Located in Redding, California, Jetavation Inc was started in March of 2012 by Robert Innes as a sister company to Innespace Productions, manufacture of the incredible Seabreacher. A friendly race and freestyle competition was recently held in Northern California for both new and seasoned Seabreacher pilots. An awesome looking group if we do say so ourselves.
Rob and his team are constantly innovating within the Hydroflight world as well bringing to life new experiences and allowing everyone an opportunity to fly. H2RO has been following the work of Jetavation for some time and once we connected with stunt pilot Kurt Binter we began to get fully stoked on his favorite ride the Jetovator. We also started to see more and more Pro Hydroflight athletes pushing that product to new heights and saw that it was quickly becoming a whole new kind of extreme.
It’s the difference between riding a skateboard and riding a bike. Everyone has ridden a bike says Kurt and everyone can get out on a Jetovator and have a blast flying.
Boards, boards, boards, have been our life here at H2RO for the first two years and a few weeks ago we finally talked Jetpacks and now we’ve become fully enthralled with the Jetovator. At first glance many don’t know what to expect from the device, three jets, hand controls, but get out on one and everyone from beginners to veteran Hydroflight athletes seem to say the same thing… the Jetovator is unique, it’s awesome, it’s fast and it’s fun.
Unlike the underfoot boards that you know well, the Jetovator is not solely controlled by the legs and ankles it has two jets controlled by the riders hands that allow for steering, spins, flips and even underwater barrel rolls. As you’ll see when you watch their tutorial videos embedded in this article riders are encouraged not to sit down on the bikes seat but to stand and use that upright balance as a way to lean into turns and control the product in and out of the water. In this standing position it is easier for the flyer to counter balance when the nose comes up as you go vertical and also hold your position so you don’t use the hand controllers for balance. As with all Hydroflight devices we encourage you to fly with a certified instructor, wear the proper safety gear and make sure your GoPro doesn’t have its skeleton housing on!
Who better to introduce you to the Jetovator than Jetavation stunt pilot Kurt Binter, Pro Hydroflight athlete Ronnie Feise of Hydro Rockets, and Fly Lake Austin’s Ed Hughes. This video was a collaboration between each of them and H2RO Magazine so check it out!
If it’s awesome then Devin Super Tramp has made a cool video about it… Pure Fun!
As part of H2RO’s exploration into the Jetovator we decided to speak with Rob Innes, General Manager of INNESPACE PRODUCTIONS, INC and find out more about his companies history, the products, and his insights into the vertical water sports industry.
H2RO MAGAZINE EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ROB INNES
H2RO) Rob, please tell us about your professional background, how you were introduced to the world of vertical water sports, the origins of your company and how you put your team together?
I’ve been designing and building weird and wonderful watercraft most of my adult life and, even as a kid, I was always sketching cars, planes, submarines, spaceships, and outlandish futuristic vehicles. The very first watercraft I conceived over 20 years ago was actually very similar in concept (and name) to the Jetovator we sell today. The “Penetrator”, yes that’s actually what I named it, was a motorcycle style submersible watercraft that you rode very similar to the Jetovator, but it had a Kawasaki 650 Jet-ski motor on the inside. I turned the steering nozzle 90 degrees so it moved up and down and added two independent wings on the nose which you could manipulate much like the Jetovator’s front control nozzles. In theory, it was supposed to porpoise the rider in and out of the water like a dolphin and perform aerial stunts like we see today with vertical watersports products. The prototype didn’t really function like the mythical dolphin vehicle I envisioned. Because it had an internal engine, it was heavy, it had limited directional control at low speeds, and would eject the rider during higher speed dives, plus the engine was constantly taking in water during dives. While building the Penetrator, I met up with a Californian designer who had built a fully enclosed submersible prototype that resembled a dolphin and I thought it was just the coolest idea ever. With his encouragement I and a Machinist friend of mine got to building our own prototype Dolphin and we powered it with a Yamaha 110hp 2 stroke. After several years of development it really started to perform pretty well, doing short dives, little jumps, and barrel rolls. We started taking it to shows putting on demos and we were overrun with people wanting to buy one. There were a few problems of course. It was a very small, unstable, unreliable, single seater, coffin with no flotation and no US Coastguard compliance to legally sell it.
That’s when we decided to start from scratch and build the much larger, two seat, Seabreacher that was purpose-built to meet all the safety standards so we could safely and legally sell it like a conventional inboard powerboat. This took close to five years to self fund and develop to a market ready product. We have been custom building, refining, and selling them ever since. We have built Dolphins, Sharks, Whales, Sailfish, a Manatee, Fighter planes, Hot-Rods, and we are even building a 100% carbon fiber 330hp racing version!
The Seabreachers are primarily powered by Rotax 260 supercharged engines but we have also installed Kawasaki, Yamaha, and even Rotary engine power plants. Every Seabreacher has its own personality and unique driving characteristics. The only constraint that really holds us back is the need to keep them U.S. coastguard compliant and certified as a conventional inboard powerboat. We are not legally able to add any supplementary air systems, or ballast tanks without it effecting our classification…, which is kind of a bummer because I know there is still so much untapped potential for diving deeper and performing even crazier aquabatic stunts.
About five years ago , after seeing the water powered jet-packs, I thought it might be time to revive the old Penetrator concept and power it with an external jet-ski engine (via a fire hose) rather than an internal engine. I sketched some designs and started accumulating all the necessary components and would work on it during my spare time. That’s when the Flyboard came out and I could suddenly see how there were soon going to be other products out there and this was going to be a whole new watersports industry and, if I didn’t get a hustle on , I’d miss the boat. I hand picked a couple of my best fabricators and willing test pilots and we started building and testing different prototypes. We started with a lie-down, drag-style riding position but after a few crashes and hits to our family jewels we adopted a more genital-friendly dirt bike riding position. We quickly learned how to balance, dive, spin and how to crash in style. It was amazing! We were hooked! Building the new product and company took a lot of hard work and money and we were hiring and training new fabricators as fast as possible. We had to build production jigs, body molds, tooling, not to mention a whole global sales distribution network….. It’s funny, in speaking with other manufacturers, the one thing we can agree upon is that prototyping is the easy (and fun) part; production makes or breaks you!
It’s a much different business than the Seabreacher company. Very different clientele, higher volume, more seasonal, a much greater need for consistency and efficiency. I enjoy both companies and both products for different reasons. Mostly I love to fly the Jetovators in the heat of summer, and the Seabreachers during the cold and rainy winter.
H2RO) Rob we’re excited for you to introduce us to your creations and give us a little back story on their inception, evolution and unique awesomeness.
Since the creation of the Jetovator bike, we have launched two new products; the Freedom Flyer is a flying chair that was initially designed for use by disabled and paraplegic pilots to use but is also a real blast for everybody to kick back and fly around in comfort. The experience is totally unique, it’s like piloting an invisible helicopter! We also recently introduced our new Shred Sled which is our entrant into the board market. It’s super easy to ride because you start out on your knees, then as you get more comfortable you can transition to a full standing position and cruise around 30-40 feet high. These have been a big seller for us this year and some of the stunts we are seeing from the pro riders on it are out of this world! We also have a couple of new concepts currently in the prototype phase. I’ve been told I have a short attention span so I remedy this by constantly creating new concepts, most of which end up in the recycle bin.
H2RO) Personal question. Lots of people find it challenging to find that work/life balance and so as someone who is at the forefront of a new industry are you a workaholic right now or have you found ways to give enough time to family and friends?
I know every Entrepreneur struggles with this challenge and I am no exception. My two companies keep me very busy and it is difficult to ever switch off completely, especially with the introduction of smart phones which are like Crack for Entrepreneurs! I have a 10 year old boy and a 4 year old girl and although my line of work has probably taken a toll on them, it has also afforded them amazing opportunities. We have traveled as a family to amazing destinations around the world and my son is becoming very skilled on the Jetovator and has even learned to drive the Seabreacher pretty well. It’s pretty awesome to see him, and hopefully her too, grow up into these evolving sports.
H2RO) From where you sit right now I’m interested to hear how you feel the industry has evolved since you got in the game and what significant challenges remain unconquered?
I think I have probably taken a different tact from many of the other manufacturers and it may have been to the determent of the Jetovator brand. Most of the people involved in Vertical Water Sports have come from a competitive water sports background, whether it be PWC racing, wakeboarding, snowboarding or what ever. This has been awesome for attracting new athletes and recognition as an extreme sport. When I first created the Jetovator the overwhelming response from new riders, was how easy it was to ride and we realized absolutely anybody could fly it. We therefore focused most of our marketing towards regular everyday people and establishing rental operations where people could experience this unique flying experience. Most new sports are pioneered by young athletic extreme athletes and then, as they become more established, the sport filters down to the masses. Look at jet skiing, and kitesurfing which are now totally mainstream, although the Jetovator has enjoyed huge success in the recreational market, we haven’t really generated the huge publicity like that of the Flyboard which is marketed more as an extreme sport. As a manufacturer, I have to strike that balance between the bread-and-butter recreational customers that buy most of our products and the extreme stunt riders that help promote the brand and the sporting aspect. PWC manufactures learned many years ago that although the stand-up jet skis were way cooler, the larger sit down models were their real money makers because the older demographic typically had more disposable income to buy the watercraft. I strongly believe the Jetovator is the single easiest Hydroflight product for beginners to ride and that is a huge selling point for new buyers. However, pushing the Jetovator’s stunt capabilities is equally as important so that riders have new maneuvers to aspire to and compete over.
Another challenge we face is people’s perceptions of our product as a direct competitor to the flying boards currently on the market. The Jetovator is as much like a Flyboard as a bicycle is like a skateboard. The two experiences are completely different and they have different advantages and disadvantages depending on what you’re looking to do. Because we utilize about 10% of the thrust to power and steer the Jet ski, the Jetovator is always moving forward and you often forget that you are towing it behind you. For this reason we can fly for long distances in comfort rather than mostly just circling in one spot. With optional landing gear you can take off and land on a boat, dock , or beach (assuming you have permission from all the authorities of course!).
H2RO) Kurt has been talking with me about an upcoming Hydroflight event and I just shared on Facebook your Seabreacher event that you held, which looked like a lot of fun. I also think that your Wounded Warriors event was a fantastic idea. I’m curious if your company has any upcoming events you’d like to share and which ones might become annual attractions we can look forward to?
Kurt has been an awesome help in promoting the Jetovator brand, especially within the Flyboard and Jetblade community. He’s really good at flying all the hydroflight devices and is never afraid to test pilot any ridiculous flying contraption we come up with. He’s helping organize a couple of hydroflight competitions right now that are open to all riders on all products which I think will be way more fun, especially from the spectators stand point. A lot of professional riders have been reluctant to try flying any other devices for fear that they will lose what little factory support they may receive. I can see if you’re a fully sponsored factory rider, you have to stay brand loyal but the average rider that buys all their own equipment should not feel they have to pick a team for life. You’re not going to catch Cooties if you “Ride the hose”, I promise!
Although I haven’t really been active in the competitive hydroflight events, we have hosted a number of Disabled Freedom Flyer events, which have been one of the most gratifying things I’ve ever been a part of. We came up with the idea of building a flying wheelchair because one of my stunt pilots mother was in a chair. It was super nerve racking the first time we had a fully paraplegic pilot strapped in to a water propelled flying chair but I couldn’t believe their determination to conquer it. Before we knew it, some of them were doing full height aerial spins. It was insane to watch! We wanted to expand the idea to give wounded Veterans an opportunity to fly, so we partnered with the WWP and organized a demo day specifically for Veterans wounded in combat. We’ve had amputees, double amputees, paraplegic pilots, and even soldiers with traumatic brain injuries fly. Seeing how thrilled they are to take flight is epic. They are so grateful for the opportunity but it’s such a small thing we can do for them given how much they’ve sacrificed. Our Texas distributor is organizing a Freedom Flyer event next month and Ben Merrell is organizing one in Florida later this summer. The events are open to all brands and we will train Veterans to fly at no cost on any device they choose. Volunteers are always welcome but check your egos at the door.
H2RO) You may have already answered this but if not I’d love to learn more about the evolution of the Jetovator. What version are guys flying these days and what were some of the biggest hurdles you had to overcome when designing the device? Also, are there any plans to increase hose lengths, fly higher, dive deeper and all that fun stuff with this ride?
The Jetovator has evolved as technology and rider skills have improved. With the introduction of double impellers and jet nozzle refinement, we have moved from 40 foot, to 50 foot, to 60 foot, and now to 66 foot hoses. We offer a variety of performance upgrades and fun options, like the landing gear, and landing board. As a manufacturer, it’s important to not bury your head in the sand but to listen to the feedback from your customers; both professionals and beginners. One of our customer issues was the complexities of installing our larger thrust adapter to the bottom of their skis. I was a big proponent of connecting the hose to the front of the ski for the extra stability it added at speed but I had to accept that simplicity of operation and the versatility of switching back and forth to a regular ski was a priority for a lot of customers, so we now offer a compact powered U pipe as well as our full sized Thrust Adapter.
H2RO) I think everyone in the industry is formulating strategies on how these experiences become mainstream and not only capture the imagination of the public but engage them and get them flying. What would your strategic plan include and why?
I think the sport has evolved at light speed and with that comes the responsibility of trying to keep the sport safe and legal. In our battle to stay competitive, I do not want to see the whole sport get over regulated or banned because we did not establish our own industry safety standards. The PWIC was formed so the big watercraft manufacturers could discuss and negotiate out some basic rules and limits of what any out-of-the-box PWC could do. We have reached that point in the Vertical Water Sports market as we are now seeing new regulations forming in every state and many countries.
As far as strategy goes, I’m a curious engineer by nature, so we will just continue to build more weird prototypes in our quest for the next great product, I think there is still plenty of room for new innovation in this fast growing sport. I think higher speed continues to be one of our primary goals moving forward. I have a few ideas on how to get the Jetovator North of 40mph…., without getting run over by your jet ski! Our talented test pilots and stunt riders, like Joey Natale, continue to bust out new freestyle tricks which is helping to expand the competition market. I still love to ride all our products (maybe a little more old school than most) and that will always be a priority for me. I’ll never be the best but I want to build things that people like me can ride (and by that I mean those blessed with the body of a Greek God).
H2RO) If I’m someone reading this who is thinking I’d love to become a dealer for Jetavation Inc. What is the process and what are you looking for in a distributor or dealer?
We are always looking for new Dealers and Distributors to join our Global team. We try and make it pretty simple for new Dealers to start off small and then expand as they make more sales. I really value all the hard work that our dedicated Dealers have put into promoting, demonstrating, and selling the Jetovator world wide. Please contact us on our website www.jetovator.com. Follow us on Facebook at Jetovator or on Instagram @ridethehose @theshredsled @theseabreacher
Update: Check out the first tandem Hydroflight device we’ve ever seen!
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