Hot sun. Sweat drip. Sweat drip. Iron Man outfit. Sweat drip. Mic in hand. Quick pic with fans. Sweat drip. Ladies and Gentlemen put your hands together for the Safety cone Damone RRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIPPPPPPPPPPPPYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY !!!!!!!!!
Pro Flyboard competition event MC, just one of the many roles Flyboard Canada leader Daniel Kaufman finds himself excelling at.
It was 30+ degrees in Doha, Qatar at the 2013 Flyboard World Cup, almost as hot in Toronto for the Flyboard North American Championship and I’m sure it will be very warm in Dubai but I have a very good feeling Iron Man will make an appearance. From serious entrepreneur to big kid at heart it’s safe to say that the sport of Flyboarding in Canada is in very good hands and poised to be at the forefront of this global phenomenon for the foreseeable future.
Photo courtesy of Francois Rigaud Photography
H2RO Magazine is very proud to call Daniel a friend and we’re excited to finally get a chance to introduce him to our readers.
H2RO MAGAZINE EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
H2RO) Daniel tell us a little bit about your background and how you got involved with the world of Flyboarding?
Here’s a little of my background. I owned and ran my own Motorcycle Training School called ProRide Motorcycle Training for 13 years before selling my main location in order to get into FlyBoard full time. I was responsible for training over 4000 students to learn to ride safely in urban traffic and supplying their class 6 final license. We trained a variety of people from families, Musicians, Olympic athletes and The Vancouver Police dept. I’ve been involved in teaching specialized skills, Instructor training, and safety all of my adult life.
H2RO) What was it about the product and sport that convinced you this was the right business venture for you and to pursue your Canadian distribution rights?
Allow me let you in on a little secret, I’m a gadget freak, and I mean freak. I grew up watching McGyver religiously and have seen every James bond movie, twice. Ex, I started building booby traps at 8yrs old to try and catch my sisters and brother. My poor parents had their hands full. You can imagine what happened when I watched that first FlyBoard video, I lost my mind, and yes, I left the video on loop for hours. The realization really kicked in when I saw the fact that there was an opportunity to teach people, train instructors, grow this sport and create a standardized system while still putting huge smiles on people’s faces, so I went after it. It feels like all the skills, hardships, wisdom and experience I’ve been collecting all throughout my life, has been for this. I’ve been blessed with just the right skills to make this a success.
H2RO) Canada is really only coming out of its second full season and so if you had to give the business a report card what areas would you be looking at marking and what would their grades be?
Good question! While being a serial perfectionist, I would have to give a B as an overall score.
Distributorship and network growth get a B+. Rentals and Demos get a C. Training systems and Standardization gets an A. Customer service get a B+.
The main reason for our lowest score is lack of man power and time. We have a very short 4 month season here in Canada. We were so busy taking care of our dealership network and The North American Championships that we were literally unable to focus on our own rental operations enough. 2015 will be the year we get an A in our rental department.
We’re happy here though because all-in-all, we’ve made amazing progress; all while creating awareness and educating people as to what it is we’re trying to do and how it all works.
The reason for the B mark is that we have been in a grey area for a little too long now.
The biggest challenge in 2014 was that we were constantly riding the line of whether to hire an army of staff, and then suddenly being able to handle it ourselves. Considering this is seasonal for us here in Canada, we’ve been challenged with finding good staff that can fulfill our seasonal needs. Therefore in 2014 we’ve been overworked trying to handle the insane amount of demand and interest, while still offering great customer service. It’s been a tough few years but we’ve prevailed, and will grow our team tenfold in 2015. Our goal is to get to a perfect “A” mark in 2015.
Our new mindset for 2015 is built on this great analogy that I love to reference so much.
“Does Mario Andretti wash his own car?” NO! He can, but he doesn’t.
He races cars; he focuses on his strengths and delegates the distracting tasks to his team that he trusts. This allows him to focus on and excel at what he’s good at, racing cars.
In order for me to focus on my strengths, we’re building a strong unified team for 2015 who can handle the hundreds of emails and inquiries, as well as bookings and all the other demands we get from the public. These inquiries are appreciated and welcomed yet if delegated to the wrong person who’s strengths are best applied to other areas, you get wasted talent and slower growth with a higher cost in time and effort.
H2RO) You may have touched on this in your last answer but as you look forward to Flyboard Canada’s third season what are your hopes for it and what plans do you have in place to help make those hopes a reality?
Three words, systematization, standardization and more staff support.
Our two main goals looking forward to 2015 are to open 3 more locations in British Columbia as well as 2 more in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Our second goal is to push the go button on our international card licensing program, which allows any FlyBoard pilot, FlyBoard Instructor or FlyBoard Safe operator in the world to attain their official certification card all while completing a standardized review test of all the safety knowledge and skills associated with keeping our sport safe, fun and legitimate. This system is in every language and the cards are processed with each countries choice of background color and logo.
Lastly, I need to get better. I’ve been waiting months now for my knee surgery (meniscus removal) and suffered a lot of the summer with a broken toe. In 2015 I plan to step up my skills and welcome all tips and coaching!
H2RO) Now before we dive right into the Flyboard North American Championship conversation I just want to say thank you for supporting the magazine and making our coverage in Toronto possible. I enjoyed working with you prior to the event and during and thought you did a great job organizing it all. Explain to everyone just what it takes to put on a Professional Flyboarding event for the first time ever in North America?
You’re very welcome, it was my pleasure. Please allow me to start by saying thank you for your dedication and hard work in making the NA Championships a huge success. I don’t think people realize how much work you put in on the social media and exposure side of things Blaine, and what it takes behind the scenes to make this all happen, so thank you for that.
What does it take to put on a Championship event? That’s a BIG list, so I’ll stick to the basics. We had to pay Zapata Racing a fee for the rights to put it on. We had to purchase 4 brand new Flyboards and 4 new double impellers. We then needed to get licensing from the district of downtown Toronto, including waiving the need for 35 Captains licenses. You need a captain’s license to be in those waters where we competed, as that was a federal waterway. We needed to secure permits for parking, fencing, food, and a permit application just to have gas on site. They said no to gas onsite because that was a public park, since we don’t take no for an answer, we brought in a gas barge and anchored it a few feet offsite. Take that! Lol
Then there was the insane amount of work to get a hotel reservation block and get the numbers right without being penalized from the hotel for coming up short. We weren’t allowed to be in the water after dusk so getting things wrapped up before dusk was also a separate challenge within itself.
I would have to say though, so many people outside of Canada stepped up to help, it was amazing to see the true colors of some of these people and I will never forget their unwavering support. Please let me mention a few key supporters outside Canada that stepped up to help make this happen. We couldn’t have pulled it off without the tremendous support from you, Blaine Jeffery. You were a star in helping with all the media and clips and filler videos we needed for the big screen. Then there’s Gretchen Vance and Bobby Vance who need acknowledgment for their support with trophies. We held a few meetings regarding trophy style, colors and award categories, but then they took care of it all after that point. They flew with them on the plane all the way from Texas. Then there was Francois Rigaud who flew all the way over to do what he does best, take amazing pictures, best in the industry in my opinion. He never asked for a dime, and he was working the whole time.
When we were in a pinch because we needed to take out the Media for a test, David Duprat was the first to jump up and offer support. He took them out in a tiny area and gave them a great experience, all while smiling and being professional. Malvin Quinones, Joe Orel and Franky Zapata keeping our skis together, saving them time after time after as they were getting beat up, sinking and what not, was nothing short of amazing, truly amazing!
Mike Prince, Brody Wells and Rodney Biggar running around to get us last minute parts and showing up a few days early to help was another prime example of Family love and support for the bigger picture at hand. There are too many people to mention but you get the idea. Forever grateful to all of you, you know who you are! High fives all around.
I would say the biggest challenge of all was keeping the RedPath Waterfront festival people happy. They had a very large, but necessary amount of requirements, as well as a staff of 7 that we had to communicate with to be sure we were all on the same page. I mean, were talking dozens of emails per day. Blaine you were in on some of those, you know what I’m talking about. You guys have no idea of the amount of details that need to be taken care behind the scenes to pull off something like this! Ok, ok, maybe a few of you do, I take it back.
That being said, the team effort was instrumental in helping us gain massive exposure for the sport. The Redpath Waterfront festival group was so supportive and helpful. They coughed up a marketing budget in the six figures and helped us to get exposure on multiple bus stops (airport location included) as well as 60 street light banners and a few double decker buses that were fully wrapped. There were eight radio station adverts as well as an immense amount of online promotion. Team work all the way!
H2RO) I know it took a great deal of mental, emotional, physical and financial effort to put on the first ever Flyboard North American Championship, now that it’s behind you what are most proud of with the event and what have you learned should you ever choose to take the lead on another event in the future?
Well Blaine, you seem to understand what it took behind the scenes, probably because you were witness to much of it. I mean, this took 6 months of my life! As another example, there were multiple flights of 7hrs each I had to take just to do site inspections prior to the event. Let’s just say my girlfriend was not happy with me. To be open with you, the Championship event actually damaged my business a little because my team and I were working on the event 24/7 for months, and getting pulled away from our role as distributors in Canada. Let me say this, the amount of money an event like this takes, is double or even triple whatever you might think. We’re just recovering now as we had to reimburse people for missing parts and damage to a ski, prize money, etc.
Special thanks to Carlton and Lea from the Redpath Waterfront Festival, Nick Lauzon and Alex Barreira for kicking in Jet Skis. Nick’s ski actually sank on the last day and Alex lost a few mirrors! In the end it was all worth it.
In case you haven’t noticed already, I’m a hundred percent team player and a family guy too. I am so, so proud of what we as a team have accomplished for the sport on the whole, not to mention for North America. We got ESPN and Discovery channel out to do stories on all of us, and we showed the world we are here to stay! Flyboarding is the real deal and we’ve definitely got the world’s attention!
The amount of appreciation that we received from the community was amazing, there’s no arguing that we took our sport up a level in regards to legitimacy and exposure. If I had to say anything negative about the whole experience, it would be that it seems there are a fair amount of people in our sport who don’t realize that they would not be on the frontline or receiving the attention and praise they get without the “behind the scenes” people doing the insane amount of legwork in the background to put these types of events together. It was bit sad to see a few competitors who were able to just show up and enjoy the fruits of our labor, and then just criticize, complain or show any type of gratitude. It’s most definitely a thankless job…but I’d still do it again just to support the bigger picture. Being a man who believes strongly in appreciation, loyalty and showing gratitude, it was a bit disheartening to experience that, I have to say.
We just decided to focused on the other 80% percent of the Flyboard Family and Pilots who were smiling the entire time, being positive, supporting us, and offering gratitude. Love all you crazy guys.
Those people are the reason I would do it all again.
H2RO) How far away are we from seeing National Championships and more specifically a Canadian National Championship? From where you sit is that even a priority at all or is simply getting the general public to embrace Flyboarding as a recreational activity where your focus needs to be?
I would answer a delicate balance of both. 2015 will be the year that Flyboard® Canada focuses on its Canadian network, standardized nationwide testing, as well as the multilingual Safe operator and Instructor card system. I plan to do a Canadian Championship at either the end of 2015 or first thing 2016.
H2RO) I’m not sure where you’re at with your ever evolving role with Zapata Racing but is there any news you can share with us regarding your position and what we might see you doing in the near future?
I’ve made an offer to Franky about a role that I would like to fill. There is definitely a missing piece to this puzzle which is an Ambassador. It’s my opinion that we need a go-to-guy who understands all facets of the industry and the business, speaks multiple languages, is able to travel internationally, and is versed in all Zapata Racing policies, systems, standards and expectations. Not to mention information regarding event dates and locations, product releases, and product improvements.
It’s my opinion that Franky has such strong skills in the areas of innovation, entrepreneurialism, product development and an immense amount of drive and passion. It’s only fair that we allow him to focus on that stuff. Expecting Franky to handle that immense mountain of responsibility and work, and at the same time expect him to answer Facebook messages or posts about events, release dates, or product updates is simply unrealistic.
My goal is to support Franky and Krystel so that they can focus on what they are great at, product development and improvement. A man like Franky who is an inventor and entrepreneur can lose a lot of steam when they are forced to deal with tedious details and a bombardment of inquiries. I want to let Franky be the “Mario Andretti” of the Zapata Racing world. I strongly believe we will all benefit, including Franky, if we let him do what he excels at and what he is amazing at: product development, improvement, testing and then taking it to market. I believe that some people have expectations from Franky that are just unrealistic.
I love this sport, this industry, this adventure and I love the Family. Most of all I love helping people, so the goal here is to support Franky in a way that allows him to focus on his strengths and allows me to help others, all while continuing to work with our FlyBoard Family Worldwide.
The way I see it, at the end of the day, if it wasn’t for Franky, there wouldn’t be all these amazing relationships, this amazing new sport and industry, and the amazing opportunities for these crazy and fun adventures. No matter what people try to copy, mimic or what negative stuff people say, at the end of the day he started it all, and we should never forget that.
H2RO) Talk to us about the recent Celebration of Light demos in front of 300,000+ people. Must have been pretty awesome!
That was insane man! Insane! It was actually closer to 400,000 and man, did we represent!
Most people don’t know this fact, but The Celebration of Lights is the world’s longest running off shore fireworks show in the world.
Jason Duff from Cabo Flyboard, Stephanie Wells from Puerto Vallarta, Darwin from Island Flyboard and David Petterson from Flyboyz Watersports all flew in to help us. We had an awesome team of ten people to pull it off. We were moored on the fireworks barge and put on a synchronized demo every hour on the hour, in front of 400,000 people lining the beach in downtown Vancouver. I was on the mic of course and we did three demos per night for both Saturdays. We basically educated 400,000 people at once as to what is FlyBoard, how it works? What it really looks like in action, and where they can try it.
One of the demos we were geared up in full Hollywood gear as Captain America, Iron Man and Superman. They loved it. We also had waterproof hand flares while we did dolphins and 720’s. One of my favourite parts was when I was on shore with the mic and a dozen speakers along the beach line calling out to Jason, Mike or Stephanie to pull off a trick. “Hey Mike, let’s see a kick flip!” he would nod and bust it off! ‘Hey Jason, let’s see a huge backflip, he would nod and then bust it off! It was so cool how they could hear me even though they were hundreds of feet away out on the water and the crowd lost their minds. That was my favourite part.
An outcome from that demo show that we didn’t expect was that we now have several Transport Canada Coast Guard officers joining our team. Once they saw us, how we handled ourselves and of course the Flyboarding, they met with us and will now be joining our team. This is getting crazy!
H2RO) Daniel, you have been so involved with the sport as it goes through its early growing pains what is your vision for the future with regards to the professional competitive side of Flyboarding/Hoverboarding and also how the growing demand for Flyboarding shows, demos, Presidential Birthdays 🙂 will be met both by Zapata Racing and potentially other companies?
Yes that’s true, since a few weeks after it was released to the public actually. Yup, the good ol’ days when we had to back out the bolts on the U-pipe one by one with that long allen key, top left bolt first! The hose didn’t disconnect from the FlyBoard, and all that good stuff. Those arms! Uuggg, those arms, I do not miss those!
Realated to shows, I believe that there’s an easy solution to handling the demand for shows and demo’s worldwide. As a distributor we’ve made extra sacrifice and taken extra risk, therefore I believe that there should be a distributor in charge of delegation of shows for their country. The States is a tricky one because of the amount of distributors there, but I believe Gretchen can do a good job with supporting this.
I see it working like this: The Distributor holds an agreement with Franky Zapata or Stephane Denis specific to shows. In exchange for a cut of profits from the shows, the Distributor receives the license, support and mentoring from them. The demand worldwide is too big for just one group to handle, and at this stage is also detrimental to the growth and exposure of the sport.
H2RO) So what are your thoughts on the new Hoverboard by ZR® and how do you think this new experience is going to affect business and the kind of sport it has the potential to become on its own? How’d you do out on the board for the first time?
The Hoverboard is amazing, it’s so different yet also very fun and much easier to pick up than other watersports such as wakeboarding, waterskiing etc. It’s obvious that the learning curve is a bit steeper than with the FlyBoard, it’s much more challenging but can be more rewarding as well.
Related to affecting our business, we’ve seen a big change in the market place as now every snowboarder and wakeboarder is coming out of the wood work to say,”Hey, I can do that! Now that’s for me!” The market share of people that can’t relate to FlyBoard at first glance has been filled with The Hoverboard. We now have a lot more people relating to the Hoverboard and wanting to try and get involved, of course we then get them hooked on the Flyboard at the same time, hehe. You know? Spreading that FlyBoard Fever!
My first try was… let’s say, emotional. I didn’t like it at first because I had zero confidence at it and it was so foreign from the Flyboard, but after 30 minutes I loved it. If I could give any advice it would be…Respect the Hoverboard, or else!
I had a badly broken toe this summer, and no, not from FlyBoard. I was forced to demo the Hoverboard for a bachelor party one day which went very well, but my second piece of advice would be, don’t Hoverboard with a broken toe, it hurts. We treat the Hoverboard as an advanced piece of Zapata Racing equipment, generally reserved for repeat customers. It really is amazing though, and I can see huge potential for stadium slalom racing events and shallow water competitions.
H2RO) Finally Daniel we’re all ears if you would like to share any news or important info we’ve not fully covered. I remember chatting about t-shirts a while back…
Yes, this year we are introducing our t-shirt printing department. These are the same shirts that were at The FlyBoard North American Championships, beautiful high quality dryfit material that never fades, as well as cool sleeveless hoodies and all kinds of other cool stuff. We’re serving the FlyBoard community only, not the public, and for that reason we cover all your shipping, free. You get one price on bulk printing, 100 min pieces, including unlimited changes, unlimited colors, and unlimited artwork locations. We can do printing just about anywhere you can imagine from neck to ribs to lower back. All of this in a 2 week turn around to your door, worldwide.
Lastly, please keep an eye out for our card printing and licensing program, we really need your support.
The system looks like this; The student completes the safe operators course with an instructor. The student then goes to the site, registers with a headshot picture and personal info like training location, instructor name and date, then they become part of the database and they get their own profile on the page. They then take a quick review test online, this is to ensure we are all being taught the most up to date information, standardized policies, equipment updates and safety skills.
The information that was used to register is then forwarded to our card printing company who will then ship your card to your door. This is done in any language for any country. The official card will show your full name and other credentials. It will be in the language of your country, as well as have the color and background specific to your country or area.
This will lower insurance, create real legitimacy and show the world we are unified and professional. There will be other perks too such as using our cards for competitions, events, draws, discounts from other companies and things of that nature. Over the winter we will be approaching distributors worldwide to request the layout they would like on their cards.
A big thanks to you all for being so cool as we travel together on this crazy adventure called Flyboarding!
As Steph once put it…”Do you even Hover bro?” (T-shirt design coming soon! 😉
Please message me day or night at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you Daniel, this was a great interview and I really think that Zapata Racing and the entire Flyboard Family has a huge asset in you. Definitely have my vote as global ambassador and my one and only complaint that I must voice now is…. how the heck did I not realize you guys were doing such a rad event a ferry ride away from me… Next Celebration of Light I’m there! – Blaine