Having now had a few days to think about the 2013 Flyboard World Cup and what an incredible sport Flyboarding has become it became clear to me that what I thought about the competition going into it was very different then what I know now having witnessed it up close and personal. Professional Flyboarding is much different then the recreation fun that many of us have out on the water. In addition to the height, speed and tricks these Pros employ during their competitive runs is the complexity of managing the hose, the Jet Ski, the performance area and the judges.
The first time I saw a competitor spin, flip, land and fly on only then to fall from 30 ft straight down into the water for no apparent reason I thought what the heck happened. It soon became very clear that this rider had released his EMK throttle on purpose sending himself into the drink in order to drop the hose quickly into the water, ensuring he would not flip the ski and avoid disqualification. We saw a number of awesome Flyboarders either miss time their trick or execute it to close to the Ski which resulted in a flipped Seadoo and an early exit from the competition.
Sitting on the shuttle bus traveling from the Pearl Qatar marina back to the Hilton Doha hotel I got talking to 2012 World Champion Stéphane Prayas. He had just unleashed a brand new trick on the world which involved flying down to the back of the Ski, placing one hand on the back of the seat and then laying out flat and using his Flyboard jets to float himself and the Ski across the water. It was a crowd favorite but there was more to it than him just inventing a new trick.
To paraphrase Stéphane said that the flyer and the Jet Ski must work as one, they are a team out there on the water and that his new trick was simply an opportunity to connect and show respect to the machine. He really wanted me to understand how important that relationship is to him and how big a part the board, hose and ski play in this sport. This was something that Franky Zapata had also stated to the riders during their briefing. He said rider safety is number one and also respect the equipment because you will be penalized for dangerous maneuvers and lack of control.
I’m not sure that a sport, which is only two years old, can actually have an ‘old school’ philosophy but it seemed to me that after talking with Stéphane and then watching some of the competitors who seemed to be focused on trick after trick after trick until they were caught off guard by a teetering Ski or kinked hose that there is the possibility that this intimate relationship between man/woman and machine may be something that isn’t top of mind, all the time, for some flyers. The fundamentals in any sport aren’t the glamorous pieces but are absolute necessities in order to compete at the highest level. As Flyboarding matures it will be the movement and style between the tricks that will likely separate the Champions from contenders. I’m still going to jump out of my seat when a double back flip is landed and flown out of above the water but now I’ll also be tipping my cap to the flyers who nail all these subtleties that only watching the World Cup in person could have made me aware of.