It was a beautiful sunny Saturday when I woke up at the Flyboard National Tour Erie Pennsylvania, which as the flyers will tell you was a huge turn around from the day before. The rains and loud claps of thunder had subsided and gave way to a beautiful morning. The winds were still whipping with 15-20 mile an hour gusts, the beautiful harbor at Erie, PA, was sloshing with 1-2 ft white caps. This is a typical day here on the great lakes, but that wasn’t going to stop anyone from putting on the show that the crowds that gathered had come to see. I heard a few guys say the water was chilly, but ironically it’s at record warmth for this time of year. As always the Flyboard family was there to represent and that they did.
I have attended a few events over the years and was happy to see the family I haven’t seen in a while. I also enjoyed the new friends and family that have come to join in on the fun. It was amazing to see that this is still an ever evolving sport and has come to be a true traveling tour event, allowing these athletes to continue to push limits and engaging competition against each other. As always the athletes were quite supportive of all their supposed foes, psyching each other up and dropping compliments when warranted. It is a sport where on the water it’s all business and on the land it’s all fun, someone write that down. Sounds like a tagline for the next tour! I was also really excited about the progression that has continued to happen as new guys and gals enter the sport. Some of those names we use to all hear over and over are being replaced by new names and new riders with new tricks.
Can we all yell UNI FLIP…..seems to be the new cool trick and watching Sean Ray whip one after another into a thread the needle it really proved the athletes have pushed the limits of what can and can’t be done. I really love the way were going. All the athletes were at the top of their game, and I would also say at the top of the hose. One new addition to these tour events is the use of a longer hose. Those of you that have recently joined the family might not know that in years past the hoses were the original 55 ft hoses. The weren’t X-Armors either and would be shredded by the end of a comp day. I think one year in Louisiana at the North American Championships, I remember hearing that they went through 10’s of hoses. The use of the longer more durable hoses has really pushed the bar higher, no pun intended.
As the day started we saw the addition of a few new divisions that in previous years were not present. We had a novice division with one entry, her name was Amelia Davis. I’d like to point out that she was the only lady on the water that day. To that I say WHERE’S ALL THE LADIES AT!!!
I know there are some serious women flyers out there, so come on ladies. I really enjoyed watching Amelia fly, she wasn’t Gemma Weston YET, but to see her lay it all out there in front of the crowd was admirable. Watch for her in years to come.
We then moved on to another new division the Pro-Am. I really got into this division because I feel like this is the right direction for the sport. At 42 years old with knees of a 60 year old man, I feel like this division gives me hope. I know that THIS guy is never whipping a triple flip. I think having this division will allow for guys young and old to at least have the opportunity to get in on the action without feeling like they have no chance against guys like Ashton Beukers or Sean Ray who fly like they were born on that thing. I also like the fact that this will breed more seasoned pros who will move up in the ranks having had to earn it to be there. This was a great addition and is hopefully a division that’s here to stay.
Next up was the Veterans, I know that if I would have entered this division I could have sealed up 3rd place no problem. That’s because there was only two guys competing but don’t for a second think they are too old to keep pace with some of the young bucks. Flips and twists are still part of their repertoire. We had the Fat Ballerina himself, Sean Shaver, take the win and the young buck Bruce Hagland put on a show for the crowd as well with a few flips of his own. I believe that Bruce is 64 years young and still flying high. Sean Shaver pulling his usual tight flips and showing everybody that size don’t matter in this sport. It was a pleasure to enjoy some lunch with Sean right before the win, and quick note , Sean loves mayonnaise that’s for sure!! Glad to see you my man. Hope to be competing with you someday soon.
Next up were the Pro’s, the action we all came to see. They didn’t disappoint. I’m obviously not going to go through the runs one by one but a few notables for sure. I had the pleasure of flying last summer in Canada at an event held by Flyboard Niagara with several pros in attendance that day and one guy I keep my eye on and can’t wait for is Ashton Buekers. This guy is a hard worker, and an amazing flyer. I saw him in the pits just listening to headphones and doing body push ups on the wall. All focus and as always flawless flying. Rush Bragg is also another flyer I love watching. Flawless and fearless as always. His runs were top notch and some of the best I have seen from Rush. He took second place. In third was T. J. Andrews, he is one guy who’s been climbing the ranks over the last 2-3 years. This guy is NUTS. He goes high and hard at all times and is nothing short of breathtaking. What amazes me the most about T.J. is that he’s from Montana. That’s right Montana, where winter is pretty much every day all year. For T.j. to have the skill he does and probably gets half the practice that some of the Florida guys get, I tip my hat. I always say that even though I have been Flyboarding for five years, I live in Buffalo so really I have been flying for a year because we only get 2 months of Summer, so our time on the water is short and then we get 10 months to dream about the next sunny day on the lake. I’m sure T.J feels somewhat the same. Great flying for third T.J.
We saw a true veteran of the sport Cooper Riggs pull down 4th with some great flying as always. Cooper gave the crowd a show for sure, even coming within 10-15 feet of the crowd and dropping doubles. He is always in there somewhere when you read the top 10 in any event. Great flying and thanks Coop.
And then there was this guy I had never seen before. He came out with all the energy in the world and started just tearing it up in the sky. Uni flip into uni flip, into a double. The uni flip into thread the needle. A few more, like 10-12 flips into crazy trick set ups. It was really refreshing to finally get to see him fly in front of me. This is Sean Ray and as far as I’m concerned he represents the future of the sport. I know he has been around for a while now but this was my first time seeing him live and he did not disappoint. Congrats on the win Sean and I hope to see you keep pushing the limits for years to come. A few notables as well, Connor Brondes was amazing and had a few solid runs, his progression is noticeable and has a great style. Personally I thought he should have placed higher, but the judges saw it as it was. Geoff Hulet had some great runs, as well as David Soldato with a front flip attempt as well. Jesse Nickell, Jermaine Anugwom, and Wade Metz finished out the day placing 9th, 10th, and 11th. They also all had some great runs and really did keep pace with the rest of the field. All in all its was a great day and I was glad to see that this going down in my backyard. The 45 minute drive back home was worth the entire day because it was another day me and the crew could just watch and talk about Hydroflight all day and as I mentioned in Buffalo those days are few and far between.
In closing I would like to say that Jason Burns, the Pro Watercross crew and Zapata have put together a great thing. It’s great to see the judges are true stewards of the sport and that the coverage of the sport continues to expand. It’s good for the athletes and it’s good for business on the rental side. I hope that this momentum continues to build and I hope that the future of this tour and all other competitions is only going to grow. Any competition that has a traveling duck named Howard on tour with them is a tour for me.
(Iris Vasconez, Jason Burns, Alexander Maravegias)
Hey maybe you guys would like to stop in Buffalo next year, July is probably the best bet, it’s about the only time we don’t have ice on the lake. Just kidding, we don’t have any in August either.
Now go get high, hydro fly high!!!!