The Flyboard Show
A spectacular Zapata Racing spectacle which combines
Flyboarding, laser light displays, music, theatrics,
LED suits, fire stunts and more!
H2RO Magazine is excited to introduce you to one of the creative geniuses behind the epic Flyboard Shows, Stéphane Denis. I met Stéphane in Qatar last year at the World Cup and within two minutes of talking I thought to myself I want to be friends with this guy. Not only is his passion for Flyboarding very apparent its the aura of joy that surrounds him and inspires others who meet him that makes Stéphane my kind of mad scientist.
H2RO MAGAZINE EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
H2RO: What is the history between you and Franky Zapata? How did you come to work for Zapata Racing?
I started working with Franky 2 years ago. I have been working on shows for 15 years, on TV, events, theater… I used to be a performer for a unique visual show and did that for 5 years all around the world. In may 2012 I called Franky after seeing his first video on YouTube. I met him in Marseille and we spent one day sharing ideas about shows and about the World Cup and he asked me to work with him. That’s what I like with Franky, everything gets done very fast.
H2RO: Please give us an overview of your responsibilities with ZR? What would you say is the area you’re most passionate about?
I’m in charge on the Flyboard shows for Zapata Racing. I’m in charge of the creation, marketing and booking. I have to work a lot at the office to reply to the inquiries, but what I really like is to create new concepts and traveling with the team around the world, “fighting” to make each show happen! Sometimes it’s not easy, but as you know, the show must go on!!! Collaborating with Franky is great, you know him, he is a rider, a mechanical technician, an engineer, but without the artistic background. That being said he is still very good at artistic creation too. Sometimes we spend one hour together around a blank piece of paper, and we write a new show, sharing our ideas… so fun!
H2RO: In the early days of the Flyboard what started the conversations about creating a Flyboard Show? What was the first thing you worked on and what was involved in the first show you ever did?
Flyboard is an amazing invention. From the beginning we knew there was huge potential for these shows! Our first show was for the first World Cup in Doha. I decided to create the first LED waterproof suit for Franky (which inspired many copies!) and to use a water screen to project our video effects. It was crazy, we had no time for rehearsals because the equipment was blocked at the airport customs. But the entire Zapata team was great, they all gave a hand to help us, it was an amazing experience to feel the team working hard without knowing each other and the Flyboard Family was born!
H2RO: Please share with me your journey from your first Flyboard Shows to what the world saw at the 2012 Flyboard World Cup and then the amazing ‘Darth Maul’ in a bubble that we enjoyed in Qatar in 2013?
It has not always been easy. The goal was to present our work to all my professional contacts, explain to them our technical requirements, then show them our creativity. We did some great shows, one for the President in Turkmenistan another for Malaysia, a show with Tom Cruise, a night show with six riders flying at the same time in Abu Dhabi, some TV shows. We have some good contacts eager to help us make bigger shows very soon! We try to make each show better than the last, constantly striving to improve the artistic side of it. We work on choreography to ensure we present new and unique performances.
H2RO: How many versions of the Flyboard Show have you created? Does Franky fly in all of them?
Franky can’t be part of all the shows, as you know he is really busy, but we have really good riders on the team. We have three versions of our main show, but our intent is to use our talent to create new concepts for each show!
The LED suit was pretty hard to build, it was not easy to make it totally waterproof and strong enough. Another challenge is dealing with people who are trying to copy our show. This is a problem and we have to explain to the event professionals that we are the only official team allowed to perform Flyboard Shows which helps us guarantee the quality and security of the performance. There are other people trying to do shows that are doing it without ZR’s authorization.
What I am most proud of? THE TEAM of course. Nicolas our technician, a genius, all the riders, Arnoud, Stéphane, Andrew, John, Brody…
and so much more. Christian in Marseille, Mailys, Claire, Krystel they all help me a lot too! And Franky of course!
Also lucky to have a lot of artists and technicians in Paris, friends of mine, helping me with the development.
H2RO: Can you explain to me how the light show in the bubble was developed and choreographed? I thought it was amazing and would love to learn a bit about the technology employed.
I used to perform the same kind of show (that unique visual show you mentioned in your first answer) for about 5 years, and Thomas, the artist we saw in the bubble was working with me and he decided to create new acts based on the same technology. So I asked him to perform in Doha. Usually this show has to be performed indoors, because we need smoke to see the beams. We had the idea to do that on a floating stage, in a big bubble and we made it possible for the very first time at the 2013 Flyboard World Cup Show. Thomas did a very good job! Regarding the technical components, that’s the “magic” so I can’t reveal that! 🙂
H2RO: I’m not sure what your role is in terms of the research and development of new products but if you do work in that area with ZR what was your experience developing the new Air Flyboard that was introduced on TV during France Has Incredible Talent?
Ooohh! France Got Talent, that was one more crazy experience. Franky came up with this idea for the Air Flyboard, and decided he’d show it during the shows finale. It was really hard because we had only 8 days to make it possible. The team did an amazing job, working hard and the training in Marseille was insane. The water was so cold, everyone was so tired, but all of us, together behind Franky, we did it!
Of course, I like working with Franky in development. I just try to give him some ideas sometimes, but Franky does everything. My role was to create the artistic part around the Air Flyboard, the new LED suit, the 3D video on the screen, the scenario…
H2RO: As far as the ‘Human Torch’ work that Emmanuel Jules does, did he bring that idea to you or was that something the ZR team worked on with Emmanuel?
Emmanuel was doing the same before but on his Jet Ski, so he naturally brought his skills over to the Flyboard.
H2RO: One final question for you… Can you share any secrets as to what’s next for your Flyboard Show? I’d love to share some of the new things you’re working on.
A secret is a secret, but we are now in contact with some very nice companies working to create HUGE shows. New concepts are coming soon, new collaborations…
As I said earlier, only Zapata Racing is allowed to performed Flyboard Shows (as well as our official distributors). Franky decided to do that to protect the concept, to perform with safety and with the same quality for each show. Some riders, looking for money and/or for their “ego” try to perform and it’s not fair and they are mostly “hurting” our concept. That’s why we always want to create more and more, even if we know that some unscrupulous people will try to copy us anyway.
The most important thing is to have fun together traveling around the world, working with kind and professional riders, this is the Flyboard Family Spirit!!!!! We all love Flyboard, and pretty soon, new amazing products from Zapata Racing will be part of the show!
H2RO: Hoverboard anyone… Thanks so much for your time Stéphane and let me just say that I think the work you and ZR have put into these incredible shows is awesome and YES I would love to be at the launch of your next Flyboard Show it really is totally unique entertainment.
If you have questions for Stéphane please leave them in the comments and we’ll work to get you the answers.