Pro Hydroflight Athlete – Callon Burns (Bermuda)
Hydroflight Competition Results
2015 North American Flyboard Championship – 11th Place
2014 X Dubai Flyboard World Cup – 12th Place
2014 North American Flyboard Championship – 3rd Place
Standing on the waterfront in Toronto and knowing the Lake Ontario water was cool even by Canadian standards I had to ask myself how’s the competitor from Bermuda going to handle this environment? Well, from the first moment Callon Burns hit the water at the 2014 Flyboard North American Championship it was clear… there was nothing soft about this guy and the water temp wouldn’t slow him down at all. Maybe it was the Bermudian rhythms pumping through his veins coupled with the fact the guy never stops working out there.
(Note: I just came across more awesome footage after cutting this video so you’ll likely see another video of Cal soon)
H2RO MAGAZINE EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
H2RO: Cal please tell us a little bit about yourself, your sports background and how you got involved in the world of Flyboarding?
Hey H2RO Magazine, first I want to give a huge shout out to my man Blaine Jeffery for his tireless work ethic and efforts to dedicating his time to dropping quality content on the Flyboard/Hoverboard sport and its professionals with regularity.
For those that don’t know me, I’m Callon Burns, 27 years old and was born in the beautiful little island of Bermuda just two hours off the coast of New York. Growing up on an island so small, makes it very easy to reach the water whether or not it’s beaches or docks within minutes of leaving your doorstep irregardless of what part of the island your located in so most Bermudians grow up being just as comfortable in the water as they are on land.
Going into sports, I’ve grown up in a sports dominated family especially on my dad’s side, most of which are well known locally for their achievements. It’s fair to say I’ve had a helping hand with genetics in being athletic but I’ve played football (soccer to some) since I was able to walk, run track and field (sprinter primarily, as I’m far too lazy to want for anything more than 100 meters) til end of high school days, boxed at an amateur level for the past ten years and generally a gym junkie in a lot of my spare time being I feel looking good and feeling good go hand in hand together.
As far getting into Flyboarding is concerned, it’s totally random but I’m glad the circumstances surrounding it to make it happen happened. I was currently in between searching for a different job to get out of the one I was presently working in. I was getting tired of the routine nature of the job and had let my mother know of my situation. She had bumped into Charlie Swan not long after our conversation and he mentioned that he may or may not have an opening for me in his family owned business. For those that don’t know Charlie Swan, he’s Michael Swans (Coconut Rockets/ Bermuda Flyboard Owner and my eventual boss) older brother as well as owner of Batson & Swan Plumbing, the business I was applying for work with. Things were slow and being he generally liked me as an individual, rather than sending me away he insisted I speak to his younger brother before I left his office. With nothing to lose I decided I’d see what Michael had to offer. Mike’s first words were “I’m about to bring maybe the coolest thing ever to Bermuda and I just need one more guy on my team to make this work” and with that said he pulled up YouTube and pressed play on this video. I watched maybe a few minutes of it pretty awestruck at what I was seeing and he asked “Are you in?” ..my response was “Hell yeah!!”, I needed no further coaxing. Thinking back on it being a year and some ago now it’s amazing how far I’ve come as being the youngest and last member of the team at the time, how far we’ve come as a team and brand, and how far the sport has come in general in such a short space of time it’s just crazy amazing.
H2RO: Our sport is very unique and so I’m curious to know what your progression has been like from your first time on the board to 3rd Place at the Flyboard North American Championship last June?
Our sport is incredibly unique, there’s nothing like it which is what makes it so much more exciting and cooler to do and be a part of.
First thoughts of myself now on maybe my first session or two, was.. I was a lot worse than I thought I was then. I got up on my first few attempts but I really didn’t start understanding the board til after a month or so of playing with it. It was more reactionary movements at first and I call that the board controlling you.
Thinking back on my first time on the Flyboard til now, the progression through my learning curve was pretty fast. Most of the moves that I execute now whether it be spirals, dolphins and different variations of the sort plus transitions I was actually doing very early out which makes them comfortable to do either direction presently being I’ve been doing it nonstop for the better part of a year. Some of the things I didn’t get down til more recently was being able to throw backflips properly. I was initially doing side flips cause it was easier for me and still had a cool look to it but it wasn’t until late last year after World’s that I’d decide to start working on cleaning them up til I could eventually separate the two moves. Aside from that, my consistency on the board is what I think has helped me the most. I think everything is based on feeling, you have to feel the board so I just stay on the board as much as I can. Another thing that’s helped out tremendously was being able to study other pro’s and implement certain things into my style or arsenal based on pro’s I’ve seen and admired as flyers. I’ve been watching the top guys for well over a year so I’d say my progress and even achievement in Toronto has a lot to do with the homework I’ve been doing together with having some sick guys to feed off of and learn from.
H2RO: You’d obviously been flying at a high level prior to Toronto but it was during the competition that H2RO got a chance to see you fly and begin to appreciate your style. How would you describe your flying style and how has it evolved over time?
Yea the fact that nobody had seen anything of me was kind of purposely done.. They say your first impression is your deepest impression and you can’t change that. We wanted to make sure people got a real idea of what I look like in action so we waited before dropping anything worth looking at. At the same time it minimized the ability to study me. Up until Toronto the only thing that could vouch for me as a flyer would be the photo’s I had and maybe Mike hyping me up as a good flyer.
My flying style though is probably influenced by a few things, for one most people on the island dance or have rhythm and that goes hand in hand with style. When I fly I like to dance on the board, to show it off, to show myself off. It’s very easy to rip and be aggressive, but to be able to do the same things under control with fluidity and smoothness makes it almost hypnotic to watch. That’s how I like to treat people that watch me, almost snake charmer like. I try to pull them in without saying a word, just movement. As for how my style has evolved, it’s always going to be based on ‘style’ but I think I’ve gotten a lot faster and become a bit more all action in the sense I keep banging. Constant movement is priority, tireless almost and presently I’m working on sharpening my move set. I personally feel presentation is everything so being able to pull off a move isn’t my high, its making the move look good.
H2RO: Let’s talk for a bit about the style of single and double backflip you were executing in Toronto. Named the ‘Sidewinder’ and ‘Double Sidewinder’ this off axis flip was viewed early on as a bit of a ‘cheat’ but you’ve turned it into a stylish maneuver all its own. I know we spoke about it in the Anatomy of the Double Backflip article but please share again the evolution of your version of this trick?
(Cal took a little more time with this question… his answer coming very soon.)
(Please feel free to have Michael chime in with a contribution on this question and the next one)
Cal: I gave this question to Mike to answer in his words.
Mike Swan: Firstly, massive props to Blaine and H2RO for spearheading the spreading of the gospel according to Flyboarding. You are doing an awesome job man!!
(Thanks very much Mike I appreciate that!)
Coconut Rocket’s (CR’s) humble beginnings were back in March of 2013 when while researching something for another company I have, I stumbled across a pic of a guy standing about 30 feet in the air atop a plume of water that was shooting out of his feet and hands. I was intrigued. 2 mouse clicks later I was sold .. I had to get this awesome piece of ‘stuff’ to Bermuda as soon as possible. I am a serial entrepreneur and Flyboarding looked off the charts hott!! I could not let anyone else beat me in getting it to Bermuda. I began looking for a distributor and it took a frustratingly long time to find one as there was not one for Bermuda. And I pulled out every stop in searching.
Having zero success in my search I realized that my home country, Bermuda, is ‘The’ last outpost of the British Empire (we are a British Colony). So I seized on contacting the British distributor for Flyboard, 158 Performance. Driving home the fact that even though there are 4000 miles between Bermuda and Britain and it would look good on their resume to have such a beautiful sub tropical ‘British’ country on their list of dealers, I convinced them to give us a dealership. And voila here we are a year and a bit later and CR is growing, the #3 Flyboarder in North America, Callon Burns, is part of our flight crew and things are definitely looking up.
Coming from a design/marketing background my goal with CR was to create a brand with a personality and lifestyle. I wanted all future CR flyboarders to be a part of a lifestyle exemplified by the personality that our flight crew displayed. And fortunately the original team that helped build Coconut Rockets were the perfect mix of passionate, crazy, fun, fit and cool people to help launch us. We were trained by Mike Dear, pro flyboarder and British Freestyle Champion, and this crazy Scotsman also helped us shape our personality.
Having a passionate team who all saw the same end was key to building the CR vision. We began by sourcing all of our friends for free flights. We then contacted the local newspaper which 2 of our team worked for and offered free flights to key staff. This gave us a front page article and we invited all potential wannabe ‘Coconut Rockets Jet Pilots’ to come and fly for free. This onslaught of newbie pilots helped get our training underway and helped to spread through word of mouth the news of this exciting addition to the Bermuda water sports scene.
Awareness is the key to the success of this burgeoning sport and CR has really pulled out all of the stops here in Bermuda to do that. We would as often as possible try to find events or parties that were held near or on the water and we would just show up and fly. This was a tremendous boost to business. We also took part in a nighttime ‘Boat Parade’ with a home made illuminated LED light suit. This event took CR off the charts with visibility … the event had thousands of spectators and the crowds went absolutely wild when they saw us. All of this together with the awesome photo work and Facebook management done by or main girl Natalie (Nat) has really helped to get us going.
I really have to give massive props actually to Facebook and Nat. This social media avenue has done wonders for us and has really been the key to shaping our personality. We can’t say enough about the awesome job Nat has done in capturing lots of our moments, and creating moments, then putting them out for all the world to see.
The biggest personal challenge I have had with CR is the fact that in Bermuda we are only allowed one car per household and over the past year CR has pretty much destroyed my wife’s car from carting lots of salt water dripping stuff around. Wifey is not too happy and I am buying her a new car this October while CR will acquire its own dedicated vehicle.
CR has had challenges and there are still challenges ahead. Our team is changing slightly as some members are moving from Bermuda to other shores. But our personality is the same. Our location is somewhat up in the air for next year also. Last year’s location was great until the landlord felt we were making too much money and wanted to increase our rent by 400%. We secured another location for this year that has worked well for us but the landlord who really wants us to stay, is doing a few changes to the property which may or may not work in our favour. … stay tuned. To stay on top of these location issues we are looking to perhaps get a pontoon boat for next year which would help us grow our mobile ops. We are also actively working on taking CR to a few islands in the Caribbean later this year.
Mike, that sounds like a lot to deal with but we know you and your great team will make it work. H2RO Magazine is behind you 100%!
H2RO: Your 3rd Place finish is all the more impressive due to the fact this is a judged sport and going into the competition it was stated that competitors being flown by a driver (not using the EMK) had a slight advantage and therefore if in a battle round the scores were basically identical the winner would be the pilot using the Electronic Management Kit (which is a hand held throttle control). You were expertly flown by Michael Swan so talk to me about that relationship and the challenges and benefits of flying with someone on the ski during a competition?
Again I’d love to hear Mike’s perspective and what it took to battle through each run?
Mike deserves a lot of credit for what we pulled off in Toronto. I’m going to say a little then let Mike have the stage. Personally, from my point of view the fact that we podiumed with the EMK vs Pilot disadvantage made our accomplishment all the more sweet. It’s not something I’d say we’d thought impossible though because we totally trust each other and although I’ve had a few pilots, Mike’s been flying me since day one so he knows me inside out when I’m in the air and I can fully focus on what I’m doing because I know Mike has got the ski 100%. I practically don’t have to look because he’s already on top of everything and most times if anything happens it’ll probably have been my fault in judgement or execution so it’s awesome having him out for the ride. Pilots don’t get enough credit and I think it boils down to people’s knowledge of what their purpose is, so I’ll tell you Mike made it happen for me and took a lot of licks in the process.
Mike Swan: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh… The wet life of a Flyboard engine driver … Dayum what a selfless job!. The pilot gets all the glory and the engine driver gets sprayed with water, tossed off, hit by rogue hoses and hangs on like a desperate bull rider. It’s all good though.
Callon has been part of the Coconut Rockets (CR) flight crew for over a year now and from his shy and insecure beginnings we are now having difficulty keeping his ego in check (especially since we think he will win the World Championships). Actually all joking aside Callon is an awesome pilot. The way that CR is structured he gets lots of air time which is key to being ‘on point’ when airborne. The bulk of Callon’s training sessions especially leading up to the NA Championships saw me driving and armchair coaching from the engine. On occasion I would critique and time his runs from the shore with Kalin, one of our other flight instructors driving him.
For training Callon would spent hours offline studying the techniques and moves of other pilots. And I would spend time offline studying what other pilots were not doing. Combining the results of this study with some very unique CR training techniques that we cannot disclose, and my total displeasure at having a CR engine rolled, Callon’s natural ability and our driver / pilot partnership was forged. Callon’s style is a blueprint for the old adage of ‘The whole is greater than the sum of it parts’. It is not about pulling off the ‘trick’. It is about telling the story before and after the trick, doing the trick well and telling the story in your own words. This together with excellent hose management makes driving Callon a challenge and a joy.
Typically when we fly at CR it is at wide open throttle for the full session. This resulted initially in many instances where there would be unplanned meetings with the hose or a rolled engine. This never went down well and usually ended the training session. From these events, Callon’s excellent hose management skills were honed. Not for the faint of heart the key to being a good engine driver is to know how your pilot is going to fly. You have to know his moves and you have to learn how to read and tame the hose with the key focus on helping the pilot to make himself look good. As an example it is possible to be thrown off a half rolled engine with your finger still on the throttle trigger while you are being dragged through the water while attempting to remount the engine. All this to keep the pilot flying. The show must go on. And the show is the showman. The showman is the pilot.
For the NA Championships, to keep nerves cool we tried to treat it as ‘ just another day at the beach’. Riding a more powerful engine than what we have in Bermuda, my goal as the driver was to find the sweet spot in the throttle range that we both felt was equivalent to the power we’d run at back home. Having this dialed in, my next goal was to try to ease the throttle a bit higher without overpowering, and backing off if necessary as Callon moved through his routine. More throttle means faster execution. Faster execution means more excitement. More excitement means better show. The pilot has to feel the freedom to perform to his best having total confidence that his engine driver will hold him for the performance, boost him for emphasis and fold him if danger is apparent.
Balancing the engine is also key. The hose is like a wild animal that has to be tamed while having a life of its own. And the hose as best as possible wants to ruin the pilot’s performance ‘and’ throw the engine driver off. A good engine driver knows how to read the pilot and hose well and between he and the pilot the hose can be tamed. This all being done while ‘riding a bull’ as jets of cold Toronto water are being thrown at you. We pulled this off well in Toronto. Callon flew 3 excellent rounds and as driver I ‘rode the bull’ thrice and was only bucked once. And Callon won #3. Yesssssss!!
We still do not have an EMK. We are still waiting for the wireless to come out. Hopefully it will be soon.
Callon and I have a great pilot / driver synergy and we here at CR are thrilled at his accomplishment. Next stop Worlds!
H2RO) You had quite the cheering section in Toronto… tell us a little bit about the vibe where you work and play? Why should we all be hopping on planes this instant and heading your way?
Ahh man my team is made up of personalities so it’s never a dull moment. Mike’s the young dude in an older dude’s body, Lee Osborne would be our Englishmen and comic relief, Jason Csizar is our version of Ironman and would have to be the joker on the team, there’s Marc Tucker dubbed ‘Mr. Awesome’ not sure if it was for his backflips, crossfit muscles or women but I think I nick it with pulling more women so that may have to be debated and then there’s Natalie Dyrli who is our poster girl, camera girl and probably my biggest fan so you have quite the mix right there. It’s all have good fun on work hours or after hours.
Also Bermuda (Our area of work and play) is awesome altogether, the weathers generally very warm and sunny with beautiful crystal clear blue waters in which you can see the bottom next to pink sand beaches. We live in a place were the scenery pretty much amplifies your experience, everything is colorful. Aside from that there’s tons of pretty women, what’s not to like about that??? Haha..
H2RO) There are definitely some cool characteristics that different pilots share and I think you and Aaron Gould would kill on ‘So You Think You Can Dance – Flyboard Edition’. What aspects of other Pros flying do you enjoy and might want to add to your repertoire going into the 2014 Flyboard World Cup?
Haha!! Aaron Gould’s my dude right there.. It probably won’t come as a surprise that his flying style was something I took a lot of points from.
As far as other flyers there are one or two that I admire and wouldn’t mind taking a page from..
Stéphane Prayas is one, I personally like how rapid he can be when throwing moves and moving around the ski. Some of his 2013 World’s highlights were sick at how fast he was throwing around his ski and still maintaining control. Cooper Riggs is another, I think his smoothness and transitions through difficult moves are top drawer. I’m a big fan of smooth and he’s got it. I’ll say my dude Scotty Knemeyer would be my last choice, he goes real big. He flies with a go hard or go home attitude which is great for an attitude sport and it’s something I could pay attention to.
H2RO) This is just the first interview of many I’m sure so this is far from my last question but to wrap up this initial chat maybe you could share with our audience a flying tip or technique that has been particularly important to your ascent to the top of the world of Pro Flyboarding?
If I had to give a tip to any up and coming flyboarders, it would firstly be to be confident in your ability and allow your personality to show on the board. Secondly master the basics, over and over because consistency pays off and one cool move does not make an awesome flyer. Being well rounded should be the aim, the ability to do almost everything with a level of comfort. That’s what will separate the good guys from the great guys.
Cal, Mike, it’s been a pleasure doing this interview and you got me dreaming about Bermuda and anxious to go fly with you one day and I’m sure I’m not the only one. This year’s World Championship will be incredible and H2RO would not be surprised at all if Cal takes a few more steps up the podium.
A look at some slow motion footage from the 2015 North American Flyboard Championship.
Learn more about the 2014 Flyboard North American Championship.