Flyboard Flips the Jet Ski
What can we learn from 2014 for 2015
Flyboard® is a trademark of Zapata Racing
It doesn’t just happen to the first time Flyboard competitor or the reckless daredevil who’s always risking it all, when a Flyboard flips the Jet Ski the rider laying disqualified in the water could be almost anyone. At the X Dubai Flyboard World Cup we saw some big names with many competitive runs under their belts flip their Ski proving a mistake with your hose management can be very unforgiving.
The current rules say that if the Jet Ski flips completely upside down the competitor is disqualified. You can’t flip it all the way over and back up again either. If the ski flips all the way onto its side but then falls back upright your run is still live and so are you.
Why does this happen?
The current mechanical set up for competitive Flyboarding is the same as recreational flying in that the Jet Ski produces the thrust and the water is sent out the back of the ski into a 180 degree re-directional U Pipe. The Flyboard hose is attached to the U Pipe and at this moment the water pressure is now aimed towards the front of the ski. The hose is tethered to the front of the ski ensuring that the Flyboarder is pulling the Jet Ski forward as they fly. When executing tricks the hose is coiled and thrown in various ways back towards the ski. It is very important for the flyer to manage their hose by setting up tricks properly, landing cleanly, flying out of tricks the right direction while always adjusting their throttle control to ensure they don’t send a loop back over the mirrors or worse pull the hose hard across the front (nose) of the ski flipping it over.
Talking with some X Dubai Flyboard World Cup competitors it was mentioned that depending on which direction you favor when you circle that some will be at a disadvantage as the hose will have one side of the ski that it can slide up and over the nose more easily and that is the motion that turns the ski over. H2RO also observed that the strap holding the hose to the ski was double looped at the Flyboard North American Championship and we saw less disqualifications in that event than the 2013 and 2014 World Cups which did not shorten the strap by looping twice.
I believe that even with the World Cup competitors knowing how the hose would be tethered and training with the same strap set up there is always a great deal of anxiety over flipping your ski due to the events format. One flip in any round and you’re gone. I believe that is one aspect of our World Championship that does more to hinder than help us get the best from our athletes and is one of the focal points for some of the new format suggestions coming in from the Flyboard community. It also amps up the debate on how do you score apples to oranges when some competitors can choose to be driven (having a person controlling the throttle while sitting on the Jet Ski and others fly using the Electronic Management Kit which is the handheld throttle allowing the Flyboard competitor to fly in total control with no one on the ski). Do you fight through a few deducted points due to the fact you flew with a driver knowing that having a driver counterbalancing the ski and focusing very specifically on using throttle control to manage the hose is a better scenario when it comes to a potential DQ?
As we approach the year 2015 I believe the Flyboard community wants to continue to see hose management play a role in our sport and remain a technical component that can separate great riders from very good ones however they also want to see competitive opportunities to push their limits without the ultimate penalty waiting in the wings. I am confident that an event format will be agreed upon for 2015 that will allow this to be achieved. Right now we do not employ an unflippable purpose built machine for competitions nor do we use electric pumps on shore with 80 ft hoses (like the one the Flyboard Team has been testing in the Netherlands). We drag around a Jet Ski. It will likely be something ten years from now we laugh at when watching old video footage saying ‘how archaic’ but this is where we are right now and it means you can’t just be fearless on the Flyboard you have to be very technical and skilled in the ways of hose management to win our events.
So this might lead some to say ‘”the Flyboard World Champion must not have been attempting the biggest or hardest tricks then so he wouldn’t flip the ski right?” WRONG! Suksan Tongthai was landing triple backflips during his final run in Dubai. The Triple is now the biggest single trick in the Flyboard game. He came within inches of rolling his ski a number of times but somehow managed to sit the hose down, dive the right direction or simply get lucky and found himself on top of the podium for the second straight year.
Probably the most unfortunate flip of the X Dubai Flyboard World Cup was when Cooper Riggs (H2RO World Ranked #3) who likely had his run won when he made the snap decision to dive out of final trick pulled the hose at a disastrous angle and ended his World Championship quest. Coop told me on the bus later that night that just as he was beginning to fall into the dive he thought ‘ah shit… what am I doing’. That single moment of spontaneity in an otherwise very calculated run left fans along the waterfront, the dock and the live stream gasping in disappointment. The only one to benefit was China’s Qjao Xiao who moved on from the Round of 16 because of Rigg’s mistake.
Not a very joyous topic to post about on New Year’s Eve but for the sport of competitive Flyboarding it’s certainly an extremely important one. It’s important for recreational flyers too who throw tricks and want to keep their equipment in good working order and if they are not flying with the EMK, want to keep their drivers from being bucked off or injured. It’s a topic that affects our sports rules and competition formats, our athletes training regimes and is the one thing that could have turned Suksan Tongthai from Back to Back Flyboard World Champion into 2014 DQ tragedy.
Watch this compilation video of Jet Ski flips from the X Dubai Flyboard World Cup, see what you can learn from them and then tell us what you think?
- Should the hose be tethered one standard way?
- Should competitions have two set ups and allow competitors to choose the one that they like the best?
- How should a competitor with a driver be scored related to a competitor flying with the EMK?
We who are working to improve many aspects of our competitions are asking and answering these types of questions and many others. I am confident that great strides will be made in 2015 to improve our athletes ability to fly at their highest levels while also providing the best possible fan experience. Our sport is already incredible and awesome… watch out when we’re fully tuned up!
Happy New Year my friends,