Do you know who Mr. Hydro is? We hadn’t heard that nickname ourselves but apparently Matthew Behrendt looks like Mr. Clean and has been called Mr. Hydro. It’s a solid nickname for sure but we’ll stick with Matthew for this interview. As we do, H2RO has been closely observing each of the big five Hydroflight manufacturers and over the last year we’ve seen Matthew constantly popping up in fun videos, sharing his passion for the sport at events and seeming to create great relationships with both the public and fellow industry professionals as part of his work at FlyDive Inc.
Last week we connected for a very educational interview. Check it out and please feel free to drop any questions you may have for Matthew in the comments. We’ll get you answers right away.
H2RO talks with Matthew Behrendt of FlyDive
H2RO) Matthew, please share your background with us; I know you, but for those who don’t, who are you?
By nature I’m motivated by action and adventure – none of which is in short supply in this sport. I’ve also loved the water for as long as I can remember. Growing up in Michigan, one didn’t have to go far to find or enjoy it! I started swimming competitively at age 7, and my summers usually revolved around the beach including water skiing, boating and fishing.
After school, I joined the Marine Corps and flew on the UH-1 “Huey” helicopter as a crew chief which landed me at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, where I’ve lived ever since. After the Marine Corps, I started a career in Logistics and Supply Chain, which allowed me to travel and indulge my adventurous spirit. Eventually, through several entrepreneurial ventures where I added operational and business development chops, I came to FlyDive.
A year before being introduced to FlyDive, I remember seeing hydroflight online and thinking to myself how amazing it would be to experience it. I originally came on to build out the company infrastructure and shortly thereafter accepted the business development role, which has been nothing short of amazing! It’s been an honor being part of this team with the ability to meet so many talented individuals within the industry.
H2RO) What sports did you enjoy growing up and what was it about Hydroflight that attracted you?
As mentioned above I was a competitive swimmer from age 7 through high school, while also playing football and basketball. Since arriving in California 20 years ago, I’ve surfed, and four years ago I began competing in marathons and triathlons, although all my time on the road in 2016 prevented me from competing. I was attracted to hydroflight for two reasons… water and adventure, my favorite things.
H2RO) What past work experience has brought you to the Hydroflight industry, and what do you think the opportunities are for growth in the business?
I’d like to think my deep experience in operations, customer satisfaction and supply chain management made for a great fit, given the profound vision that FlyDive has for the industry. It’s run realizing that mankind has dreamt of flight since the beginning of time, and my job is focused on making that dream of flight come true for customers. I think FlyDive has created the easiest and most cost effective way for people to experience personal flight; that keeps me pretty excited on a daily basis.
The growth opportunities in this business are many, and they exist for product manufacturers, rental operators, athletes and performers alike but we believe the opportunities in this new sport will be driven by experience. Amazing experiences need to be made available to spectators, participants, vendors, and all others who are or will become involved in the business. This is one of the reasons why FlyDive places satisfying experiences above all else in our Ethos.
H2RO) I hear you’re starting to get a pretty solid repertoire of Jetboard tricks down, are we going to see you repping the X-Board in future competitions?
I’ve been fortunate enough to fly with some amazing jetboarders but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d be more effective repping the X-Board on the ground than in the air, lol.
H2RO) What’s your perspective on the Hydroflight business, where has it been, and where is it going or trying to go?
This is a topic of many discussions at FlyDive. It may come as a surprise that the majority of people we meet are still widely unfamiliar with the sport, which must change. And from a business standpoint, I was quickly acquainted with the lack of satisfaction in the industry among dealers and rental operators when I started the business development side of things; this provided FlyDive with an opportunity that matched us as a team. There has been little sophistication in terms of professionally supporting businesses trying to thrive in this industry.
So – where has Hydroflight been? The sport “made a splash” when it debuted, attracting attention from media as well as water sports enthusiasts with ample discretionary income. With that said, I feel it’s remained relatively unknown and plagued with a perception of being unattainable by the broader demographic, due to lofty prices and assumptions made about safety and athletic ability required. It’s also been impacted (negatively) from in-fighting, legal threats, and “fly by night” operations, all of which have left sub-par experiences in their wake.
FlyDive and I personally want nothing less than to create a thriving, exciting, and enduring industry. We want to see easy and affordable access to hydroflight experiences, and great memories being created at lakes, rivers and oceans where families gather. We need credible competitions taking place globally with kids lining up to get autographs from their favorite pro flyers, crowds in the stands and creative, fun events that grab the attention of the public (not just the inner circle of industry enthusiasts).
H2RO) Can you share some of the stories of different Hydroflight dealers you’ve met while traveling around the country so far?
One of the most memorable dealer stories was that of Mosites Motorsports outside of Pittsburgh, PA. I attended the Pittsburgh Regatta with “Typhoon” Tommy Nuttall – an amazing guy, hydroflight athlete and judge. It was a last minute decision to attend, so I reached out to Mosites who happened to be one of the event sponsors. They couldn’t sign on as a dealer due to how late in the season it was, but they agreed to provide one of their demo PWC’s for us to perform with Tommy and his crew. After witnessing the crowd’s response to Tommy’s sons and FlyDive riders, they realized the potential and ended up signing on. We stayed an extra day to train their team and invited folks out and we ended up flying the city planner who stopped by after seeing us flying at the river.
Later in the year at the AIMExpo, the dealership owner (Doug) came up to me and said “Matt you need to watch this video”. He then went on to share about his middle son, who I believe is 10, and is non-verbal autistic. Explaining how his son doesn’t really participate in anything due to his condition, he went on to share that one day after seeing his older brother fly, he pointed to his feet yelling “Feet!…Feet!” Wasting no time, Doug got into the water to help his son experience hydroflight, and the video and story is so inspiring. His son flew on his first try and started flapping his arms like a bird – he was truly flying!
What started out as a dealer relationship turned into a life-changing experience; words can’t really describe how special that was to all of us.
H2RO) What about rental operators, have you met some interesting folks who get people up flying on a daily basis?
I certainly have! One of the first was Rush Bragg; I was impressed with his dedication to the sport and introducing people to Hydroflight. He has a great team, location, and overall knowledge of flying beginners, which led to some vibrant conversations over the last year. Another operation that stands out is Jetpack America who goes out of their way to make memorable moments for very special people. Dean O’Malley with Jetpack America has done an excellent job at recruiting folks who’ve been great ambassadors for Hydroflight, and I was honored to participate in one particular event last year. Dean and his team go out of their way to make flying a reality for lots of folks, which really helps move the industry forward.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many rental operators in the past year, from all across the country, some of who have been very active in providing helpful feedback on how FlyDive can improve our offerings and support to enable rental businesses to thrive. We’ve implemented several improvements based on that feedback. One of the most important aspects of our business is helping hydroflight operations to grow theirs.
H2RO) FlyDive has been a very active company in the Hydroflight space so I’m curious what your personal highlights were in 2016?
Probably my most memorable experience was in Austin, TX during Hydrojam. Until that time my focus was solely on new consumers who, for the most part, were not aware of the hydroflight industry or even the different manufacturers. For this reason, in addition to being new in the industry, I was unaware of the fierceness with which athletes and customers supported their manufacturer of choice. When FlyDive showed up on the scene, we received a lot of positive comments regarding our display, tent, team etc, which seemed good, but then people started coming up and sharing their pre-conceived opinions of our board, without ever having tried it.
Our team had two goals in attending – introduce people within the industry to FlyDive and our products, and fly as many new people as possible. I’m happy to say we accomplished both goals! We found that the more people asked questions, the more they discovered how different our board really was, with its innovations in design, premium components, competitive price, and of course how our team was dedicated to introducing the masses to hydroflight. We made many friends and were excited to let anyone and everyone experience the X-board (even if they enjoyed it, but didn’t want to share their feedback in a public forum; it’s pretty fun having covert fans).
One discussion out of hundreds stood out, and that’s when I met Stuart Caruk. Stuart has an amazing mind, and anyone who knows him will agree that he truly understands the mechanics, components and engineering behind a hydroflight device. I’d love to share how that discussion started and how it progressed from critic to appreciative supporter, but haven’t had an opportunity to get Stuart’s permission to share. With that said – please keep Stuart in your thoughts and prayers as he’s facing some rather significant health challenges now and I’m sure he’d appreciate it. Of course I’m selfish in wanting him to experience a speedy recovery so I can spend some more time flying with him!
H2RO) Our young industry continues to see innovation on a number of fronts, what innovations from FlyDive are you most proud of?
We have several innovations that I’m proud of!
- Our DRS Tech™, which stands for Dynamic Response and Stability Technology consists of several key performance solutions in one well-engineered package. Our proprietary helical splitter allows for the nozzles to be placed directly underneath the feet, which provides an effortless response to input. Additionally, by bringing the foot placement directly over the axis of rotation (vs several inches above the axis) we’ve significantly reduced what we would call the “High Heel Effect” (which essentially loads torque on your feet and ankles when making corrections or coming out of tricks, or nearing the limit of the hose reach). All of this allows the rider (beginner or advanced) to gain and maintain balance easily, for best stability and also responsiveness when transitioning from trick to trick if you’re advanced.
- Our TSR (Tether Strain Relief) System. We’ve placed a beveled ring inside the hose and encased it with a saddle clamp, which attaches to the tow eye of the PWC via a tether. This takes ALL the tugging and torque off of the PWC pump, preventing damage to the pump and the adapter plate.
- Our manufacturing and supply chain allows us to provide all premium material and components to our clients, while at the same time being able to offer the most competitive pricing. We’ve committed to on-hand availability for all product and parts, so no longer do rental operators or dealers need to wait for product or worry about currency exchanges which can cause fluctuations in pricing. We want to help hydroflight businesses operate painlessly and profitably.
H2RO) With the challenges dealers and rental operators face in the Hydroflight business, what’s FlyDive’s approach to making it easier to serve customers?
When I first started traveling and meeting distributors, dealers, and rental operators, I heard a lot about their frustrations which seemed to center around parts availability & lead times, customer service, and territories. We knew these issues existed, but had no idea to what extent. As FlyDive’s focus was in building the broader demographic, we took these considerations into account before going to market. Some of the approaches we’ve taken to support and protect the interests of those who join the FlyDive family of dealers and rental operators are:
- We implemented and enforce a strict MAP pricing policy, so our dealers have peace of mind that we’re leveling the playing field, and they don’t have to worry about being undercut. This makes it fair for all customers, and all of the hard-working dealers who invest their own money to bring hydroflight to their customer and communities.
- We invested heavily in our online dealer portal where our partners can order products, parts, and download digital promotional assets for their business among other things.
- We’ve committed to always having ample inventory on-hand within the U.S. which has been incredibly helpful to our dealers and rental operators. Our dealers rest easy knowing we can deliver next day to ensure a sale if needed.
These have been the most impactful in my opinion, and we continue to engage with our partners to learn how we can improve and become better partners in growing their businesses in a healthy manner.
H2RO) What’s new for 2017 and beyond at FlyDive, any sneak peeks or secrets you can give us a little teaser of?
There is a lot going on this year, and we kicked it off with the acquisition of Jetpack America. FlyDive continues to receive amazing feedback from rental operators who have switched to the X-Board because of how it improves their customer’s flying experience and satisfaction. Acquiring the most recognized brand for rental operations in the U.S. was a great way to capitalize on that and I’m excited for what’s to come.
I’d encourage anyone who is interested in what we’re doing to give us a call, and I’d be happy to share more about what we can do to help you grow your hydroflight business in 2017 and beyond, we’re excited to build this industry together!
Thanks very much for your time Matt and all the best to you and your team!
If you want to learn more about FlyDive and connect with them please visit FlyDive.com or call 844-FLYDIVE