BATTLE ON THE ROCK CHAMPION – JAKE OREL
The beautiful country of Bermuda played host to some of the best Hydroflight Jetboard athletes in the world and it couldn’t have been a more amazing venue for Jake Orel to take home his first Championship. Orel has been on the podium many times before with a string of second place finishes but it was his incredible control and technical execution that allowed him to barely edge out the intense powerhouse that is Sean Ray. H2RO has been forced to update our nickname for Jake as he is now ‘J Smoother’ raising his Jetboard freestyle precision bar to new heights.
Regarded by many of his peers as the best technical rider in the game, Orel worked each of his runs like a world class artist, using the entire canvas from sea to sixty five feet to paint an awe-inspiring picture for the captivated crowd. It took his flow and ability to string together combos seamlessly, to edge out the most powerful rider in the field Sean Ray. Ray was a beast from start to finish in Bermuda and will be a force for a long time to come.
Third place saw Hunter Verlander give us his first competition quad on his Jetblade Scorpion. Verlander was on his game landing his biggest combos well above the water and packing his runs with incredible flip variations. Ashton Beukers crushed it here in paradise finishing just off the podium but leaving nothing left in the tank. His sheer exhaustion after his final run as he lay on his back on the dock symbolized the incredible level of competition, effort necessary to make the final rounds, and love he has for the sport.
This open competition brought to life by Savvy Entertainment and Callon Burns was more than everyone involved could have ever asked for. It was a winning formula for Hydroflight, the athletes, the fans and the sponsors. With the exciting announcement of the Poseidon Games Hydroflight World Tour, we have the opportunity to see this successful platform repeated around the world and we sincerely hope that all of the top athletes will participate.
Select pictures courtesy of Jill Helton Photography
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Drone Footage Courtesy: Ryan Lorence (FlyDive), Marcus Taylor (YouTube Channel)
Hydroflight in Paradise – Welcome to Bermuda
FRIDAY – QUALIFYING BATTLES
The athletes have arrived and Thursday night everyone enjoyed a great party in Tobacco Bay. Danilee and Anthony from Savvy Entertainment got everyone hyped about #BOTR and their plans for the future while athletes came up to receive their swag bags. The energy from the athletes, organizers, and wonderful locals has everyone smiling and excited about this amazing opportunity to bring Hydroflight to Bermuda. Tonight we get the competition started in downtown Hamilton and finish the evening with the amazing Jetpack Invasion show.
Seadoo 300’s with flashed ECU’s courtesy of Malvin Quinones were blasting athletes to the top of the hose with 8400 rpms of hydro power. Malvina and fellow technician Kurt Binter kept the gear and dock in top form for the entire competition. There were a few ski flips to challenge this dynamic duo but they conquered them.
The Qualifying Battle round was a good chance for the newcomers to settle the nerves. Gil Carneiro has been in the hydroflight game for a few years but this was his first competition. Young Gage Beam, only 14 years old, had fun and flew clean watch for him in the near future. We saw a very sharp Flyboard Squad throw down and impress early and David Soldato took everyone’s breath away with the first of a few 60 foot dives.
The Bermudian crowd had to show a little extra patience as their boy Callon Burns was scheduled late in the draw and was forced to deliver his Qualifying run early Saturday morning. He did however throw on his light suit Friday night and put on a great show for the appreciative crowd. When Burns did start mixing it up in the Battles he was able to fly himself into the Top 16 and definitely represented the host country very well.
TJ Andrews crushed his three tricks landing a massive Universal, big clean Triple and a tick tock 720 Infinity which added up to the highest Qualifying score of 94.26. TJ followed that up with two more very strong runs finding himself once again in first place for the Round of 16 with a 93.79. As the rounds progressed and the time between runs shortened Andrews began to deal with some leg/ankle fatigue which hindered his final runs and left him just out of the top four in fifth.
By end of day Friday we still had a few athletes to fly to begin Saturday’s action so below was a partial list of Qualifying Battle scores.
Shout out to Jetpack Invasion for another spectacular night show on Friday and for Jeff Elkins manning the safety ski. The athletes gained confidence knowing they were in good hands.
A beautiful crowd was out early and excited to see their fellow countryman Callon Burns begin his push for the Battle On The Rock crown. The intensity in the runs quickly amped way up once the 1:30 freestyle Battle Rounds began. The athletes could tell simply by the match ups that holding anything back for later rounds may prove costly so we were witness to everyone’s A game right from the start. That’s not to say there wasn’t a ‘zone’ that some competitors were able to find and use to improve their later runs on Saturday but they had set a very high bar by the Round of 16. Unfortunately we also had some skis flips including Jordan Fabro who seemed to set up a nice clean triple before finding himself super disappointed and floating helplessly in Hamilton harbor.
The first lady to battle in a men’s professional Hydroflight division, Kristen Smoyer, was a huge fan favorite and was on fire out of the gate even adding a new ‘thread-the-needle’ move we had not seen from her before. She had all the guys complete respect going into this competition but sitting sixth by the Round of 16 meant she also had them shaking in their Ronix.
Another awesome sight was to see veteran of the game Ronnie Feise unleashing new variations and flying clean and aggressive. Apparently the adjustments Ronnie and Scotty Knemeyer had made to his Jetdeck board were proving worthwhile. Judges, fans and peers loved Feise’s true Superman’s and he was up to 8th going into the Round of 16.
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SUNDAY – TOP SIXTEEN FINAL RANKINGS
Fiercely competitive, the Battle On The Rock judges did an exceptional job, helped along by the transparent and real time HydroScore system, and here is how the Top Sixteen played out:
- Jake Orel
- Sean Ray
- Hunter Verlander
- Ashton Beukers
- TJ Andrews
- Ben Merrell
- Scotty Knemeyer
- Geoff Hulet
- Kristen Smoyer
- Ronnie Feise
- Brody Wells
- David Soldato
- Mike Prince
- Logan Foust
- Callon Burns
- Casey Mcelwee
Very interesting to see that from the Round of 16 onwards the ranking relationship for the Top Eight never changed. Most surprising might be that Ben Merrell didn’t disrupt things and find himself in the top four. I don’t completely believe this happened but because Ben came into the competition with a successful front flip in his arsenal (with the aid of a driver) and perhaps had this trick in his mind as a knock out punch when needed, the fact that he failed to land it flying with a remote early in the competition may have affected his strategy in the later runs when combo triples were hard to come by and he didn’t have a Universal to lean on. His flying was strong but I don’t think sixth place was on his mind coming in.
I can’t stress how engaging it was as a fan to see on the large digital screen both instant feedback from the judges as runs were occurring and to have highlight replays immediately after each run. HydroScore took another big step forward at Battle On The Rock and we owe a big shout out to Shaw Norris for bringing that level of production to the event. It was also cool to see our H2RO athlete videos adding value in real time.
Another major shout out goes to the judges who always have the most difficult and thankless job at any competition. The communication between Head Judge Jason Gauthier and his team and the competitors was clear, timely and we heard nothing but praise coming from everyone involved. Even reviewing their work after the fact I think they did an excellent job. When no one is talking about the judges or the judging that is success.
The Top Four. With a field this stacked with talent the top four was very up in the air coming in but as Battles unfolded and as we mentioned cards were shown early out of necessity, it was Jake Orel, Sean Ray, Hunter Verlander, and Ashton Beukers that seemed to have that extra gear. Hunter almost knocked himself out of a chance to battle for the podium when early on he crashed into the hose at the very end of a run. (watch the video on our Instagram channel ) Thankfully he was able to continue and fly incredibly well to a third place finish.
Sean Ray was a highlight making machine throughout the event. A powerhouse on his Flyboard Pro Series Ray attacked each run with an unmatched intensity and finished second overall. The scary thing about Sean Ray is he only seems to have started scratching the surface of his potential. When you watch him fly there appears to be no ceiling to his upside and he could quickly add some key variations to his repertoire which take him to even another level. (Watch for our interview with Sean coming soon).
Flying professionally does have its benefits as it was Jake Orel who managed to deal with fatigue and keep each of his finals runs sharper and cleaner than his fellow competitors. In constant motion Orel linked combo after combo together generating just enough points to take out the bigger singular moments thrown by Sean Ray.
It was all love shown by the athletes, crowd and families who had traveled to Bermuda to support, when the winners were announced. It took Jake a moment to realize he was not going to find himself in second place again… it was his turn to stand tallest with a healthy $5000 payout to enjoy as well.
BATTLE ON THE ROCK ATHLETE PROFILES via Battle On The Rock
(photo credits Jill Helton, Jack Stone)
– Also read our ‘Why He’ll Win, Why He Won’t‘ athlete preview.
If you’re looking forward to a wild ride Scotty Knemeyer should be one to watch out for. A hydroflight innovator, Scotty has been the pioneer of some of the most creative initial Jetboard tricks. Always willing to put his body on the line, expect to see him throwing some really mean combo’s and pulling off some unique variations in odd body positions. It’ll be interesting to see what he brings this year having spent some time in and out of the circuit.
Team: Defy Waterflight
2015 NAFB Championship, Toronto, 6th Place
2016 Session One, Florida, Elevate and Create Award
2016 Hydrofest, Las Vegas, 3rd Place (Pro Division)
Arguably the most experienced Pro in the field this summer Ben Merrell is a veteran having competed in almost every top competition since 2013. Ben is one the few Hydroflight athletes who drops a big run every time out and most of the time seems to be flying with the nose of the ski pulled out of the water. Notorious for going BIG, he recently tightened up his transitional game and continues to add more crowd pleasing variety to his repertoire.
2013 Flyboard World Cup, Qatar, 3rd Place
2014 NAFB Championship, Toronto, 9th Place
2015 NAFB Championship, Louisiana, 5th Place
2015 X Dubai Flyboard World Cup, 7th Place
2016 Louisiana Hydroflight Invitational, 4th Place
2016 Hydro Fest Open Board Competition, 1st Place
2016 JABA Open Board Competition, 1st Place
Not many Pros will have as impressive a competitive resume as Jake Orel. Top 3 finishes in every competition ground he’s set foot in over the past 2 years speaks for itself. Dubbed ‘JSmooth’ for almost always throwing down near flawless runs, Jake almost never puts a foot wrong when he’s on form. He has a skillset that finely balances big moves and silky smooth chain combinations. When it comes to technical riders, he’s definitely in the conversation for one of if not the world’s best.
2013 Flyboard World Cup, Qatar, 11th Place
2014 NAFB Championship, Toronto, 12th Place
2014 X Dubai Flyboard World Cup, 3rd Place
2015 NAFB Championship, Louisiana, 2nd Place
2015 X Dubai Flyboard World Cup, 2nd Place
2016 Louisiana Hydroflight Invitational, 2nd Place
There’s a lot of firsts happening in Bermuda this summer and one of them is top female Pro Kristen Smoyer mixing it up in the Pro Men’s division. For start, she’s a Flyboard World Champion, Hydro Fest Champion and podium regular in a very competitive Ladies Division which let’s you know she’s everything if not more than capable of putting the best guys to the sword. She’s made a reputation for being one of the gutsiest riders out there and has some of the biggest moves in her skill set. Watching her shred with the fella’s should give all the ladies someone to root for!
Name: Kristen Smoyer
Team: Powerfly Products
2014 St. Pete Fly In – St. Pete’s, Florida – 1st Place (Women’s Division)
2015 NAFB Championship – Shreveport, Louisiana- 3rd Place (Women’s Division)
2015 XDF World Cup – Skydive, Dubai – 3rd Place (Women’s Division)
2016 Hydro Fest – Pahrump, Nevada – 1st Place (Women’s Division)
2016 Flyboard World Cup – Naples, Florida – 1st Place (Women’s Division)
2017 Pro Watercross FB National Tour – Pensacola, Florida – 1st Place (Women’s Division)
2017 Flyboard World Cup – Cavalaire, France – 2nd Place (Women’s Division)
One of the surprise packages of 2017 would be Team Flycaptain’s new acquisition Sean Ray. Very much an unknown just over a year ago, Sean‘s worked his way into the reckoning with some very stylish flying and ease with which he pulls off some of the more difficult figures. Recently he took home the gold at the Flyboard Tour stop in Erie, Pennsylvania making him one of the favorites going into BOTR.
Name: Sean Ray
Turbo Tech Mechanics
2016 Hydro Fest – Pahrump, Nevada – 12th Place (Pro Division)
2017 Pro Watercross FB National Tour – Pensacola, Florida – 3rd Place
2017 Flyboard World Cup – Cavalaire, France – 6th Place
2017 Pro Watercross FB National Tour – Erie, Pennsylvania – 1st Place
Being 16 years of age makes Logan the youngest Pro in the pack. Having been coached by top team Aquafly in Austin, Texas and trained next to some of the best riders in Hunter Verlander and Jake Orel he’s got a strong platform to build from. With only two competitions to his name he’s still very green but Bermuda can be a proper launchpad for him in a big way!
Name: Logan Foust
2015 NAFB Championship – Shreveport, Louisiana – 24th Place
2016 Hydro Fest – Pahrump, Nevada – 2nd Place (Open Division)
Brody Wells is the captain of one of the most game teams CANFLY on the circuit right now. Canada has the momentum with them and it only makes sense that one of the most well traveled athletes is pushing them on. From Qatar in 2012 right up into France 2017, Wells has built his reputation on consistency and sick trademark Double Windmills. Has cracked the Top 10 on 7 different occasions and it would be no surprise if he does so again if not a shot at the silverware in Bermuda.
Name: Brody Wells
2012 Flyboard World Cup – Doha, Qatar – 6th Place
2013 Flyboard World Cup – Doha, Qatar – 22nd Place
2014 NAFB Championship – Toronto, Canada – 17th Place
2014 XDF World Cup – Skydive, Dubai – 10th Place
2015 XDF World Cup – Skydive, Dubai – 10th Place
2016 Hydrofest – Pahrump, Nevada – 5th Place
2016 Hydroflight Invitational – Shreveport, Louisiana – 7th Place
2016 Flyboard World Championship – Naples, Florida – 11th Place
2017 Pro Watercross FB National Tour – Pensacola, Florida – 6th Place
2017 Flyboard World Cup – Cavalaire, France – 9th Place
Callon Burns flying is dynamic, a mix of technical ability and style. His athleticism allows him to throw the board around with ease and change directions mid trick. He not only helped bring Battle On The Rock to life but is also representing Bermuda on the water. After a break from competitive flying there could not be a more perfect venue for his return.
Name: Callon Burns
2014 NAFB Championship – Toronto, Canada – 3rd Place
2014 XDF World Cup – Skydive, Dubai – 11th Place
2015 NAFB Championship – Shreveport, Louisiana – 12th Place
Somewhat of a fresh face to the freestyle circuit, Florida and SoFlo based Pro Connor Brondes has spent the majority of his time honing his craft as part of the Flyboard Show Team in China. After initially competing back in 2015, he’s been on a tear in 2017 with some strong finishes in the current Pro Watercross National Flyboard Tour in the US.
Name: Connor Brondes
2017 Pro Watercross National Flyboard Tour Round 1, 5th Place
2017 Flyboard World Championship, 11th Place
2017 Pro Watercross National Flyboard Tour Round 2, 6th Place
Hunter Verlander is arguably the best Pro in the world at only 18 years old. Having only been in the game just shy of 4 years, he’s not only managed to become the sports youngest world champ at 16 but has also made a habit of landing some of the sports biggest tricks to date while making it look easy.
Name: Hunter Verlander
2015 X Dubai Flyboard World Cup, 1st Place
2016 Louisiana Hydroflight Invitational, 2nd Place
2016 Hydro Fest Open Board Competition, 2nd Place
One of Team Canfly’s top guns, Ashton is competitively a top 10 mainstay with four Top 5 finishes in six attempts over the past two years. Very much a confident Pro, Ashton’s runs are usually high intensity and filled with tricks executed at incredible height.
Name: Ashton Beukers
2015 X Dubai Flyboard World Cup, 12th Place
2016 Louisiana Hydroflight Invitational, 4th Place
2016 Flyboard World Championship, 4th Place
2017 Pro Watercross Flyboard National Tour Round 1, 4th Place
2017 Flyboard World Cup, 12th Place
2017 Pro Watercross Flyboard National Tour Round 2, 5th Place
Looking forward to seeing West Palm Beach native Rush Bragg on Bermuda waters this August. Ranked among the top 10 Hydroflight athlete’s in the world makes Rush one of the powerhouses to watch out for this summer. Known for a wide variety of tricks in his arsenal and notorious for going big!
Name: Rush Bragg
2015 Southeastern Regional Hydroflight Championship – 1st Place
2016 Session One – Ft. Lauderdale, Florida – Best Trick Champion
2017 Pro Watercross FB National Tour – Pensacola, Florida – 1st Place
2017 Flyboard World Cup – Cavalaire, France – 8th Place
2017 Pro Watercross FB National Tour – Erie, Pennsylvania – 2nd Place
CASEY ‘SWIZZLE’ MCELWEE
A polarizing figure on the circuit, with moments of brilliance also brings moments of madness. Casey has the potential to put together some mean runs and if he can keep it clean and ski upright, can be a threat to anyone on his day.
Name: Casey McElwee
2014 NAFB Championship – Toronto, Canada – 16th Place
2016 Hydro Fest – Pahrump, Nevada – 1st Place (Open Division)
Can’t wait to see Geoff Hulet throw down! Giant personality both in and out of the boots, every single run thrown by the Muskoka native comes jam packed with energy and presence. Spending the better part of the past half year in China with the ZR Show Team has sharpened him up technically so we’ll be looking forward to seeing what he brings!
Name: Geoff Hulet
2014 XDF World Cup – Sky Dive, Dubai – 29th Place
2016 Hydro Fest – Pahrump, Nevada – 15th Place (Pro Division)
2016 Flyboard World Championship – Naples, Florida – 7th Place
2017 Flyboard World Cup – Cavalaire, France – 21st Place
2017 Pro Watercross FB National Tour – Erie, Pennsylvania – 7th Place
Having been active on the circuit since 2013 makes David Soldato another one of the veteran Pros in the lineup. Having ended 2016 in a top 10 spot and podium finish to his name early this year, will likely have David confident and looking to secure another strong finish.
Name: David Soldato
2013 Flyboard World Cup – Doha, Qatar – 27th Place
2014 XDF World Cup – Skydive, Dubai – 21st Place
2015 NAFB Championship – Shreveport, Louisiana – 17th Place
2016 Flyboard European Championship – Cavalaire, France – 14th Place
2016 Flyboard World Championship – Naples, Florida – 9th Place
2017 South American Flyboard Championship – Argentina – 2nd Place
2017 Flyboard World Cup – Cavalaire, France – 18th Place
Another product off the Team CanFly conveyor belt. Although having a slower debut season Jordan Fabro has been coming into his own in his sophomore season on the circuit. Still somewhat an underdog considering the stacked competition, he’s made up tons of ground on the top guys recently by pulling off some new very cool looking tricks and combo’s. Has a very unique look to how he executes techniques, will definitely be one to watch.
Name: Jordan Fabro
2016 Hydro Fest – Pahrump, Nevada – 4th Place
2016 Hydroflight Invitational – Shreveport, Louisiana – 13th Place
With 2017 only just about halfway through, new Team CanFly Pro TJ Andrews has been steamrolling through it. Quite likely on the hottest streak right now with 2nd, 3rd & 4th finishes in a row, Tj is in top form and looks like a solid pick to take home the number 1 spot this August.
Name: T.J. Andrews
2016 5th Hydroflight Invitational – Shreveport, Louisiana – 5th Place
2016 Flyboard World Championship – Naples, Florida – 6th Place
2017 Pro Watercross FB National Tour – Pensacola, Florida – 2nd Place
2017 Flyboard World Cup – Cavalaire, France – 4th Place
2017 Pro Watercross FB National Tour – Erie, Pennsylvania – 3rd Place
Being somewhat of an unknown entity on the competitive circuit Max Miller is a newcomer that’ll be looking to show and prove. Coming out of the DEFY camp, he’s likely spending quality time sharpening his skill set next to fellow top team mates Ronnie Feise and Scotty Knemeyer.
Name: Max Miller
Team: Defy Waterflight
2016 Hydro Fest – Pahrump, Nevada – 6th Place (Open Division)
2016 Hydroflight Invitational – Shreveport, Louisiana – 11th Place
Another one of the Team Defy hot shots, Ronnie ‘Punisher’ Feise is one of the bring it riders in the bunch. Feise didn’t get that tag line for nothing, he brings heat to his runs and manages to mix them up well with variants of tweaks, half turns and kicks to bring a different look to most of the standard tricks and combos out there. Always in the running, if he’s on his A game a run into the later rounds is a good bet.
Name: Ronnie Feise
Team: Defy Waterflight
2013 Flyboard World Cup – Doha, Qatar – 14th Place
2014 NAFB Championship – Toronto, Canada – 10th Place
2015 XDF World Cup – Skydive, Dubai – 15th Place
2016 Hydro Fest – Pahrump, Nevada – 11th Place (Pro Division)
2016 Hydroflight Invitational – Shreveport, Louisiana – 8th Place
Calling Ryan Lorence an underdog due to his short competitive resume would be doing him a disservice. Hydro Fest 2016 proved to be the exact opposite with him coming in hot with a strong debut that was littered with some really mean tweaks to some of the well known moves as well as some ‘not quite seen before’ adjustments to others. Very unorthodox rider which definitely makes him fun to watch.
Name: Ryan Lorence
2016 Hydro Fest – Pahrump, Nevada – 7th Place (Pro Division)
Gilvan Carneiro is one of the new athletes making his pro competitive debut in Bermuda. He comes from a surfing and snowboarding background, so it should be interesting to see how he applies some of his previous disciplines to his tricks. Word is that he’s pretty good too, an unknown makes him a wild card which should work well in his favor.
Name: Gilvan Carneiro
MEET THE JUDGES
Head Judge of Battle on the Rock 2017; Jason is determined to see competition judged from a competitor’s point of view while providing a top notch product and experience for all involved.
YANG DONG WON
An experienced veteran in the game, Yang Dong Won is a top rider from Korea with a multitude of podium finishes under his belt. He is a force to be reckoned with and has a keen eye for technical ability and risk taking.
No Stranger to the game; Adrian Boucher is a judge that has attended multiple flyboard World Cup’s. He has competed with some of the most recognizable names in the business including some of our other judges!
From the age of 6 Jordan Wayment has been on the water in another extreme discipline, wake-boarding. He’d even managed to get into competitive wake-boarding by age 14. Fast forward to 2013, Jordan first broke ice on the Hydroflight competitive circuit. Since then he’s become a very accomplished rider with a Top 10 placement in all of his competitions to date.
In the game since the start. Paul Bulka has been in the sport of hydroflight since as long as most can remember. A founding partner in Aquatic Aviation out of San Diego he has shared the love of flying with thousands of people.
COMPETITION MC – MATTHEW BEHRENDT
The Man Behind the Mic.. Matt Behrendt!
Knowledgeable, articulate, entertaining and dynamic. His in-depth, descriptive and educational commentary will connect the audience to the rider in a way nobody else does in the sport.
‘Battle on The Rock’ is extremely proud to have his quality on display as the MC!
These guys are what make or break an event. Let’s be completely honest our sport is personal watercraft dependent and we put a great deal of unique demands on the skis. Only the top techs can keep an event rolling along and Battle On The Rock has two of the best. H2RO is so happy to see Malvin Quinones and Kurt Binter on board for this historic event. Everyone in the industry values their expertise and respects their commitment to the sport of Hydroflight.
JETPACK INVASION AT BATTLE ON THE ROCK
BOTR will light up the skies with a special LED JetPack Invasion Show on August 25th at No. 1 Car Park, Front Street!
Battle on the Rock Babes
Beautiful competition location and the street will be pedestrian traffic only! Huge crowds enjoying restaurants, pubs and Hydroflight!
BATTLE ON THE ROCK EVENT SCHEDULE