The sport of Flyboarding is about to take another HUGE DIVE forward on June 20 – 22 in Toronto, Canada. The Flyboard® North American Championship will see the most incredible Pro Flyboarding the world has ever witnessed and it’s time to get to know a little bit more about our 32 Flyboard Pilots. H2RO Magazine is also very excited to be launching our H2RO AWARDS here in Toronto. Just something fun to do and hope that we can grow it along with the sport. Check out our first two awards here.
H2RO Magazine was in Doha, Qatar last November for the 2013 Flyboard® World Cup and has had the privilege of seeing some of these Pros fly in person. We look forward to each and every pilot bringing their best and putting on a great show for the record crowds that will be in attendance.
2014 N.A FLYBOARD® PILOTS
We begin with the pilots who have competed at the Flyboard World Cup.
A natural talent on the Flyboard, Cooper Riggs finished 2nd in the 2013 Flyboard World Cup after having only been Flyboarding for 5 months. His ability to seamlessly string tricks together and maintain a great flow throughout his runs makes Cooper one of the most entertaining Pilots in the competition and a favorite for top spot.
WHY HE’LL WIN: Confidence and has a great understanding of what it takes to win the judges over. Not afraid to go VERY BIG!
WHY HE WON’T: Not sure if Cooper has the ‘Double’ in his repertoire. We shall see…
(UPDATE: Just saw a very nice photo of Coop nailing a double… you have been warned!)
Not afraid to have a little fun out on the water (he caught a fish with his mouth in Qatar) Ben Merrell is a Pro who has total control on his board and a signature HUGE back dolphin that fans and judges love. He was very consistent with every run at the World Cup which means you better pull something big if you find yourself up against him in Toronto.
WHY HE’LL WIN: Experience and the ability to combo into his signature back dolphin will instantly put huge points on the board.
WHY HE WON’T: We haven’t seen a landed double from Ben and he may have to increase his overall speed to find the top of the podium.
At 15 years old Damone was the youngest competitor at the 2013 Flyboard World Cup and has all of the tools to be a champion. This guy spins faster than anyone and video has now surfaced of his beautifully landed double back flips. ‘Safety Cone’ all decked out in orange has the swagger and skills to back it up.
WHY HE’LL WIN: Ability to land the biggest trick in the game and potentially show us things we’ve never seen before. Flies fast and his enjoyment on the water is contagious.
WHY HE WON’T: As he said in his interview he has to execute more of his run at higher elevations and not get to hyped that he forgets his hose and jet ski management. He could beat himself if he flips the ski.
Caleb Gavic, the first Pro Flyboarder to fly over ice, was a force in Qatar and likely would have found a spot on the podium had he not flipped his Jet Ski resulting in a DQ. Caleb is solid on the board and came very close to flying out of his double attempt. He says he’ll be really training for this competition and come in with some serious runs worked out.
WHY HE’LL WIN: He mixes up his tricks, his execution heights and spins out of his flips quickly and in both directions which definitely adds style points.
WHY HE WON’T: Well he flipped the Ski at the World Cup and that can happen but maybe it’ll be because his brother Jesse knows just what to do to put himself in the lead.
Aaron Gould flies fast, spins both directions with ease and has his ‘double’ tuned up. Definitely one of the most physically gifted athletes in Flyboarding we expect Aaron to be very confident and composed in Toronto which is bad freakin’ news for everybody else.
WHY HE’LL WIN: He is one of the most technical pilots in the field and has the ‘double’ in his arsenal. He makes everything he does look so easy.
WHY HE WON’T: Lack of diversity in his World Cup runs kept Aaron off the podium. His lack of dives opened the door for his competitors.
Rocky Mountain Flyboard
Salt Lake City, Utah
Winner of the ‘Showmanship’ award at last year’s World Cup Jordan is the ultimate performer with the technical skills to back it all up. Jordan like a few fellow competitors was very close on his double backflip and it’s likely we’ll see him nail one in Toronto. His ‘surface flips’ were a very unique trick and I expect that he’ll continue to wow the judges with his originality.
WHY HE’LL WIN: This is a judged sport and Jordan really connects and inspires with his flying which helps his scores. He’s got big tricks and will only be more pumped up to do well with the bigger crowds.
WHY HE WON’T: Jordan might have a run where in between tricks his showmanship causes him to execute less maneuvers than his competitor and so he’ll have to strike a good balance each time out on the water.
Jake, also 15 yrs young when competing in Doha Qatar last November, is smoooooooooth when he flies. In fact I’m calling him ‘JSmooth’ because his ability to glide through sequences of multiple tricks without one ‘herky jerky’ movement is sweet to watch. Since Qatar his friend Damone Rippy has been getting a lot of attention and rightfully so but I expect big things from Jake and for him to be a fan favorite in Toronto.
WHY HE’LL WIN: Because when you fly so incredibly well in a World Cup at 15 yrs old the sky really is the limit for you. Young = Fearless and Fearless might just = Champion.
WHY HE WON’T: Jake will need a double back flip which I can’t confirm he has and like everyone manage the risk/reward with his moves so as not to DQ.
South Texas Flyboard
The Woodlands, Texas
Ronnie Feise and girlfriend Yolanda Baker were quite the team in Qatar at the World Championship. Ronnie was the highest placing competitor not flying with the EMK. With Yolanda at the controls Ronnie’s runs were exciting and chalked full of huge dives. He wasted little time moving from trick to trick and even threw in a pretty wild double attempt.
WHY HE’LL WIN: Ronnie is a great athlete and I think he gets quite a bit of time on the board which means we could see some exciting things from him in Toronto.
WHY HE WON’T: His double in Qatar was a valiant attempt but might not be in his repertoire yet and I don’t recall a lot of backwards flying into tricks which will be needed to land on the podium.
Sylvan Lake, Alberta
Brody has been a top competitor in both the 2012 and 2013 Flyboard World Cups and has flown demos all over the world. Definitely one of the most experienced competitors Brody has great command of his tricks and seems at ease executing them in either direction. In Qatar he employed some board grabs which many competitors failed to include.
WHY HE’LL WIN: Home court advantage and a huge crowd of Team Canada supporters could inspire some serious flying from Brody and the entire Canadian team. Even more comfortable with the EMK and definitely knows what it takes to get on the podium.
WHY HE WON’T: I sound like a broken record but you’ll need a double to finish on the podium and not sure Brody has that. Needs to bring something original to set himself apart from the pack.
Lake Stevens, Washington
Bryan is really fluid flyer who can move effortlessly from trick to trick making it all look like one long sequence. He did fly with a driver in Qatar and so we’re not sure if he’ll be using the EMK in Toronto. When we spoke with Bryan in Doha we got the sense that he learned a lot at the Flyboard World Cup and so we expect some confident execution from him in a few weeks.
WHY HE’LL WIN: He has a fun style that the crowd and judges will love.
WHY HE WON’T: Might not deliver enough technical maneuvers to win and will have to bring his tricks up in height to compete with the top pros.
COREY EGAN (Not in Attendance)
Corey had more to offer in Qatar than what we had a chance to see so it will be really fun to see what he pulls out in Toronto. After cartwheeling sideways out of the water we think Corey may have mastered a new signature trick so everyone keep your eyes out for it.
WHY HE’LL WIN: If the cartwheel was just a taste of Corey’s originality then he could surprise his fellow competitors.
WHY HE WON’T: We just haven’t seen enough yet to put Corey in the podium conversation…
Jackfish Lake, Alberta
Rodney flies with some of Canada’s best Flyboarders and at the Flyboard World Cup showed us that he has a decent repertoire of tricks. Back flips, supermans, spins were there but each of those tricks will have to be amped up to truly compete with the top pros in Toronto.
WHY HE’LL WIN: With a solid foundation and some competitive experience we’re sure Rodney will put together some good runs… but it’s not podium time just yet.
WHY HE WON’T: The top athletes in this competition simply take each trick farther and higher… which is tough to beat.
Introducing the NEW BLOOD – Pilots who are competing for the first time. (random order)
The world of Pro Flyboarding is progressing very fast so it doesn’t shock us at all that one of the most exciting competitors is a first timer. With only 30hrs on the Flyboard… this guys skills are freakin’ ridiculous. Taking a short break from paradise, Scotty Knemeyer is poised to make the North American Championship his party. When you land back to back double back flips on video you get peoples attention. We all know that landing the biggest trick in the game is a great weapon but to win it takes well executed runs filled with energy and a variety of tricks.
WHY HE’LL WIN: Well executed double backflips and a willingness to work at the maximum height will make this Pro tough to beat.
WHY HE WON’T: Talk to Aaron Gould about expectations and landing a double back flip in competition. Sometimes it takes going through the competitive experience once to know what is needed to win. He will also have to quickly adjust to the power of these skis and the EMK.
Jason is a competitor and has been pushing his flying to new heights so he can compete with the top pros in the game. He has been working on his double and is hoping to have some time on the EMK prior to the event. Living in Cabo San Lucas means flying 365 days a year which can’t hurt his progression.
WHY HE’LL WIN: Jason is taking the right approach with his preparation and is managing his expectations going into the event which should ease his first timer nerves and allow for his best possible performance. He says he has some ‘tricks up his sleeve’… we can’t wait to see them.
WHY HE WON’T: It’s tough to dethrone the guys who’ve got the same tricks as you and also more experience. This might simply be prepping Jason for a big run at the next World Cup.
Long Island, New York
In a recent interview with James he said he’s a big fan of originality and we believe he’ll be showing us some things in Toronto that are all his own. Flying with personality is mandatory if you’re going to survive the battle rounds and James certainly won’t lack in that department.
WHY HE’LL WIN: Shock and Awe! James has been crafting the order of his tricks which I think will help when that whistle blows and all eyes are on him. Plus, he’s been working hard on Jet Ski management and that is a serious detail when competing.
WHY HE WON’T: Preparation just won’t be enough without the biggest trick in the game and some serious height on all of his maneuvers. Either way he’ll learn a lot and have a blast with his fellow Flyboard Family members.
Vancouver, British Columbia
A spectator in Doha, Qatar last November Mike took full advantage of his opportunity to watch and learn from the competitors. Armed with that first hand knowledge and flying only an hour away from hometown I’m sure his supporters will be out in full force and Mike will be poised to push his flying to the limit.
WHY HE’LL WIN: He won’t be overconfident as his training has been limited to weekends but we expect the skills he has been perfecting to push Mike into the battle rounds. There anything can happen…. anything!
WHY HE WON’T: Same thing…. he is a weekend warrior right now and that will likely have to change if Mike wants to see himself atop a podium in the future.
Whether Bull Fighting on a Flyboard or competing Antonio has more than his share of fun out on the water. Having flown in Qatar he has World Cup experience and says that his favorite tricks are dolphins and the Tornado. Comfortable flying with the EMK, Antonio describes his flying as technical and we expect to be thoroughly entertained when he boots up.
WHY HE’LL WIN: If he wins a bull fight while flyboarding is there anything he can’t do?
WHY HE WON’T: Launching yourself into a double back flip from 40ft up is still scarier than any Jet Ski bull… and that’s what it will take.
CALLON BURNS (BERMUDA)
Coconut Rockets Bermuda Flyboard
Sugarcane Beach, Bermuda
(Profile contributed by Michael Swan)
Callon has been a part of the Coconut Rockets Flight Crew for nearly 10 months and has proven to be a real asset to the organization. Callon is a passionate all-round athlete who puts his heart and soul into any sport that he engages whether it be Boxing, Soccer or Flyboarding. Callon’s style has been shaped and honed over the past few months and presents itself as a smooth dance at the end if the pipe.
WHY HE’LL WIN:
This is Callon’s first competition. And Callon is passionate. He has mastered many of the toughest moves. If he can pull them off together with a few signature Coconut Rockets additions we feel he has a shot at the podium.
WHY HE WON’T:
Lake Ontario is cold! … this is unfamiliar flight territory that could hinder performance. And although a focused athlete, the nature of first time competition combined with zero experience with EMK could hinder chances. But still to have the opportunity to be a part of this great new sport is priceless.
CASEY “Swizzle” MCELWEE (USA)
Casey is a competitor that we have not yet seen fly but he did share a few thoughts on the competition and described his flying style as ‘Sketchy’ and says his strategy is simply not to get DQ’d. (that actually is a pretty solid strategy). He will have to quickly get adjusted to the EMK and hopefully his first competition will be a great experience.
WHY HE’LL WIN: Sketchy… could be very creative?
WHY HE WON’T: Sketchy… could be very… sketchy.
FERNANDO SPINELLI (ARGENTINA)
GEOVANNY ALFONSO (COLUMBIA)
New Blood that H2RO Magazine has yet to see fly
(We’ve emailed some background questions to these pilots and hope to learn a little bit about them prior to the competition)
KELLY PEPIN (CANADA)
PATRICK VALLAIRES (CANADA)
NICK LAUZON (CANADA)
ANDREW SALVADOR (MEXICO)
KIKE SORIANO (SPAIN)
JASON GAUTHIER (USA)
JESSE GAVIC (USA)
PAUL LINDQUIST (USA)
ZORO SANTIAGO (USA)
WILLIAM MCELWEE (USA)
RUSH BRAGG (USA)
KEVIN SUN (USA)
MARTIN SCHIARITI (ARGENTINA)