Setting a Canadian Flyboard Record on Kalamalka
From the perspective of a Flyboarder
written by Andrew Salvador
It’s coming to the end of September up in the great white north and you can feel a very obvious chill in the air as we drive through the Coastal Mountains. I’m with our web designer, Dustin Gaboury, his dog, Milo and a new friend, Mike Helton. Although it’s cold, dark and long, it’s certainly not a boring ride as we joke around and share stories of our adventures in the world of hydroflight sports. Anybody listening in to our easy back and forth banter would think we’re old friends and not three guys and a dog that just met each other an hour ago. Having been to two North American Flyboard Championships and various other meetings and events with people in the industry, our comfortable convo doesn’t surprise me at all. This is how people in the hydroflight world are; a bunch of fun-loving, thrill-seekers with a few screws loose, but loads of enthusiasm, drive, hard work ethic and good intentions. We all know how cold the water is going to be, but that won’t cause any hesitation for this group. We’re going to fly. We’re going to do what we love and what we were born to do. On Lake Kalamalka, BC, we’re going to set a Canadian record.
We pull up to the Kekuli Bay Provincial Park campsite at 11:00pm. I’m barely squeezing myself out of Dustin’s two-door and the warm reception begins. First, a couple of my fellow Team CanFly pros, Brody Wells and Mike Prince, offer to give us a hand and more importantly, a beer! We can see a very well set campsite and a roaring, warm fire inviting us in. Having been away from Canada for the past two years, as I worked in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with my team at Cabo Flyboard, I have sorely missed the true Canadian camping experience. A warm fire and a cold beer have me settling back into things nicely.
We notice that Mike and Brody are soaking wet and still wearing half-peeled wetsuits around the waist; apparently immune to the cold. They just got out of the water, testing LED suits and other night equipment that are to be used for a Canadian Jetpack Adventures promo video we are shooting over the next two days. We’re ushered over to the campsite where we have a good half hour bro-fest, greeting old friends and new faces alike. Everyone is upbeat, friendly and so inviting. Nothing but good vibes around this crew and the same could be said for the hydroflight community as a whole. It’s hard to find downers in this industry. After all, we’re here because we’re some of the best at fulfilling one of humanity’s deepest desires since we first looked up at the sky and saw a bird; the desire to fly.
I’m grateful for the amenities of this campsite as soon as I wake up on our first day of shooting. I know it’s close to freezing outside, but electrical outlets and a mini space heater in the tent have us warm and toasty. This arid region is considered to be desert, or close to it and the temperature changes drastically from night to day. Although it’s almost freezing now, the forecast has it at a comfortable 23°C by mid-day. That thought does little to help with the chill as we get out of our tents and start the day, but it doesn’t take long for us to forget the cold and get caught up in the excitement building around us. The campsite is a flurry of activity as everyone eagerly pitches-in helping wherever and with whatever they can. People from all backgrounds are here, most of them current Flyboard business owners, united by their passion for the sports they love and the dream of flying. Former executives, restaurateurs, stuntmen and IT people, all scramble to make things happen. Some are prepping and launching PWCs and equipment. Others work on making breakfast for a small army, while Rodney Biggar, Mike Helton and Matt Dringenberg test camera equipment, lights and smoke machines. Yes, smoke machines. As if flying 60ft in the air with Flyboards, ZR Jetpacks and Hoverboards isn’t cool enough, why not throw lights, lasers and smoke machines into the mix?
After breakfast and some Tim Horton’s coffee we’re feeling ready and eager to get on the board. Global and Shaw news show up to get some coverage of the event signaling that it’s time to begin. We start off with an awesome ZR Jetpack display by Mike Helton, followed by some interviews and a shoot for Team CanFly. The enthusiasm and camaraderie of everyone is infectious. Although the dock is covered in equipment and PWCs are sticking out of it at every angle, we move with surprising efficiency and there is no shortage of helping hands. That’s one thing that really stands out when you attend a hydroflight event; how positive, supportive and genuine everybody is. As we suit-up we have to politely turn down various offers to help us and run our machines, simply because we already have eager drivers on them and we’re ready to go. I’m on a Flyboard Legend, while Mike and Brody are riding on the new Flyboard Pro Series, which I have yet to try. We take to the water and after a brief warm-up, get right into some of our most intense tricks and combos.
The shoot goes great and when we get back to the dock everyone knows it’s time to play. The three of us switch places with our drivers, happy to return the favour and go out to have some fun. Everyone goes into a freestyle melee out on the water as high-def cameras and drones shoot away. Riders from all over Western Canada and even some as far away as Northern Saskatchewan and Georgia, practice tricks, spur each other on and offer suggestions and support. Around mid-day I get my first shot on the Flyboard Pro Series and independent feet articulation. My driver, James Macsween, sends me rocketing out of the water and I have a tiny freak-out, as I momentarily forget and am shocked by my feet moving separately. It doesn’t take me long to get comfortable though and I’m pleasantly surprised that whenever I feel I might be in trouble, a recovery is surprisingly easy and intuitive. I can instantly see the benefits of independent feet; especially for new flyers.
Everyone is hard at work again in the evening, making dinner and prepping for a night show I am going to perform in. It’s my first time in an LED suit and also flying at night, so I’m a bit apprehensive, but like any true hydroflight athlete, I’m eager to jump in head-long. I take some photos in the suit with some fifty fans from the campsite who have come out to watch the show. Smoke and lasers are flying as I get into the water. At first it is extremely disorienting and intimidating being shot into the night sky by a 260 horsepower monster machine; especially when the last thing they told me on the dock was, “Don’t dive, or fall cause you might break the LED suit.” No pressure….
Day two and it’s time for the main event. We work through the morning to mobilize all of our equipment. Every jetski is in the water, a hose and Flyboard attached to each and every one. I’ve never been in a place with so many Flyboards at one time and after a brief huddle, we all take to the water, some fifteen Flyboards in all. News teams and film crew are shooting as we go through some formations and maneuvers. I’m honestly surprised at how synchronized everyone is and how well we keep formation for our first time doing this. Then they give the order to break formation and go freestyle. It’s an impressive sight to see one person 60ft in the air, diving and ripping backflips on a Flyboard, but seeing a whole panorama of them in every direction you look just makes your jaw drop. We have a blast out there and switch places with some of our drivers to make sure they get up in the air for this momentous occasion. (It turned out to be a bit unfortunate for me and my driver, Alfred Samson, as I was playing around with some trick jetski driving, on my back and accidentally hit the kill switch, dropping Alfred unceremoniously from 40ft in the air. Sorry!) This was a sobering reminder that at this level of the sport there is some real danger involved and how important it is to place safety first, something I’m proud to say everyone I have met in this industry takes very seriously.
With all the footage we need and a lake full of exhausted, but very happy Flyboarders, the news team thanks us and heads off, as everyone gets to the fun task of cleaning and packing up in the dark. In our state of exhaustion, that would seem like a low-energy and bleak task, but everyone is on a high and whoever isn’t packing up equipment is running drinks and food to their buddies. The jokes and laughs are flying in our state of Flyboard-induced delirium as we hit the campground to warm up around the fire and enjoy some well-deserved downtime.
Packing up in the rain completes the true Canadian camping experience.
As I look back on the past few days, everyone’s dedication, teamwork and enthusiasm has been truly inspiring. We came to this event, at least 50% complete strangers, united by what we love and are leaving with what feel like life-long bonds and friendships. These are the pioneers in a new field of sport and experience. You build bonds quickly and learn to support and rely on each other to carry out the impressive feats people in the hydroflight industry do every day. This week we set a Canadian record on Lake Kalamalka. I don’t want to end on a pun like, “The sky is the limit,” but standing on the edge of a new frontier of sport and possibly even transportation, it’s hard to tell what dream we’ll turn into reality next.
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Awesome photos courtesy of Courtney Samson.