H2RO Magazine is excited to introduce you to the Battle On The Rock Hydroflight Jetboard Competitors who will be inspiring the expected record crowds in Hamilton, Bermuda on August 25 – 27. The competition format has been designed by a seasoned Hydroflight competitor ( Callon Burns ), judges are all experienced athletes ( Head Judge Jason Gauthier, Yang Dong Won, Adrian Boucher, Jordan Wayment and Paul Bulka) and we expect to see the competitors at the very top of their games. For many this late August date means they’ve had a chance to train during their summer season and are traveling to Bermuda well prepared.
Hydroflight Jetboard Competitors
TJ Andrews: One of the most consistent athletes in the game, TJ unleashed his championship level flying on his fellow competitors most recently during the Flyboard National Tour and World Cup events. With a 2nd place finish in Pensacola, 4th at the World Cup and 3rd in Erie he seems to be coming into Bermuda as a podium favorite.
Why He’ll Win: The combination of experience and no fear is what makes TJ a threat in any competition. He’s willing to throw his biggest tricks from sixty feet up and he’s also technically sound with combo infinity flips and triples in his repertoire.
Why He Won’t: Going into Bermuda there’s a chance he won’t be physically feeling 100% but even if he’s close he could take the title. The real challenge is how quickly the other top competitors are adding new tricks a few that we’ve not seen Andrews attempt to date.
Brody Wells: No athlete has been competing longer than Brody Wells and since the first Flyboard World Cup back in 2012 he has raised his game each and every time out finding a way to consistently crack the top ten. A leader to his Team Canfly crew on and off the water Wells continues to make a huge impact on our sport both in Canada and beyond.
Why He’ll Win: I don’t know if it’s so much about winning Battle On The Rock but more importantly for Brody it’s a chance to enjoy seeing the evolution of the sport he helped to develop. CanFly is one of the best examples of the ‘Open’ philosophy that Hydro Fest began last year and Battle On The Rock will continue next week. Sportsmanship, professionalism and some seriously sick flyers that’s what Canada is sending to the Island and expect Wells to once again make the top eight very nervous.
Why He Won’t: I don’t expect Brody to be surprising us with a front flip combo in Bermuda, but some athletes may, and this is really the difference when it comes to the top of the podium. That’s cool though because the pure joy of battle is what has always been most important.
Callon Burns: The heart of Battle On The Rock is Mr. Burns. Cal willed this competition into existence for his home country by partnering with the world class Savvy Entertainment and finding great support from the city of Hamilton. Once the pieces were in place he shifted gears and prepared to compete. Looking back on his 2015 competitive rounds in Dubai, Cal was in great form with a very technical mix of tricks. How is he planning on taking advantage of his home court advantage we shall have to wait and see!
Why He’ll Win: Burns is a physically gifted athlete and throws the board around with an ease most competitors struggle to duplicate. His ability to change directions mid trick is unique and he’ll be riding proud as he is the only athlete repping Bermuda.
Why He Won’t: This is a bit of comeback event as Burns has been away from competitive flying for a while. He could certainly surprise us but it remains to be seen if he’s been able to add the newest tricks to his arsenal, ones that will be needed to land on the podium. He will pack a lot of punches into a 1:30 though and we’d expect nothing less from the boxer.
Rush Bragg: Look who’s at the top of the Flyboard National Tour standings. Yes, Bragg has been at the top of his game both in Pensacola where he won Round One and in Erie where he finished second. A very precise rider, Bragg nails a lot of landings and keeps things clean which a judging panel full of former Hydroflight competitors will really appreciate.
Why He’ll Win: He can fly mistake free and with these short rounds that will be essential. Rush also has the ability to drop combos one after another and we expect he will be one of the athletes who is able to fit in more scoreable elements into each run.
Why He Won’t: This sport is about athleticism guided by strategy coupling with power. If the skis seem under powered for any reason Bragg will likely be one of the athletes who sees his triples turn into doubles and that may be the difference. He’s proven he can win but this field looks very strong and all of his big combos are going to need to be on display to do it again.
Scotty Knemeyer: Hydro Fest was the stage and Scotty Knemeyer put on the show. It wasn’t just the judges who were impressed putting Knemeyer on his first podium (3rd Place Pro Division) but also his peers and the fans that got an up close look at what ‘flow’ within a run is all about. Flying on the 3 axis Jetdeck triples were not an option but style, double combos, RPM spins and unique lines painted a pretty epic picture in the Nevada sky. Bermuda watch out!
Why He’ll Win: Scotty is a pure talent on the board and an athlete in tremendous physical condition. His strength allows him to fight through tricks and land them where others would get hung up. He also has a great sense of style and rides smooth and in control. With a powerful ski, and possibly a lighter board should he choose (Jetdeck X2) Scotty will be aggressive and going big, every round, every time.
Why He Won’t: Training has always been a challenge for this resident of Hawaii as he appears to be the only Hydroflight athlete in that part of the world flying at a Pro level. This disconnect and lack of time on the board has likely slowed his progression some but as the travel for shows picked up we think he’ll be feeling pretty ready next week. Going to need to see bigger flip tricks than in the past if he wants to take out the top competitors.
Jordan Fabro: He’s wild, he’s really fun to watch and at least once a round you’ll cover your eyes in fear. At least that was the full tuck triple smashing Jordan from a year ago. We’ve seen proof that he’s been tuning up his game and executing with a lot more control which is good because judges don’t like athletes living too dangerously.
Why He’ll Win: As mentioned Jordan tries things no other athlete is willing to attempt and if he can start landing these unique creations consistently then his scores will jump up significantly. He also has shown the ability to work horizontally which elongates flip tricks and adds a cool factor. Fabro is a competitor we are very curious about going into BOTR.
Why He Won’t: Short rounds. There just will not be time to recover from big missed tricks in Bermuda. You either fly clean or spend half your run collecting yourself and setting back up. Flying clean in training is one thing, pushing for your best under competition pressure and still keeping it clean is another.
Hunter Verlander: If you know anything about Hydroflight you will recognize the name Hunter Verlander. Last year at Hydro Fest, the 2015 Flyboard World Champion, finished 2nd giving Ben Merrell all he could handle and proving that he is able to consistently deliver when the pressure is on. It hasn’t been an easy time since then with some serious medical issues keeping him off the water for long stretches but Battle On The Rock will provide the young Texan another opportunity to show the world why he’s considered one of the best in the sport.
Why He’ll Win: He’s won before. He can triple in his sleep and he can fly fast. In the blink of an eye the ‘Poison Dart Frog’ can throw multiple combos that only serve to set something bigger up. Adding to his speed and technical chops, Verlander will be competing in Bermuda on his brand new Jetblade Scorpion. This board is only 4.55 kilos and it’s light weight will only serve to sharpen Hunter’s attack. Even with the time off Verlander is on everyone’s radar as a contender and he’s earned that.
Why He Won’t: It’s been a long time since Hydro Fest and there has once again been significant progression from a number of athletes. Runs that have wowed in the past may not continue to cut it and pushing past comfort zones, especially ones that have proved successful in the past, can be very difficult to do. We know Hunter is great, but he’s not unbeatable.
Kristen Smoyer: We fu*#ing love this! Kristen ‘The Destroyer’ Smoyer, dominant Hydroflight athlete in the Ladies Division, happily accepting the challenge to mix it up with the guys in Bermuda. She has all the skills to compete at the highest men’s Pro level and is such a fierce competitor that as she told H2RO, “Just want a chance to go out there and try my hardest to do the best I can. Besides my toughest competition will be there… myself“
Why She’ll Win: Flyboard World Champion, HydroFest Champion, Flyboard Tour first place in both rounds, basically she kicks a lot of ass and she really doesn’t need to reinvent her game to compete with the men but rather be timely with her big tricks, and as everyone must, fly clean. She’ll have a lot of fans in Hamilton!
Why She Won’t: No matter her placing at this event, her participation and inspirational leadership in our sport makes her a Champion already. Maybe her front flip to triple combo won’t be ready by next week… and that’s ok. Whatever she throws her presence on the board commands your attention and will have ladies of all ages around the world eager to follow in her footsteps.
Sean Ray: I can’t think of another athlete who’s gone ‘All In’ on his Hydroflight dream as dramatically as Sean Ray. Only a year ago at Hydro Fest we saw Sean in his first competition and knew there was potential in the way he was flying but there’s potential in many that finish mid-pack. The question that has been emphatically answered in the 14 months that has followed is YES he will put the work in and YES he is Championship material. Not only has he made a name for himself on the water, winning the Erie Flyboard Tour stop, but his lovely and talented partner Lena Camargo has been rocking the MC duties along with Jordan Wayment on the tour.
Why He’ll Win: Coming off his first competitive victory should have him in a good head space and that confidence will help when taxiing out in front of the large Bermudian crowd. Sean’s flying is dynamic and exciting with Universals, combo Infinity flips and thread-the-needles all woven into fast paced runs. He’s driven to be one of the best and Bermuda is another opportunity to prove he’s just that.
Why He Won’t: This will be a theme in our profiles but the short Battle On The Rock rounds mean you can’t afford to be complacent and drop a couple of single flips while you think about what comes next. There’s no time to get caught doing anything ‘small’ as this filler will hurt your score. Sean’s been flying a lot and likely knows to watch out for this but we think it’s a reason that some big names may miss the podium.
Max Miller: If this was a hybrid competition with Jetboard and Jetbike runs then Max would be dominant. He rips on both rides and has an awesome training partner in Ronnie Feise. It will be interesting to see which version of board he flies and what difference that will make with strategy in Bermuda.
Why He’ll Win: Miller flies with great control and confidence, two things that the judges like to see but the big combos will need to be part of his runs if he wants a shot at the podium. It’s been a long time since the last competition so much may have improved.
Why He Won’t: Having been part of the Pro B Division at Hydro Fest there’s room to improve and still not be a top five finisher…and that’s ok. Pushing for personal bests should always be an athletes first goal and we look forward to seeing what Max Miller’s personal best looks like next week.
Jake Orel: Jake ‘JSmooth’ Orel is back! Not that he hasn’t been flying a ton as part of his gig at San Deigo SeaWorld and at shows like the Red Bull Air Race but this is his first competition since SESSION ONE. Jake’s competitive resume speaks for itself and he looked sharp when we saw him in San Diego. H2RO is very excited to see him back in competitive form next week.
Why He’ll Win: Jake has been in World Cup finals so he knows what pressure flying feels like, he flies in front of huge crowds regularly so that won’t shake him in Bermuda and his flying style is beautiful to watch. One thing Orel has always been is a master of transitions, flowing from combo to combo with little wasted effort. That will be important and why his return to competitive flying will likely be a very successful one.
Why He Won’t: As Hydroflight athletes who perform often know, show flying is much different than competition flying. What wows the public doesn’t necessarily wow the judges and Jake has been show flying for a long time. His training going into Bermuda will have to include bringing back that ‘risk taking’ element and pushing for tricks he would not have been throwing at SeaWorld.
Ashton Beukers: Team Canfly’s Ashton Beukers has competed in six events, four of which he placed in the top five. A constant threat to podium, Beukers is not a guy you want to see in an early battle round. His hunger to break through and finally hold a big check must be at an all time high and we expect rather un-Canadian unapologetic attempts at ass-kicking this time out!
Why He’ll Win: Every time you compete you learn something about yourself and what it takes to win. Beukers has a wealth of experience to draw from and is an athlete who has proven he can hold up physically round after round. If his big combos are supported by more diversity in between then Ashton could finally have his first big payday.
Why He Won’t: There are two things for Ashton to consider: 1) There won’t be time to circle and think so Beukers, like his fellow competitors, will have to be committed to a one minute and thirty second run that is bangin’ from start to finish. 2) Non combo’d flip tricks. Using valuable time up to just throw an isolated double will likely be what the bottom half of the competition include in their runs… the top are going to be stringing tricks together.
Ben Merrell: If this Hydroflight competition was like the Mayweather vs McGregor fight then Ben Merrell’s Facebook post of his front flip to double backflip combo a week ago would equate to press conference trash talk. The good thing for the other competitors is that Hydroflight isn’t a one punch (or one trick) knockout scenario. One massive combo like this is hugely impressive but still needs to be complimented by a clean run. The problem for BOTR competitors is Merrell is also consistently capable of high scoring clean runs.
Why He’ll Win: The Hydro Fest Champion is one of the most dedicated athletes in our sport. Investing huge amounts of time on the water, time away from family and money to fly at the very highest level. Tasting victory for the first time in Nevada didn’t spawn any complacency or over confidence but instead fueled his training. The only thing to match Merrell’s innovation on the water is perhaps his new Jetblade Scorpion on his feet. Every Scorpion clip we’ve seen from Ben leads us to believe he’ll be somewhere on that podium come next weekend.
Why He Won’t: Battle On The Rock has a very strong field mixed with athletes who’ve competed often over the past twelve months and some that have not competed at all. Much of what will blow our minds in Bermuda is being kept secret going in. We never underestimate what the top athletes will attempt to pull off once they see their peers throwing down right in front of them. The other factor is actually landing a crushing combo like a front to double back. What if Ben goes for it and misses the front landing? The door then opens slightly and someone else may walk right on through.
Curtis Pangrass: We’re just guessing here but we suspect that when Curtis Pangrass landed an insane 720 Universal during the 2017 Flyboard World Cup it was at that moment that his fellow competitors secretly starting inserting ‘Pain-in-the-ass’ as his new middle name..lol. Pangrass is now the Team Canfly member who we’ve witnessed throw down the biggest and baddest tricks in competition. He definitely has the skills, now what?
What He’ll Win: It’s a lot harder to master something like a 720 Universal than to tune up transitions and clean landings (we think) and so if Pangrass can sharpen the details he most certainly has the firepower to score really high. With greater control will come the style points and with those additional points will come a podium finish.
Why He Won’t: Even with a highlight reel of huge tricks Pangrass finished out of the top 15 in Naples. There is some kind of disconnect between what the judges need to see and what Curtis has offered up to date. If he cannot figure out how to change that then he will generate more ohhhs and ahhhs from the crowd than points from the judges.
Logan Foust: If we asked Logan ‘are you ready to take on the top athletes at Battle On The Rock?’ he would reply ‘Yes Sir’. And his polite answer would be correct. Foust has been on a slow but consistent trajectory upwards as his flying improved with each competitive round he’s participated in. The last we saw of Logan was Hydro Fest and that’s quite a bit of time to take his flying up one more level.
Why He’ll Win: He’s technically sound due to being well trained but it seems a bit unrealistic to put ‘top of the podium’ kind of pressure on this teenager. Instead we’ll let Foust fly in under the radar and quietly impress. The Judges are all high level flyers themselves so they’ll appreciate the execution that Logan delivers.
Why He Won’t: Competitive Hydroflight in 2017 has big combination tricks executed with control at very high speeds and two of these elements have yet to be displayed by this young athlete. He’s got great control of what he does choose to throw but will have had to have made up significant ground on his speed and a willingness to go much higher and bigger. We’re excited to witness his continued progression.
Connor Brondes: The blonde locks will be flowing in the Bermudian breeze as we get another look at Connor Brondes who came onto the scene at the 2015 North American Flyboard Championship and has now resurfaced with a strong showing on the Flyboard National Tour. Currently sitting in 5th, ahead of big names like Cooper Riggs and Brody Wells, Brondes seems in fine form going into Bermuda.
Why He’ll Win: The tour has been very competitive so to be sitting in 5th is impressive. We only saw a small sampling of what he threw down in Round 2 so we don’t totally know what to expect in terms of is competitive ceiling. If his best is on display next week he’ll be shaking things up and likely flirting with the top five again.
Why He Won’t: Similar to our comment on Ashton Buekers, Brondes will need to move beyond doubles with no combo and even singles with no real purpose in the run. The top athletes have moved beyond those moves and so have the judges.
Casey ‘Swizzle’ Mcelwee: Think you can’t move from recreational flying to competitive? Casey is a great example that yes you can. He trained himself up and began competing finding his first podium for the Pro B Division last year at Hydro Fest. Casey is not one to be ignored whether it’s his florescent pink Dolphin Board or very strong opinions.
Why He’ll Win: Casey is another athlete that needs power in order to get his big combos down but that being said, he does have some very cool big combos that can score high. Swizzle employs backwards flight to his advantage and the dude jumps out of planes for fun so height is not an issue for him.
Why He Won’t: To break through the barrier of the top athletes Mcelwee will need to address diversity and speed. The rounds are short and set up times small so getting in and out of combos smoothly will be important.
David Soldato: A positive force within our industry both on and off the water, Soldato’s Georgia Flyboard has stepped up as a Battle On The Rock sponsor and the man himself is coming into the comp on the heels of two strong performances on the Flyboard National Tour.
Why He’ll Win: David seems to be flying a lot as part of Team Flycaptain, traveling to Argentina for the National Championship event, throwing down at World Cup events and finding himself in 7th on the Flyboard National Tour rankings. Soldato is very strong and stable on his Flyboard meaning the tricks he does throw score well for execution.
Why He Won’t: There is one more level of complexity needing to be added to Soldato’s game to crack the podium. The huge dives, may need to turn into huge spinner dives, the 360 double, will likely need to become a 720 Infinity and so on. If he can add an additional technical wrinkle to his runs in Bermuda then watch out.
Geoff Hulet: Coach/Motivator/Jetboard athlete, Geoff Hulet is an awesome combination of all three. If you need a pep talk going into your run find this guy and give him your ear for five minutes. It was great to also see him deliver on the water at the 2016 Flyboard World Cup where he finished 7th among a very strong field. A dynamic flyer, his energy is always an awesome addition to any Hydroflight event.
Why He’ll Win: Anytime you have an athlete with a great foundation of skills and experience flying in huge shows you can never count them out. If Geoff can continue to up his ‘difficulty level’ with his combos then he’ll be a real force. If not he’ll at the very least put on a great show.
Why He Won’t: If doubles continue to be the ‘big’ moment in Hulet’s runs then a podium finish is not in the cards. There is still much to love about the style of his flying though and the connection he makes with the any/all crowds.
Corey Egan: Corey’s played a longstanding role in the industry both as a business owner and athlete. His time spent with Team Canfly has helped him take his flying to another level so it will be fun in Bermuda to finally see how Egan’s style has evolved.
Why He’ll Win: In Bermuda it will be about being competitive and setting new personal bests for Egan. Not many rungs in the Hydroflight ladder can be skipped and so the climb will need to continue before we expect to see his inclusion in any final battle rounds.
Why He Won’t: Seeing Corey competing is rad and speaks to the passion and joy athletes of all abilities feel when they fly. The comradery, sense of community and pure fun that competitors experience during these opportunities is why most travel the world to participate.
Mike Prince: With some nagging injuries and a transition to the Jetblade to deal with early in the year, it will be very interesting to see if these final weeks of training have strengthened the legs up enough to be comfortable with pulling off his signature moves. We hope to see Mike at 100% next week.
Why He’ll Win: Mike has been pretty methodical with his approach, first adding the staple tricks to his repertoire and then finding ways to tweak them into his own style. The cork to flip combos and surf slides into tricks are samples of the unique flavors (flavours for my fellow Canadians) Prince can build upon in order to find his first podium.
Why He Won’t: The knees have to cooperate in order to clean up all landings, as that is where key points are lost during Prince’s runs. With no ‘do-over’ time in a short minute thirty run keeping things clean and big is necessary. If it’s any consolation, should he not find the top of the podium, Mike is still our page one stud for the Hydroflight pinup calendar.
Ronnie Feise: The Jetdeck martial artist will once again deliver his Hydroflight Kata next week and we suspect it remains at the Black Belt level. Feise (aka The Punisher) is an experienced athlete with a wealth of competitive knowledge to lean on. He is an innovator and we look forward to seeing his unique mix of controlled technique and all out aggression on display.
Why He’ll Win: In the past the three minutes + length routines were very challenging, both from an energy level and trick diversity perspective. For athletes that have been around many years like Ronnie, he will have an advantage in knowing exactly what his ‘A’ stuff is and pack the short Battle On The Rock runs full of it. We believe this format creates opportunities for upsets. We’ll see.
Why He Won’t: With all the recent innovation and greater diversity in the available trick catalogue, our sport still remains flip centric. The difference is that with more power and better technique athletes are tripling way more often and quads may be in play. This poses the biggest challenge to the athletes who have not yet broken the double barrier. Again, will the X2 come into play for Ronnie… maybe.
Ryan Lorence: A very significant and exciting late addition to the roster, Ryan was able to change the way we looked at Jetboard freestyle in one competitive appearance. At Hydro Fest he unleashed his unique flying style and opened up the creative floodgates. So awesome to have another chance to see him do battle.
Why He’ll Win: Showing the judges something they’ve never seen before inspires and builds great energy quickly. This is one advantage Lorence proved within about thirty seconds of his first run in Nevada. His backwards superman to flip combos were scary awesome and ended up being just the tip of the originality iceberg. Whatever he brings to Bermuda it could very well be enough to land on the podium.
Why He Won’t: With risk comes reward but also comes the potential to miss landings negating most of the upside to the trick variation. His final placement will have a lot to do with how sharp and clean he can keep his runs.
Fernando Spinelli: We didn’t think Fernando would make the party in Bermuda but he has and we’re stoked to get a chance to see the Argentina Flyboard Champion in action again.
Why He’ll Win: Spinelli has competitive experience and with each event gets a little smoother and more consistent with his big tricks. It will take his absolute best to crack the top eight but isn’t that the goal, throw down your absolute best.
Why He Won’t: If his 20th place finish at the 2017 Flyboard World Cup is still a good gauge of Spinelli’s skills then a better goal would be to set his sights on finishing higher than athletes like Soldato, Beukers, and Brondes who edged him out in France.
Gilvan Caneiro: New blood on the scene is always exciting. Gilvan Caneiro is a surfer, snowboarder and now Jetboard freestyler who is looking to wipe the notion that experience matters completely from our minds.
Why He’ll Win: The early pioneers had little frame of reference for what other athletes were throwing (though H2RO did our best to educate) but now new athletes can come in having watched all the biggest names pulling the biggest tricks and prepare much better. Add in the first Hydro-Frontside Misty and you just never know who the checks will be made out to.
Why He Won’t: You’re first competition in a field this strong will most likely mean a great educational experience rather than victory. Should be an inspiring weekend either way and you can’t beat the location.
Gage Beam: H2RO is looking forward to seeing another first time competitor in Bermuda. Teen athletes have been dominant in our sport since the very beginning so we never underestimate.
Why He’ll Win: Youthful optimism.
Why He Won’t: If all he has is youthful optimism.
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OPEN HYDROFLIGHT COMPETITIONS
There is a lot of excitement in the air here at H2RO as we look towards 2018 and what it could hold for our sport. Our curiosity is seriously peaked and we look forward to helping make some big announcements soon. Battle On The Rock is significant for many reasons as it is only the second open Hydroflight Competition ever held and the first in Bermuda. Athletes from around the world flying on the equipment of their choice is a formula for huge success and the companies who have stepped up to support the event recognize that.
H2RO would like to shout out Savvy Entertainment Bermuda, Bermuda Tourism Authority, City of Hamilton, Calico Jacks, FlyDive, X-Jets, WKD, Coconut Rockets Bermuda Flyboard, Lucozade, Goslings, Georgia Flyboard, Kinezumi Watersports, Hydro Score, and Flytronics for their tremendous support of this Hydroflight Jetboard competition.
Exposing Hydroflight to more and more people is our daily goal here at H2RO and with open Jetboard competitions fans are given the chance to see all the board brands in action and better appreciate the rental and purchase options that exist.
FlyDive CEO, Christos Nicolaidis said ” This true open competition is the platform that will launch the industry on a new trajectory with an amazing line-up of athletes riding all board brands. A new audience of spectators will witness the sport for the first time and Hydroflight will get its moment in time on the world stage.”
We also keyed in on another part of their recent press release which read: As part of our mission to bring Hydroflight to the masses, FlyDive is currently securing corporate sponsorship for a National Education Hydroflight Tour across the United States.
Educate the public, get more people involved, inspire the youth and expand the competitive and professional opportunities for our athletes…that’s what we at H2RO hope to see from everyone involved in our industry.
See you in Bermuda!