riders feet and hands, at $6,495 the FlyBoard costs almost $95,000 less that the Jetlev. Based on our host's experience, the FlyBoard feels more natural to fly because all four limbs are given the ability to control your movement.
Controls for power can come one of two ways. The person riding on the PWC can give flyers more or less throttle to control height or, for $1850, an electronic management kit can be purchased that allows flyers to control their own throttle. "Once you fly yourself, you don't really want anyone else flying it," said Robinson.
You might be asking, is it hard to fly? Not terribly. Our host Bradley was able to get up in the air almost instantly due to the natural feel.
"Usually after about 20 minutes you can already move underwater like a dolphin and challenge the gravity like superman!" says Zapata.