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The Newest Water Sport: Flyboarding!

Hoverboards are so two years ago, McFly!



As October 21, 2015 approaches—the exact date Marty McFly programmed into Doc Brown's time traveling DeLorean in Back To the Future II—there has been a certain buzz about what has and hasn't come to fruition in the perceived future, and a certain amount of bellyaching that the hoverboard promised in that movie has yet to materialize.

But really, that is only because people are looking in the wrong place.

Check out Lake Billy Chinook and select spots along the coast this summer, and you are likely to see people floating 20 or 30 feet above the water, "like Silver Surfer," says Jason Hardy, referring to the sleek superhero who seemingly surfs on air currents. Along with their hoverboard, Jason and Marlo Jo Hardy host a company, Fly Board of Bend, that offers "flyboarding," the newest—and perhaps most dynamic—water sport.

Invented four years ago in France, a flyboard is attached by a length of hose to a jetski and propels a rider into the air—or, really, any direction he or she wants to go.

"I first learned about flyboarding from a video on Facebook," explains Jason. "It showed six torsos moving through the water at waist deep. 'Huh?' I thought," he recounts. "Then when the music built up, all these guys shot out of the water about 20 to 30 feet."

Unlike waterskiing and wakeboarding, which pull a rider behind a boat and require long stretches of open water, the fly board needs a relatively small space as the rider hovers, rises, falls, spins, and splashes at different altitudes, even diving through the water's surface like a dolphin.

"When I saw the video I had to find it and try it," says Jason. "My wife located a company in Whitefish, Montana, and I had my first flight. Two days later I knew I needed to bring this to Oregon."

Jason admits, "I was never a water sport person, but I could really do this." (Although perhaps not a seasoned waterskier, Jason is an advanced scuba diver, a National and Oregon certified paramedic, an ATV team member with Deschutes County Search and Rescue, and a skydiver, bungee jumper, mountain biker, and triathlete.) He adds, "Everyone has the basic skills to do this. Our Tag Line: 'If you can stand, you can fly.'"

"The appeal over other water sports is that it doesn't require you to be an athlete," he continues. "You just need a base set of fitness skills—hiking, biking, swimming—to be able to do this."

FlyBoard of Bend is the first and only such company in Central Oregon, offering training and rides in specific areas for almost two years now.

But, as with many novel ideas, the Hardys have discovered some initial resistance to launch their company. While waterskiing and wakeboarding, not to mention jet skiing, is lightly regulated, often requiring little more than a boaters' license, the new sport has raised some eyebrows of park rangers and regulators who oversee lakes in federal regions. The Sisters Ranger District apparently considered various botany, hydrology, and noise implications of the sport, and passed it through several agencies for consideration; it even made it to the desk of Congressman Greg Walden, says Jason.

"It has been difficult to get going as our first year and a half as we attempted to fly on federal waters managed by the Forest Service," says Jason.

But this year, they have taken their operations to Lake Billy Chinook, and have been pleased by the reception from the state agencies that regulate the waterway there.

But even as they work through state and federal regulations, they also are finding the additional layer of cost that comes from new companies and sports.

"The insurance is very expensive mainly because we are a new industry with perceived high risk," admits Jason. "But all trained operators have been educated in all safety aspects of how to fly people safely."

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