2015 XDubai Flyboard World Cup Competitor Profiles
Just a few weeks away…
H2RO Magazine is getting stoked for the 2015 XDubai Flyboard World Cup and as always we are excited to introduce you to the competitors in the Pro Division. Writing our Flyboard Competitor Profiles has become even more of a challenge this time around with the introduction of the Pro Series Flyboard. With many new athletes emerging onto the scene and some working in secret with the new board it’s impossible to get a handle on where everyone is at going into Dubai on December 3rd, 4th and 5th.
Taking into account what we know, what we’ve witnessed and the qualification videos we’ve reviewed… here are your Flyboard World Cup Competitors:
Flyboard Competitor Profiles
H2RO World Ranked: #1
Team Aquafly will once again be bringing an elite team of Hydroflight athletes to Dubai including back to back North American Flyboard Champion Damone Rippy. Damone will look to finally do at the World Championship what he’s done twice in North America and secure his first World Cup title. However, this is far from a sure thing as the America’s Got Talent star will face fierce competition from not only the rest of the world but from his Team Aquafly teammates who have been taking their own flying to Championship heights.
Why He’ll Win: Experience. Damone Rippy has become the face of Pro Flyboarding for many reasons including his ability to rise to the occasion in competition and deliver runs that score high with the judges. The first videos of Damone on the Pro Series had us jumping out of our chair the tricks were so next gen. (loving the layout double) If he can truly show off his trick repertoire and not get caught up delivering too much repetition he will be hard to beat.
Why He Won’t: Two reasons. 1) There have been improvements to the scoring system since the 2015 North American Flyboard Championship which better reward creativity, amplitude and just going BIG. The idea of simply throwing more tricks than your fellow competitors should be gone. Damone flew fast and furious in Shreveport but that won’t win him the World Cup in Dubai. 2) Life has been good to Mr. Rippy and it has to be hard to continuously maintain that killer instinct during training. Is there a chance Damone’s flying will have plateaued while others increase their hunger for what he’s already tasted?
H2RO World Ranking: #2
Suksan Tongthai is the back to back Flyboard World Champion. He is a nice, humble guy but he’s also a competitor and you know that 7th place finish at the 2015 NAFBC is not sitting well with him. I’m sure Dubai just can’t come fast enough for the current Champ. With each and every competition Suksan has unleashed new tricks on the hydroflight world and that innovation along with his willingness to push the risk/reward ratio to the max is why a three-peat wouldn’t shock anyone.
Why He’ll Win: A combination of hunger, to eradicate that 7th place finish from everyone’s memory, combined with a scoring system that will hopefully more accurately reward his innovation, insane height and dynamic flying might just be the formula for a three-peat. He’s got crazy skills including being able to throw insane tricks without flipping the ski.
Why He Won’t: Suksan is a legend on the Flyboard Legend. His ability to contort, twist and whip the board around with total control helped separate him from the pack but perhaps the introduction of the Pro Series Flyboard with it’s lighter weight and indy feet does more for his competitors than for the champ himself. We have no reason to think that Suksan isn’t killing it on the new board but we haven’t had a chance to see it for ourselves yet.
H2RO World Ranked #3
Jake Orel has found himself on the podium in each of his last two competitions with a 3rd place finish at the 2014 World Cup and 2nd place at the 2015 North American Flyboard Championship. News out of the Aquafly camp is very positive as Jake appears to be continuing his trend upwards in preparation for Dubai. ‘JSmooth’ will also benefit from the revising of the scoring system as the ‘energizer bunny’ routine didn’t suit him the way it did his teammate Damone Rippy. Jake has a flow and style that the industry has come to love and it will be the combination of trick innovation, aggressiveness when he has to be and his signature smooth, clean runs that could make Jake our next World Champion.
Why He’ll Win: Jake puts in the work needed to be a champ and has that extra motivation that comes with being in the shadow of his America’s Got Talent teammate. If combos are going to be scored the way we think they are (tricks occurring in a single up and down motion) then watch for Jake to seamlessly string together a number of serious combo variations as only he can.
Why He Won’t: This is old news to Jake and Team Aquafly when we bring up ‘aggression’. The fact that Jake makes big tricks look so easy and he transitions between them with such control has in the past led some judges to look at his runs as casual. I would think we are past that concern and now simply dealing with does Jake have the biggest trick/combo dialed in and should he land it is the rest of his run diverse enough to engage the judges from start to finish. There were a few four trick sessions at NAFBC that were amazing but also thrown identically more than once in a run. With indy feet the variations are there… can Jake take advantage?
H2RO World Ranked #4
Who else on the planet has landed 30+ clean triple backflips in one practice session? Just as the Hydroflight community finished ranting about the advantages riders with the height and weight ratio Hunter enjoys over the taller, heavier competitors out comes a lighter board with adjustable nozzles turning the very elusive triple into a regular occurrence. The ‘Poison Dart Frog’ has certainly moved from ‘hey he’s the youngest competitor here’ into a favorite to win it all.
Why He’ll Win: With such command of his triple backflip and the ability to spin into and out of tricks in a very different way with the indy feet, it seems to us that Hunter is likely honing more than a few triple combos which with height amplifiers on the scoring will give him a great shot at the Championship. We would also not be surprised to see Hunter fly a lot with the board locked, employing his incredibly fast 1080 spins and combos that the larger stature riders have nightmares about.
Why He Won’t: We can’t say he lacks experience anymore but what we can say, and this is a theme for really every competitor headed to Dubai, is when all eyes are on you will you trust yourself enough to stray from the security of your best tricks/combos and really display the diversity needed to win? In Hunter’s case he’ll also likely want to increase his overall height especially on one and half missiles or other flip/dive variations.
H2RO World Ranked #5
Ben Merrell, the competitor with more time spent on independent feet than likely any other rider at this year’s Flyboard World Cup. Sure he’s been flying the Jetblade but we still have to believe that after going back to the ‘handcuffed’ sensation of the Flyboard legend, during his impressive showing in Shreveport, competing on the Pro Series will allow Ben to feel much more natural out on the water. That comfort along with the ability to stunt the way he’s used to has to be bad news for every one of his fellow competitors.
Why He’ll Win: The guy has been spinning like a top since June of 2014. We expect Ben to take full advantage of the indy feet with dizzying dive sequences, flip combos and likely a few wrinkles we’ve never seen before. Having been on the Flyboard World Cup podium in 2013, Ben has the experience to clearly know what he needs to do in each battle round including being agile and adapting his game plan if the situation calls for it.
Why He Won’t: Again, because this comp is on the Pro Series it really means that any limitations observed in past competitions are basically nullified. That being said Ben has yet to be as tight with his flip rotations as some of the other top athletes meaning we haven’t seen as many double attempts from him. His signature back dives will need to continue to evolve into combos and increase once again in overall height to bring back their wow factor. Irregardless of his final placing Ben will certainly be one of Team PowerFly’s leaders both on and off the water.
H2RO World Ranked #6
Caleb Gavic, ranked 6th in the world and yet the guy NEVER flies! Well not never, but due to living in Minnesota and having the World Championship scheduled in December we wouldn’t be surprised if Caleb told us as he boots up for the first time in Dubai that he hasn’t practiced for months. I guess it’s like riding a bike for Gavic as this lack of preparation won’t deter him from going full hose and throwing ridiculously huge doubles right out of the gate. He hides any weaknesses and highlights each of his strengths. Something that has worked for the judges more than once.
Why He’ll Win: This guy went Flyboarding while others were Ice Fishing! He’s not afraid to push boundaries and has a great resume dating back to Qatar in 2013. He seems fearless on the board and tends to get better as the competition progresses.
Why He Won’t: If his practice time has been minimal (and we don’t know that it has) the ability to incorporate the new indy feet options into his flying could be difficult. The other scenario we could see happening is that with a less than optimal Qualifying Round Caleb could see a really great flyer in his first Battle. Just one of the reasons we’re not fans of the battle round format but it’s something every competitor has to think about prior to their qualifying run.
H2RO World Ranked #7
Stephane Prayas. The sports first Flyboard World Champion in 2012 and if you thought last year in Dubai he was going to go out and wave to the crowd and retire you couldn’t have been more mistaken. Another competitor who gets more dangerous as the rounds progress, Stephane had his bonsai flip dialed in and was flying aggressively to combat the young energy he was up against right until his jetski flipped leaving him with a fourth place XDubai Flyboard World Cup finish.
Why He’ll Win: The Pro Series Flyboard will either render this old school Flyboard veteran’s style obsolete or extend Stephane’s competitive shelf life. A big believer in the role hose management plays in the sport and the unique relationship between rider and machine, it will be very interesting if the new style of independent feet flying leaves Stephane inspired or disliking how things have evolved. Either way, he comes to compete and fully expects to win each and every time out.
Why He Won’t: As in all sports, youth shall reign and it is likely becoming increasingly difficult to keep pace with what the young guns are now bringing to the table. We have not covered one event where the action on the water has not taken an enormous leap forward and so we anxiously await Stephane’s opening run to see exactly where one of our sports great pioneers is at.
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H2RO World Ranked #8
Four months after learning to fly Cooper Riggs found himself finishing 2nd at the 2013 Flyboard World Cup in Doha, Qatar. He is a natural talent on the board with a great repertoire of tricks including his own signature Infinity Flip which has since been aggressively adopted by his fellow competitors. It will be very interesting to see how Coop chooses to integrate the freedom of indy feet into his runs.
Why He’ll Win: A veteran of competitive Flyboarding, Cooper has a knack for keeping his runs fresh and interesting from start to finish. Serving up his entire repertoire each and every run along with going big for the height multipliers could be the formula that puts Riggs at the top of the podium this year.
Why He Won’t: Cooper may simply find himself in the same boat as many of his fellow competitors and that is having to deal with the type of next gen tricks that are now being born around the world. It will also be interesting to see if the 1080 to backflip combo that Cooper could pull on the Legend is now scored similarly to the indy feet spinning 1080 to backflip which every single competitor in Dubai will likely be able to do. How do you separate yourself from the pack on this 2015 board?
H2RO World Ranked #9
Fit, hungry, and well prepared, that is how we see Callon Burns coming into this World Cup. One of Team PowerFly’s dynamic athletes Cal and his teammates have been immersed in a training camp filled with workouts, two-a-day runs, and video sessions. That support and team comradery will serve these athletes well at the World Cup and beyond.
Why He’ll Win: Like a great fighter (and Cal could knock ya senseless in the ring too) we suspect this World Cup could be Cal’s right hook. Perhaps his other competitive appearances have been jabs, extremely impressive jabs, but nonetheless jabs that have now set him up for the knockout. We’ve seen all the individual pieces needed to take aim at the championship now it’s a matter of getting them consistently into each and every run. Maybe battle rounds will work for someone with a boxing background?
Why He Won’t: Sticking with the boxing comparisons, it’s like when a fighter is really on his footwork is sharp but when he’s off he gets out of rhythm and can’t counter or react the way he’d like. If Cal’s doubles are landing in the water, or his spins seem labored then it might not be enough that he rips a few clean massive tricks. At least not enough to win his first World Championship. When the bell rings it’s gotta be aggressive and on point because that’s what the Top Eight are always able to do.
H2RO World Ranked #12
Ashton Beukers comes into the 2015 XDubai Flyboard World Cup with more momentum than any other athlete. The 2015 North American Flyboard Championship was a bit of a coming out party for this young professional hydroflight athlete as he flew to a very impressive fourth place finish. Ashton had been flying professionally in China for a year and a half and got his first taste of what competition flying was all about last year in Dubai. It will be exciting to see what he takes from his NAFBC experience and applies to a new format on a new board.
Why He’ll Win: Judges love a good show. Ashton has been inspiring crowds as large as 80,000 with his flying so he knows what moves people. He creates great lines in the air with his body positions, has the ability to reverse into tricks and add grabs that help separate his moves from his peers. With Team Canfly training hard and pulling for each other every step of the way I’m sure we’ll be seeing the best Ashton and his teammates have to offer.
Why He Won’t: It’s a real challenge to catch up to the progression of hydroflight’s top athletes. Just as you tighten up your rotations and start landing doubles, they move on to triples. Their spin to flip combos are just that much faster, their spin to dives are from full hose. It’s not that Ashton won’t fly really well in Dubai it’s will his trick execution reach the level of difficulty, speed and height he’ll need for the podium.
H2RO World Ranked #13
Either Damone Rippy is a great teacher, Steve Palma a great student, or both because after just three months of one on one consultation with the back to back North American Champ Steve Palma was flying at a world class level. Since his impressive competitive debut in Louisiana Steve has been flying as part of the official Zapata Racing Flyboard Show and training extensively for the World Cup. With France being the birthplace of Flyboard it seems that Steve Palma has been tasked with the responsibility of bringing the Golden Flyboard back to its motherland.
Why He’ll Win: We’ve been following Steve’s progression both in and out of the LED light suits and with double combos and some landed triples on video it certainly proves he’s got the big tricks in his repertoire. Those tricks coupled with the fact he seems to have been in constant training mode since June should mean that he is one of the best prepared athletes heading to Dubai.
Why He Won’t: Once we get down to the top eight athletes the judges, fans and fellow competitors will be analyzing every detail of each flight very closely. It may come down to things like ‘pushing’ into the second and third rotations of doubles and triples. That little pause which we’ve observed may be where Steve leaves the door open to an ‘Eye of the Storm’ type of execution.
H2RO World Ranked #15
We had to wait an extra year to see Superman do his thing in person but it was well worth it. Rush really took advantage of his second NAFBC appearance by putting his energy and personality into every second of his runs. That joy took even basic tricks and made them exciting. Rush isn’t afraid to work at 30+ feet and his imagination will certainly be on display in Dubai. As a new member of Team Aquafly Rush is really in the best possible position to fly at his full potential next month and beyond.
Why He’ll Win: One of my favorite things about running H2RO is when athletes share their journey with me and let me into their world as new tricks are being born. Without giving anything away, Rush has been dropping some amazing teasers into my FB inbox which really does begin to fill one of the most difficult components of the Championship equation, innovation. If a battle is virtually to close to call and you can pull out a never before seen variation that will certainly propel you into the next round. If you see Rush Bragg’s name matched up against yours in Dubai, I wouldn’t hold anything back for a later round because you won’t get the chance to use it.
Why He Won’t: Flipping the jetski = Kryptonite. Getting out of the zone and too much into the crowd = Kryptonite. Looking unsteady and taking too much time during setups = Kryptonite. There are certainly a few things that could ground Superman but each is well within his control and even if things don’t go to plan he spins the earth in reverse, goes back in time and takes another shot.
H2RO World Ranked #18
Arnoud is a bit of an unknown to us right now, other than he still has no hair…lol. Due to the fact he had pre-qualified and therefore didn’t need to submit a new video we haven’t seen him fly in a while. Certainly he has experience having competed as far back as the 2013 Flyboard World Cup and he is a very consistent competitor which is why he’s achieved a ranking of 18th in the world. The question on our minds is what has Mr. Stoppels been up to with the Pro Series Flyboard and is this the competition where he goes from good to top ten?
Why He’ll Win: Having World Cup experience is definitely an asset but it will take Arnoud moving from the Flyboard Show type flying and into full on competition mode to really have a shot at the top athletes. We’re looking forward to seeing him in action again.
Why He Won’t: As consistent as Arnoud is we have yet to see him innovate and that is where many competitors, who live in the middle of the pack, opportunities lay. Add grab elements, unique exists, reverse tricks..etc and then we can talk about finishing at the top.
H2RO World Ranked #19
Fresh off winning the 2015 Japan Flyboard Cup, Kousuke seems poised and ready to take another step forward and climb further up our the World Rankings. A very slick and agile flyer, Kousuke need only add a few new double backflip combos to compliment his very solid repertoire and he will be an athlete you should want to avoid in the early battle rounds.
Why He’ll Win: There seems to be a lot of hydroflight action going on in Japan and as one of the few countries to have executed their own National Flyboard Championship events their athletes, including Mr. Yokoe have benefited from these additional competitive opportunities. Kousuke also has a great build for Hydroflight and looked very comfortable incorporating the indy feet spins into his recent winning run. Also, these Japanese athletes seem to be pushing each other to innovate and incorporate their ‘Crazy Ninja’ style into even the most basic moves.
Why He Won’t: Double backflip combos are certainly big tricks and for many competitors they will be the big moment(s) of their runs but H2RO can tell you that to place on the podium without incorporating any triples into your routine will mean that you’ve shown the judges many things they’ve never seen before and landed everything else ultra clean throughout.
H2RO World Ranked #20
The captain of Team Canfly Brody has competed in every Flyboard World Cup to date. We missed him at the recent North American Flyboard Championship and we’re sure he’s hungry to get back in the fight. He is another one of those very consistent competitors who will be looking to add a few more ‘WOW’ moments into his runs during their pre-comp training in Texas.
Why He’ll Win: Ranked 20th in the world proves Brody has the technical foundation to put down solid runs and win a few battles but to win it all is going to mean he’s been able to up his degree of difficulty with the indy feet while reducing the setup time between trick combos. Flying and being supported by such a great team will certainly have the entire Canfly crew coming into Dubai with a very positive mindset.
Why He Won’t: Many athletes work in the business of Hydroflight and this has been a great advantage in the beginning because guys had access to equipment and a thorough understanding of technique and hose management but then the elite athlete grooming began. Well grooming of the teens in Texas coupled with the ridiculous natural ability of Suksan Tongthai and you instantly have four riders that leave the rest of the field scratching their heads. I think Brody and many others in Dubai will equate a top ten finish to a win, even though everyone has their eyes on that golden Flyboard.
H2RO World Ranked #21
Motoaki’s third place finish in the 2015 Japan Flyboard Cup put him just behind teammates Kousuke Yokoe and Jun Osada. We expect the Pro Series to breathe new life into runs as we’ve witnessed the ease that he’s landing doubles now which means it can be used as an exclamation point for many combo sequences that in the past were singles. I’m also curious whether Jun Osada’s Front Twist has been adopted by his teammates and could play a role in separating close battle rounds.
Why He’ll Win: Motoaki and his fellow Ninja’s have been steadily improving for over a year now and there is no reason to think that in Dubai at least one member of the team won’t exceed even their own expectations and go very far. No reason this breakout performance can’t be accomplished by Mr. Suzuki but it is going to take going beyond what we’ve observed to date and potentially a few happy accidents.
Why He Won’t: There is a danger with ‘textbook’ flying and that is that many others are studying from that same textbook. Will athletes like Motoaki really be able to communicate their own unique personality on the board and do it in such a way that each maneuver sees its point score increase due to both subtle and not-so-subtle variations. That opportunity exists but if it can’t be exploited then a win is not in the cards this December.
H2RO World Ranked #22
I just can’t wrap my head around Srirang. He executes beautiful combos similar to his fellow Thai and World Champion Suksan Tongthai, pulls off moves like his horizontal flipping two and half to dive combo which had me asking ‘did you really mean to do that?’ and seems to have zero fear of starting moves 50 feet in the air. All of that would have you thinking Top Ten right? But yet 14th at last year’s World Cup is his highest finish and it really comes down to being your own worst enemy out there. At some point in these key runs the flow is broken or the control is lost and what started as epic turns out average. I know you’ve got the chops Sataporn but can you get through an entire song?
Why He’ll Win: If you’re currently ranked outside the top 20 then winning the 2015 XDubai Flyboard World Cup would equate to a very significant leap and come as a pretty big shock to me. That being said there are a few guys, Srirang being one of them, that have under achieved in my mind and therefore our ranking doesn’t accurately reflect their game. It’s Sataporn’s glimpses of brilliance that prove to us the potential is somewhere inside this guy but can it come out in a purposeful way? If it does, it could be enough.
Why He Won’t: Inconsistency when it counts most. The judges are getting wise to the ‘accidental awesome’ that can occur in a freestyle run and even though you’ll score with it that lack of control will rear it’s ugly head at the worst possible time and simply isn’t a formula for the podium.
H2RO World Ranked #23
I think the Pro Series arriving on the scene could mean more to this guy than any other athlete in this year’s championship. Why do I say that, well Ronnie has been a hydroflight ‘man-about-town’ for a while now flying on the Jetblade, Jetdeck, Jetovator, and now Pro Series Flyboard and with each diverse experience it seems another performance wall comes crashing down and on the other side is creativity, innovation and that joy of exploration. Sure he had some solid finishes on the Legend board but it wasn’t until the indy feet hit and he began firing video clips our way of his newest tricks that we really started to see The Punisher’s true potential.
Why He’ll Win: Not to put any additional pressure on our friend but Ronnie isn’t traveling to Dubai alone. He’s bringing some very cool new tricks along with him and we are super excited to see how they fit into his runs. Like Ben Merrell, Ronnie is extremely comfortable spinning in and out of tricks both directions and will certainly benefit from being part of Team PowerFly and the training in Florida they are putting on this month.
Why He Won’t: The innovation is great, the experience and comfort with indy feet a huge benefit but what about the big flip tricks. This is something Ronnie could very well have addressed but if he hasn’t then the podium becomes far more elusive. There really is no reason he can’t put it all together but until we see those big combos landed consistently the title of World Champion will have to wait.
H2RO World Ranked #24
I had to message Adrian because I didn’t believe that his name could possibly be on the competitor list for Dubai. Not because Adrian isn’t a world class athlete but because not long ago he suffered a horrific injury fracturing his T3 and T4 spinal discs resulting in paralysis of his right leg. He was inches from being a paraplegic but has worked extremely hard to get himself back in shape and in October received the all clear from his doctor to resume his regular activities.
Why He’ll Win: He already has! After laying in a hospital bed the first 24 hours after his accident not knowing if he’d ever move again has to be the scariest situation imaginable so to go from that to flying high in Dubai is an incredible journey and one H2RO and Adrian will be working together to share in the new year. He says he’s feeling physically stronger than ever, even while dealing with some extra stiffness in his upper back, and is liking the indy feet of the new board. Irregardless of what happens in Dubai this is both a mental and physical victory for Adrian and we will be cheering him on!
Why He Won’t: This is a major step in getting back on the trajectory Adrian was headed prior to his injury. He’s excited to show everyone where he is at physically and to get back to doing what he loves most. A World Championship could certainly be in his future but next month is about much, much more than that.
H2RO World Ranked #25
One of the most beautiful moments of the recent NAFBC was when organizers, judges and athletes voted unanimously to give Fernando his run even though he’d missed his time slot. A group hug ensued and when Fernando took to the water he did not disappoint putting together one of the best runs we’ve seen from him. Control is what we’ve noticed most about Fernando’s improved flying. No longer barely hanging on to landings he’s now stomping them which allows for quicker transitions, more tricks per run and better flow.
Why He’ll Win: He might be a ways off from winning a World Championship but Fernando certainly could be very disruptive to the leaderboard. A few great runs, coupled with a few lucky breaks and perhaps Spinelli becomes this year’s Qjao Xiao.
Why He Won’t: We are acknowledging an opportunity at this year’s World Cup for Fernando to make some noise but the top five athletes are going to be on a whole nother level and it won’t be a nut this Argentinian is going to crack… yet. Fernando does seem to be a student of the game though and every time he has the opportunity to observe the best in the world his own flying climbs to a new level soon after.
H2RO World Ranked #26
Taylor Andrews burst onto the Pro Flyboard scene last June in Shreveport much like Cooper Riggs did at the 2013 World Cup. It’s a pretty significant accomplishment to have one competition under your belt and go from an unknown to a World Ranking of #26. What we love about TJ Andrews flying is his aggression and all out commitment during his runs. In keeping with the Cooper connection Taylor did land some very nice Infinity Flips at the NAFBC and you can get a taste of his no-holds-barred nature during his qualifying video when he reverses into a flip from 45+ ft and fights hard to stick the landing.
Why He’ll Win: A strong qualifying video showed off Taylor’s willingness to go big and his technical chops in landing some nice combo doubles. He showed off some flying both in the locked and unlocked position which is something new to this year’s event. The Pro Series Flyboard can be changed from locked to indy feet while flying giving the competitors the option to transition during any given run. So from unknown to #26…why not #26 to World Champ!
Why He Won’t: Polish. The elements are there to do some serious damage in Dubai no doubt but it’s that professional polish that comes with getting beyond having to think so much about the trick itself and instead thinking about the run as a whole that will be Taylor’s next step. Selfishly I hope I get to see at least a few rounds of flying from this guy next month.
H2RO World Ranked #27
Phew… by the skin of his teeth Rodrigo was a late addition to the World Cup roster and we are super happy he made it. After watching his qualifying video we could see that the highlights witnessed in Shreveport during NAFBC were not all present in that 2 minutes and it almost cost him. On the bright side the Hydroflight community now has another chance to witness one of the most unique flyers in the game. From his serious Front Twist to the Toronado spins Rodrigo really captured peoples attention last June and when he flies in Dubai you won’t want to blink.
Why He’ll Win: If everything Rodrigo did during his runs was executed with as much aggression and flair as his unique elements then he would likely put together one of the most amazing two minutes of Pro Flyboarding ever. I’m sure he is excited to put on a great show not only to do well in Dubai but set the stage for next year’s North American Flyboard Championship which will be held on his home turf in Mexico.
Why He Won’t: EMK. After flying with a driver in Louisiana I don’t know where Rodrigo is at with his EMK skills and make no mistake it is a skill. His qualifying video had him being driven as well and so my question is can he pull off these incredibly aggressive moves while managing his own power? That and the need for combo doubles and or triples to win… maybe asking a bit much.
H2RO World Ranked #28
Everyone was referencing the film Back to the Future as October 21, 2015 was the day Marty McFly was to arrive in the future. I mention it because the ‘Doc’ Carl-Jacob Johansen could find some extra motivation from this timing and continue on the path he began at last year’s World Championship which finally landed him a 16th place finish. The flamboyant Norwegian demands attention out on the water and as we learned had enough to back up the hype with each and every successful battle round. As we read from John Albinson on Facebook “Carl is over 40 years old but would never want to be anywhere but in the Pro Division. At Carl’s height and weight I don’t think there is another Flyboarder in the world as good as he is right now.” High praise John!
Why He’ll Win: Perhaps there’s more to his Back to the Future obsession than meets the eye. We would only be slightly surprised to find out Carl and Malvin Quinones had developed a jetski that could time travel. So as not to flip the ski with the Flux Capacitor Carl may simply fly out on a board with no hose. But seriously as John Albinson mentioned, Carl is flying at a very high level and knocked out some very good riders last year. He’ll be looking to do the same next month.
Why He Won’t: I think Carl will once again have a ton of fun at this competition but in terms of throwing down runs that will worry the top five or six pros I’m not sure that will be the case. Again, having been one of the pre-selected competitors we did not have a chance to view any recent video footage so could be pleasantly surprised.
H2RO World Ranked #29
Kansuke is part of a strong Japanese team competing in Dubai. Finishing sixth place in the 2015 Japan Flyboard Cup isn’t something that will put Suzuki onto many peoples radar but perhaps that’s a good thing. There are always a few guys who come in without the fanfare and hype and then deliver when it counts. We like the speed of his rotations on his doubles and again any athletes that are part of supportive teams have an advantage, at least mentally.
Why He’ll Win: Watching Kansuke’s qualifying video we can say that he is a real good flyer with the foundation necessary to begin putting his mastered single tricks into higher scoring combinations. This is a must for us to talk seriously about winning or more realistically a top 15 finish.
Why He Won’t: As we mentioned there needs to be further development of his combinations in order to give the judges a reason to take notice. There wasn’t anything unique in his qualifying video and so if that is an accurate representation of where Kansuke’s at then more work will be needed post World Cup to find his own flavor and contend in future competitions.
H2RO World Ranked #30
Front Twist! Jun unleashed a very cool looking variation last year in Dubai and seems to be riding a wave of momentum ever since then. We believe Jun is flying better than his current world ranking would have you believe as he’s coming off an impressive second place finish in the recent Japanese National Championship.
Why He’ll Win: Even just watching the minute and fifty seconds of his Dubai qualifying video he had a number of moments where his trick execution looked completely unique and would certainly have grabbed the judges attention. Aggressive reverse flight into flips, a double attempt that had really no decent. He started at the surface of the water and just threw two relatively seamless flips…truly defying gravity. Of course those types of moments added to his fan favorite Front Twist and Jun has some serious weapons to go to next month.
Why He Won’t: There is still the big trick execution when it counts question and I guess I say that because of the hard bellyflop landing on one of the true doubles in his qualifying video. It will be cool to see some of his unique movements but he can’t kill tons of time setting up for them or he won’t have enough in his run to really challenge.
H2RO World Ranked #31
The guy who flies in all those amazing outdoor events will be looking to up the intensity and have a good showing at this year’s World Championship. The two moments that stood out in his Dubai qualifying video were a nice double and a thread-the-needle which we haven’t seen many times. It’s hard to gauge how competitive Bo is with these competition appearances, certainly there was a casual tempo to his qualifying video.
Why He’ll Win: I’m not sure that Bo’s style of flying has changed that much since we saw him in Qatar in 2013. There has been that natural evolution to a double backflip made easier by the Pro Series but nothing to make us believe that he will attack his competitive runs with enough controlled aggression to find success in Dubai. We’re writing this to see if we can light a fire under him as he has the tools just needs the approach to do them justice.
Why He Won’t: I think we’ve stated what needs to happen and why a victory in Dubai is unlikely. The pace of his qualifying video was very calm and basically slow. We’re seeing such advancement in the top riders pacing and time between maneuvers that circling the ski multiple times for every drop in seems old school.
H2RO World Ranked #38
We’ve missed Jason. A flipped ski in Dubai last year and then an injury keeping him out of the 2015 NAFBC event meant that this potentially top ten competitor now sits ranked 38th in the world. We expect his climb back towards the top to begin next month and from the video teasers we’ve been receiving he looks very sharp.
Why He’ll Win: When we heard Jason, along with Rush Bragg, Brandon Samuels and Todd Sawisch, had signed with Team Aquafly we started to think about all the different areas, both on and off the water, that would improve for these guys with this relationship. Jason has traveled to Texas to train in the past but to now officially have Aquafly resources, guidance and constant motivation in his corner we expect Jason to be a more polished and precise athlete. Since Toronto in 2014 we’ve known how solid Jason’s skills are and now he’ll have a strategy and the confidence to execute it which gives him a shot at the top.
Why He Won’t: Well, this is really like Jason’s first event. Hose and ski management will be top of mind for sure as he will look to avoid the same fate as 2014. When you haven’t competed in a long time there is that extra pressure you put on yourself to perform and so we’ll have to see how he manages those nerves.
H2RO World Ranked #41
Petr is a passionate athlete who we would have loved to of seen more from last year in Dubai but a mistimed dive pulled the hose over the nose of the ski, flipping it, resulting in a very disappointing DQ. It’s great to know that Petr will be back at the World Championship with another opportunity to show just what he’s capable of.
Why He’ll Win: Experiencing some battle rounds would be a great start for Petr as he works towards becoming a top hydroflight athlete. He’s got great skills spinning both directions and in his qualifying video landed a very sharp double – 1080 – dive combination. I feel like Petr is a student of the game and appreciates what it takes to battle for the podium even if he’s not quite ready to do so this year.
Why He Won’t: Like many athletes who are pushing our sport forward in these early years Petr has to work very hard to find the support to train and that lack of time on the board makes it very difficult to progress at the pace you know you’re capable of. We hope that as our sport grows and more sponsors come on board athletes like Petr will get the opportunity to practice more consistently and reach their full potential.
H2RO World Ranked #42
A competitor who was solid on the Legend board seems to have really found another level with the Pro Series. Sure he could pull the entire jetski out of the water with his ridiculously high dolphin dives and had a solid 18th place showing at last year’s World Championship but it seems that the trick repertoire has immediately opened up for Lindsay with the indy feet.
Why He’ll Win: Certainly from his very impressive qualifying video which opens with a board grab double we can see that Lindsay looks faster and more fluid than in the past. He’s a bigger guy so dual impellers, more hp and the ability to spin like a top with independent feet can really change the game or at least better level the playing field which will significantly improve his chances of going deep into this competition.
Why He Won’t: There is still a bit of a disconnect with the combinations we saw where between the spins and the flip there is a pause and push into the rotation. This breaks up the combo and will likely decrease the total score that it receives. The other thing that likely will be a challenge is the indy feet spins to flips are going to be something that all competitors take advantage of and so without more innovation to go along with the board grabs Lindsay may find it hard to find that separation from the pack.
H2RO World Ranked #44
Watching Simone’s Dubai qualifying video was really like seeing his skills on display for the first time. The rotational speed on his double, the crazy fast indy feet spins and even the attempted cork superman were great signs that Simone was looking to find ways to create variety in his run. There were a few interesting moves that didn’t look purposeful and so that control will be a deciding factor on how far the lone Italian representative goes.
Why He’ll Win: Simone certainly showed a willingness to use every inch of his x-armor hose while also attempting to use the indy feet in a high point scoring way. His overall speed was impressive and gave us the sense that he will more than hold his own next month.
Why He Won’t: Straight doubles are cool, huge layouts look impressive but the top competitors are always comboing everything they do. We’ve got multiple athletes with triple backflips in their arsenal and so if you know a triple isn’t in your repertoire you better be maximizing every second of your run with combinations and some unique elements. Watching run after run after run means that stylizing even the basic tricks perks the judges attention back up and that can’t hurt your score.
Sonnie Bean, the lone competitor from the United Kingdom sits just outside our H2Ro top 50 currently but we did have a chance to see Sonnie fly last year in Dubai and we really like that he’s hard hitting and aggressive. He flew on the Legend for his qualifying video and dropped some beautiful doubles, superman to flip combos and used his backward flight to enter into some big flips which created some unique lines.
Why He’ll Win: Rather than comment on winning it all let’s talk about keeping that ski upright and moving deep into the competition because he’s fearless and goes as big with some of his layout flips and missiles as anyone. This is all added to the fact he has been there once before and is eagerly awaiting this next opportunity, no nerves here.
Why He Won’t: As we mentioned he did his qualifying video on the Legend so with the game changing so radically as guys jump on the Pro Series for Dubai we don’t know how Sonnie’s flying will hold up in comparison. I think doing what he knows he’s capable of and getting himself into our H2RO World Rankings would be a solid result at this year’s World Championship.
One love, one heart. We first saw Ibrahim fly at this year’s North American Flyboard Championship and he certainly emits joy out on the water. That and his awesome dreads splay out on every flip creating art in the sky. Since the summer he has been training in the Maldives (simply Paradise down there) and I’m sure he, like many competitors, will be moving to a new level on the Pro Series.
Why He’ll Win: Snuck in a nice double at the end of his qualifying video along with some nice combos but what will intrigue us the most is any addition skills he may have picked up from Steve Palma who’s been in the Maldives training as well. I’d love the World Champion to be from the Maldives because it would really mean I have to travel to paradise to get that exclusive story.
Why He Won’t: It will take a significant increase in the tempo of Hussein’s runs to give him a shot at enough points to move deep into the competition. There always seems to be a lot of set up time and circling going on which eats valuable seconds and decreases the energy level of the run. Love might not conquer all when it comes to these battle rounds.
Andy you know I love all my Canadian brothas but to be honest I was a bit shocked when I saw some Canadian names not on the list and yours smack in the middle. All I had to go on was a brief NAFBC appearance on the Legend board and so I think your Dubai qualifying video was the first one I watched out of the entire bunch because I just had to see what the heck you did to land this spot. You know what… you flew really good.
Why He’ll Win: I have to think a combination of training and the introduction of the Pro Series Flyboard has been a perfect storm for Andy’s flying. Clean double right out of the gate on his qualifying run was cool but the alternating directional spin to flip combo was really a technical moment that most guys did not exploit.
Why He Won’t: He will be well supported by his teammates and friends in Dubai but they won’t be propping a World Champion up on their shoulders just yet. We have very limited footage of Andy to date so we’re making assumptions here based on one qualifying video but there are similarities to other athletes in tempo from trick to trick and the variations of combos that leave us thinking a new level will need to be found by Dec 3rd or we chalk this competition up to experience.
A new competitor to H2RO we were impressed with Paul’s commitment to each trick he did decide to throw during his Dubai qualifying video. His superman was a fully laid out legit superman, he had a spin-superman-flip three trick combo which was very nice and his double had zero pause in between flips. All this on the Legend board. Currently living in Australia, Paul will be the sole representative from that part of the world this time around.
Why He’ll Win: You most certainly have our attention at H2RO Paul with a qualifying video that looked confident and A+ for execution. If Paul can find one more gear with his spin speed it will really amp up his combos. He seems to have a similar ‘push’ into his flips that Lindsay McQueen does but Lindsay was able to pull a board grab so perhaps that’s a variation Paul can also consider. We expect a very solid debut from this Aussie.
Why He Won’t: Well unlike some he was showing good command of the EMK in his video but it will take at least one competitive experience watching the best in the world up close to begin to appreciate how far our sport has advanced and what gaps need addressing to really compete at the highest level. No shame in that and Dubai will be very educational for many competitors.
One of the Canadian competitors this Canadian hydroflight fan knew nothing about until his qualifying video came out. Flying with a driver but on the Pro Series Jordan certainly understood that spinning out of every landing with the indy feet was a must for ease of extra points. His double was a bit ‘back-to-back’ ish and so that will need fine tuning to be effective plus there was just a bit of unsteadiness throughout his video which flashed me back to the 2013 Flyboard World Cup and Canadian Braden Anderson. Flying styles are similar but the World Cup moment for Braden was a bit overwhelming and that led to a slightly out-of-control debut… will Jordan be able to keep from having an out-of-body-experience in Qualifying?
Why He’ll Win: Let’s just nail the qualifying run Jordan and make a statement that the work you’ve put in has resulted in a foundation for long term competitive success. You’re going to see things on the board you’ve never seen before and rather than getting a sinking feeling in your stomach, be inspired!
Why He Won’t: The grab flips were nice and with more time Jordan will likely add many new wrinkles to his run but Dubai is going to be all about speed, massive combos and innovation. This is why first time competitors need to watch closely and take notes.
It’s like we haven’t been paying attention to our own backyard. Curtis is another Canadian first time competitor who impressed enough with his qualifying video to be making his World Cup debut. We had not heard anything about him until the video and so that’s all we have to go on. Nice to see him spinning both directions with the independent feet, much like Huckle. He has a double but looked rather stiff and upright with his posture which made some of the spin to flip combos look slightly incomplete.
Why He’ll Win: Certainly Curtis looks poised to make a strong debut in a month but he will need much more time on the board to polish up his technique in order to begin to bring the bigger tricks into his repertoire. Simple things like dropping in all the way to the waters surface, instead of starting ten feet up, would add the hose needed to turn 360’s into 720’s which is the minimum you’ll see from the top athletes.
Why He Won’t: Like with all sports you have to be so automatic and dialed in during training sessions so that when the nerves hit and moment arrives at a World Championship your ‘off ‘ run is really only noticeable to you. Everyone praises you for killing it out there and in your mind you’re ripping on yourself for the smallest errors in detail. Most first time competitors are not showing that kind of polish with their qualifying videos and so it will be an eye opening experience for some in Dubai.
Representing Finland, Miika will make his Pro Flyboarding debut in Dubai and this is one first time competitor that could do a lot of damage. His qualifying video was a very mature and well executed run with no repetition, flown at a comparable overall speed to athletes who currently rank in the top ten.
Why He’ll Win: H2RO is very impressed not just with the close Triple at the end of his video but more with him including a thread-the-needle move, a bonsai flip and understanding the importance of working both directions. Plus he used reverse flight to add a new level of difficulty to tricks. He worked 40 feet in the air and really looked like a confident flyer. We’re excited to see him in person.
Why He Won’t: It’s the World Championship and competition will be very stiff, that being said this guy will put up a heck of a fight in the battle rounds and though he may not walk away with the golden Flyboard he will certainly win over many if his runs look like his video.
We expect Alex to lean on past competitive experience and his official Flyboard Show opportunities in order to put together runs that entertain and score well at the same time. Watching his Dubai qualifying video it seemed his ski was under-powered as it took forever to elevate into tricks and he was seemingly jumping into his flips to get the rotations started. Still a clean double and with more power comes many more options.
Why He’ll Win: When you’re flying in front of large crowds with some of the best riders in the world your game is significantly improved by osmosis. His exposure to top athletes and the desire he expressed in Dubai last year to come back much stronger have us excited to see what he’s got planned this year.
Why He Won’t: There looks to be at least a few more steps in the ladder between Alex’s current flying and a competition win. I don’t want to worry too much about the qualification video and we suspect our expectations will be exceeded in Dubai as he rockets skyward with purpose and a lot of horsepower underfoot.
An experienced competitor it will be interesting to see if this is the competition where Sergey makes a little more noise than he has in the past. A very nice double with quick rotations to open his qualifying video was a great start but there were still those knee banger moments where his control seemed to escape him. Still he did try to combo with his superman-flip-spin out move and add a little swagger here and there which seeing that Dubai will not be his first rodeo he understands that anything you can do to stand out from the pack is a good thing.
Why He’ll Win: Again not going to be on the podium this year unless he hits an unprecedented string of DQ’s but Dubai is likely a big moment for Sergey. His third Pro Flyboarding competition and I’m sure he’s set some personal goals in an attempt to see some progression. Wishing him all the best on that personal journey.
Why He Won’t: Fly your best, don’t flip the ski and enjoy the moment. Then you actually have won.
Our first look at Alberto and his qualifying video showed some nice potential in his flying. Using the indy feet of the Pro Series to cork into a superman and again into a dive were nice variations. His double touched the water and he did have some EMK control issues but nothing to severe. The section that was a good representation of the type of commitment and extension needed at the World Cup level was his slalom, superman to flip session all of which was aggressive and executed well.
Why He’ll Win: There are two ways to approach your first competition. You can stay committed to your run as it’s been practiced (which I tend to agree with) or watch and adapt as you realize what you’re up against in the hopes that the adrenaline and the moment bring out some new level that was trapped inside your limbs unable to escape until now. This second option occasionally results in a flipped ski… just FYI.
Why He Won’t: We’ve said it before but there is a stage of learning new tricks and then a stage for polishing those tricks. Athletes like Alberto seem to have a solid arsenal to employ but lack the fine tuning needed to pull those critical points from the judges. Competition flying is challenging but always makes guys better so there are many other benefits to putting yourself out there on this stage than winning.
H2RO is super stoked to see every one of these amazing athletes up close in Dubai and we envision tons of drama and excitement. The level of flying around the world continues to rise and to think that this Pro Series Flyboard has only been in their hands for a few months blows our minds.
As always whether we’ve met before or not, if you recognize me in Dubai please come up and say hi. I really enjoy connecting with everyone and wish you all a great XDubai Flyboard World Cup experience.