Hydro Fest 2016
It’s time to get serious.
It’s time to prepare ourselves to be amazed… but not shocked.
We say NOT shocked because after covering 6 Pro Hydroflight competitions since 2013 we now come to expect our minds to be blown by the progression of these athletes. They always raise the bar, they always push our sport forward and going into Hydro Fest in Pahrump, Nevada on June 10 -12 H2RO is full of anticipation and excitement.
So why the extra buzz going into this particular competition?
- This will be the first competition to see divisions for Jetboards, Jetpacks and Jetbikes
- A tremendous roster of competitors featuring big names, unknowns and athletes we haven’t had the pleasure of seeing fly for years.
- The possibility of new technology being employed which should allow for the highest level of flying we’ve ever seen.
- An out of this world beautiful venue
- A top notch judging panel, with a new scoring app/system that has been tuned up by industry insiders.
For the athletes, this event will see extensive media coverage, for the fans it will be a complete entertainment package the entire weekend with action and fun activities on and off the water along with live music in the evenings.
KEYS TO VICTORY – JETBOARDS
The Jetboard Division to date has been the only competitive Hydroflight division and it has seen an impressive evolution since H2RO started covering the sport in 2013. At the 2015 XDubai Flyboard World Cup the competitors took flying to a whole nother level putting insane combinations together and expanding the trick repertoire immensely. So what is it going to take to find a spot on the podium at Hydro Fest in the Jetboard division?
Looking at the progression of the top Jetboard athletes over the last year and taking into consideration the improvements to the judging criteria we believe that speed and diversity could be the differentiating factors between top ten and the rest of the field. We’ve seen such an improvement with trick execution (purposeful tricks landed clean) and flow (stringing tricks and combos together without any filler) that athletes who just ‘see what happens’ don’t tend to have a shot at the top anymore.
It’s interesting, as we edit so many videos and tend to trim out the ‘set up’ time from runs, how much less there is to cut than there was even a year ago. Competitors are tricking while descending and ascending and have gotten so much better at managing the hose and ski that it’s really only fatigue that eventually slows them down.
Let’s first look at the judged categories and their respective percentages and then further explain our keys to victory. These percentages are guideline percentages that have been approved by the judges involved. Any deviation from these relationships will be consistent and fair for all athletes involved and our H2RO keys to victory are just educated opinion and are not recommendations supported by all the judges.
1) Difficulty: 40%
2) Execution: 25%
3) Amplitude: 15%
4) Variety: 10%
5) Progression: 10%
1) Difficulty: How difficult is the trick? Here, the focus is on the number of spins and flips, whether it was a back-to-back or a true double. Add combinations of grabs and axes of rotation in one up-and-down motion and you have your base for level of difficulty.
H2RO – Style out your tricks and make them look more difficult than maybe they actually are for you. Making every trick in your run look effortless can actually be deceiving. Even athletes who get emotionally jacked after landing a fairly routine trick move the judges emotionally with their passion. Also look at what you can add to a trick that makes it look different/unique but isn’t so hard that you can’t land the move the same way without it. Great example Brody Wells and his arm waving backflips. Finally, fly with speed but keep the run clean as each trick does contribute to your average. Everything looks more intense and more difficult when done with pace. The flip side of that is ensuring that you don’t do the following two things: 1) throw a very simple, low scoring trick into your run because it will bring down your average and 2) Flying so fast that you miss landings or flat out crash.
2) Execution: How is the trick executed? With intent, held through the whole trick, showing style and control with a solid landing.
H2RO – 25% is actually not the entire story here. Execution may be worth 25% but it actually affects 100% of your run. From a time standpoint to a psychological standpoint trick execution is paramount. Athletes that have started runs with big moves that they have missed badly out of the gate tend to never recover. This also immediately shakes the confidence the judges had in the athlete prior to the horn. Start strong!
3) Amplitude: At what height was the trick performed? “Power used” is also associated with this criteria.
H2RO – Have you watched your runs back on video? I hope you have because many athletes, at least in our first few competitions, were shocked to learn how low they actually were performing the majority of their routines. Height is the ‘wow’ factor in our sport and actually makes some of the tricks easier to execute so take advantage and go BIG!
4) Variety: How many variations does the run offer? A mixture of big tricks is essential for a good score and shows the whole trick repertoire of a flyer. Showmanship between tricks makes for a well-rounded run. A competitor is only allowed to do the same trick twice without Point deduction.
H2RO – So, as we understand it do the same trick/combo a third time in a run and you’ve hurt your score. Even twice may affect this variety category. We also believe that athletes need to have combos that are significantly different from one another in order to maximize their reward. Doing a 360 backflip then a 720 backflip and then a 1080 backflip is too similar and won’t help you in this variety category. The hydroflight trick repertoire has grown and continues to evolve, as an athlete you need to not only have a diverse selection of tricks but remember what you’ve thrown as a round progresses. It’s very easy to get ‘lost’ out there in front of the crowd when the pressures on.
5) Progression: Has this trick been seen before? This includes new and unusual tricks as well as variations of combos.
H2RO – In our opinion don’t look at the 10% next to Progression and think that’s all this category affects. Progression to us definitely can influence your 40% Difficulty score. A good run moves up to great when truly innovative tricks are unleashed because like us the judges have seen their fair share of flying and giving them goosebumps is always good for the score sheet. However, as is the case in judged sports you have to balance out risk versus reward. We at H2RO always want to encourage athletes to push their limits and help contribute to the creation of the most fan friendly version of Hydorflight possible but you also need to be tactical and do what it takes to produce a high scoring overall run.
H2RO EVENT PARTNER
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Pro Hydroflight Athletes
Fans of Hydroflight are going to be very familiar with some of these Jetboard athletes competing in Hydro Fest and after the event new stars will emerge on all three rides. Each competition is a launching pad so along with having a good time comes the potential to build their personal brands and rapidly increase their shows, demos and other paid opportunities to fly.
Here are some of the Hydro Fest Jetboard athletes you will want to keep your eyes on come June 10 – 12.
H2RO World Ranked #2
2015 Flyboard World Champion
Hunter Verlander, just back from Osaka Japan where he was flying professionally on behalf of X-Jetpacks and Team Aquafly, has to be the favorite going into Hydro Fest in the Jetboard division. A ‘flipping’ monster, Hunter was the first athlete in the world to pull a quadruple backflip and makes triples, layout triples and triple combos look routine. Not being a big fan of missiles and high dives, the water depth restrictions in Pahrump may suit the ‘Poison Dart Frog’. Verlander will be competing on the Jetblade and so until the Scorpion is released the question will be does that board allow for Verlander to fly with the same precision and flip with the same ease as the Pro Series did in Dubai? Even without a quad Hunter has all the skills to walk away with the victory next month.
H2RO World Ranked #3
2014 and 2015 North American Flyboard Champion
Impressed. That’s what H2RO was when we witnessed a focused and aggressive Damone Rippy compete at the 2015 XDubai Flyboard World Cup. Rippy was sharp and implemented a more strategic and mature strategy adjusting his triple execution to match his competitors while differentiating himself with his incredible speed. A kinked hose in his final run resulted in a hard fall and an injured shoulder, leaving Damone off the podium for the first time since 2013. Expect to see a lot of flying from Damone Rippy in Pahrump.
H2RO World Ranked #4
2015 XDubai Flyboard World Cup – 7th
Hungry to fight his way back onto a podium, Ben Merrell has been studying his flights from the World Cup and tuning up a Championship winning run. Merrell was one of the most creative athletes in Dubai using spin to cork combinations and huge roto-dives (aka spin dives) to compliment rounds which included clean triples and double-1080-double combos. The continued challenge, and this can be said for every athlete in the Jetboard division, is diversity within each run. Nerves pull athletes back to their comfort zone and with more and more variations out there to include a world class run of 2 minutes should never seem repetitive. Ben Merrell is a veteran in our sport and knows all of this going in.
H2RO World Ranked #1 (Veteran’s Division)
2015 XDubai Flyboard World Cup – Veteran Division Champion
2015 NAFBC we thought Todd Sawisch was very good. 2015 XDFWC we thought Todd Sawisch was freakin’ awesome. 2016 SESSION ONE in Florida we learned Todd Sawisch is freakin’ crazy! When we say crazy we mean it in the best possible way. Perhaps when you can do your own facial surgery your willing to put yourself in harms way to chase a Hydroflight dream. The sh%t he pulled over those Jaxx was a little nuts and a lot cool. Sawisch was a professional roller skater in a previous life before becoming at top Oral Surgeon and now finds himself the current Flyboard World Champion in the Veteran’s Division. There is no such division at Hydro Fest and that won’t matter one bit as Todd has all the biggest tricks and then some. Sawisch likes to go as big as the ski will let him and flies very tactical runs sucking every point possible out of the judges. Can you tell we’re fans… after June 12 you will be too.
H2RO World Ranked #10
2015 XDubai Flyboard World Cup – 11th
With a very strong XDFWC and impressive showing at SESSION ONE in Florida, Rush Bragg is a Hydroflight athlete on the rise. The inventor of the ‘Universal’ this alternating triple is impressive, will score high, and has to give Bragg great confidence going into the event. Variation and speed are two components that seem to separate the top five competitors from the field so it will be those aspects of Rush’s competitive runs that will need to find that next level in order to take another step up the rankings.
H2RO World Ranked #12
2015 XDubai Flyboard World Cup – 10th
The season starts late in Canada but for Hydroflight veteran Brody Wells this has to be one event he’ll be anxious to attack. Wells was one of the athletes that we really felt stepped up to a new level with the Pro Series release. Wells flying in Dubai was much closer in scope to what the finalists were bringing to the table and so instead of feeling like Brody may have hit a plateau we now see him as a serious contender come June 10th. We heard he will be sharing this adventure with his father which is awesome and further motivation for this Team Canfly captain.
H2RO World Ranked #14
2015 XDubai Flyboard World Cup – 15th
Watch out people… The Punisher is coming! Ronnie Feise was in attack mode in Dubai last December. He flew with a confidence that was fueled by knowing he had variations no one else was doing. He and Team PowerFly teammate Callon Burns pushed our sports technical boundaries and we expect to see Feise pick up where they left off last year. Some of what Ronnie threw in Dubai needed second and third viewings to fully appreciate and so with judges more familiar with the unique entries into Ronnie’s flip variations it should help him pull the scores that we feel these moves deserve.
H2RO World Ranked #17
2015 XDubai Flyboard World Cup – 17th
Mike Prince of Team Canfly had one of the most impressive qualifying rounds at the 2015 XDFWC. His work both horizontally and vertically made for unique lines and this is where we feel Prince can do damage in Nevada. Take his double Koru and add a flip exit and Mike begins to have some very serious combos going on. The challenge is that the qualifying round in Dubai was a methodical five trick execution and at Hydro Fest he will need to keep his speed up and transitions smooth for the full two minutes because we expect competitors to pack a lot of high scoring tricks into that time frame.
H2RO World Ranked #33
2015 XDubai Flyboard World Cup – 33rd
As far as H2RO is concerned Rodrigo is coming off a disappointing Flyboard World Cup event after impressing at the North American Flyboard Championship in Louisiana. Delgado has some serious skills but needs to put the whole package together and prove he can deliver consistently high level runs. His ‘Tornado’ spins are insane and side flips ridiculously cool but it’s the in between moments that need more purpose. The weather is beautiful in Mexico so we are looking forward to seeing a well prepared, confident and aggressive Rodrigo Delgado!
H2RO World Ranked #37
2015 XDubai Flyboard World Cup – 37th
Looking back at TJ Andrews qualifying round at the 2015 XDFWC it seems as though he should have made it through. It would have been awesome if he did because this multi-sport dude can rip. Drawing on his snowboarding experience Andrews has shown a natural comfort on the Flyboard and with very little practice time had triples, infinity flips and backward entries going on. We expect TJ to be hungry to show what he can really do on a Jetboard and Hydro Fest could be the perfect venue to move himself significantly up our H2RO World Rankings.
H2RO World Ranked #39
Speaking of athletes who should be hungry in Vegas we’ve got Andrew Salvador of Team Canfly. Andrew’s qualification video for the 2015 XDFWC didn’t earn him a spot in Dubai and this was disappointing for a number of reasons.
- Andrew was pissed that he didn’t have his best stuff in that video and it cost him the competition.
- We as fans didn’t get to see one of the top Hydroflight athletes in the world compete at the highest level.
Salvador’s signature 50 ft back dive the ‘Fallen Angel’ is scary and awesome but with only 15 feet of water to work with only a lower variation with a 45 degree entry will be allowed. Missiles have been outlawed due to water depth so there will be many athletes, not just Andrew, adjusting their game plan going in. An area where Salvador could potentially find the next level is with diversity and speed. That is what can compliment his ‘wow’ moments because single backflips are basically filler at this stage in our sport.
Casey ‘Swizzle’ Mcelwee
H2RO World Ranked #40
We can tell you three things for certain about Swizzle, he will wear pink, he will speak his mind and he will fly right on the edge. Most recently we had a chance to see Casey on his Dolphin Board do battle with the Jaxx and it was actually that round coupled with our memory of his great runs during the 2015 NAFBC that really confirmed for us that Mcelwee’s flying was headed in the right direction. Don’t let his 40th ranking fool you as he was not able to compete in Dubai and that affected his position. If Swizzle continues to go as big as we’ve seen him go but with clean landings there could be a lot of pink in Pahrump.
H2RO World Ranked #44
XDubai Flyboard World Cup – 39th
Every athlete needs to get one competition under their belt (unless you’re Cooper Riggs) before your best is on display and I think that’s what the XDubai Flyboard World Cup did for Team Canfly’s Jordan Fabro. He obviously qualified with a strong video to get into XDFWC but he left us wondering what does this guy really have going on. He’s fearless we know that. Now we want to see solid command of his tricks and purposeful execution because with those two things in place Hydro Fest could be a great coming out party for this Canadian.
H2RO World Ranked #47
Coming off a serious knee injury Hydro Fest will be Matt’s first competition since Louisiana. He was impressive last year at NAFBC but we’ve only scratched the surface with Matt. It’s hard to know where his training is at because when we met up in Florida during SESSION ONE he was still rehabilitating his knee. There is something to be said for having competitive experience and a strong game plan going in. Looking forward to seeing you fly Matt!
H2RO World Ranked #50
We currently rank only the Top 50 Pro Flyboarders in the world and there sits young Logan Foust in 50th position. Having only seen Logan fly during the 2015 North American Flyboard Championship we expect that the huge potential that was on display there will have matured and evolved a great deal come Hydro Fest. It will be interesting to see if flying with the wireless remote and employing the indy feet can help bring Foust up from ‘good for his age’ to ‘the next Hydroflight force to be reckoned with’.
Scotty Knemeyer blasted onto the scene back in 2014 at the North American Flyboard Championship in Toronto finishing in the top eight and then had a long stretch without a comp. This is why he eventually lost his H2RO World Ranking but understand Knemeyer is a serious Hydroflight beast. He and his JetDeck have blown the minds of Red Bull Air Race fans in Japan twice putting on awesome demos to hundreds of thousands of fans and last February during SESSION ONE it was Scotty who innovated with amazing hand plants off the Jaxx and spin dolphins that would have set World Records for rotations. Big Air and technical flying is what you can expect from Knemeyer but it will be his ability to get a triple around that we are hoping to see. His signature Knemeyer flip should evolve into a double backflip finish and we are curious if DEFY Hydroflight’s JetDeck V2 board might be an option to increase the flip spin speed needed for triples.
With a few Pro Flyboarding competitions under his belt and a year and a half of full time flying at Ocean Kingdom in China, Geoff Hulet is a competitor who could surprise people. His descending cork spins are cool and he certainly knows how to hype a crowd up. There is a strong Canadian contingent headed to Vegas so it should be a party atmosphere and that will suit Mr. Hulet just fine.
Corey took a step forward with his flying at the 2015 NAFBC and it will depend on how much flying he’s been able to get in prior to the event as to what we get from Egan at Hydro Fest. Another athlete who will likely see his trick repertoire expand with the indy feet we know Corey will have a good time out there.
Derek has a passion for the Hoverboard and we enjoyed seeing him surf the sky in Shreveport but only got a glimpse of his board flying in Louisiana so it would be cool to see him put down a solid run and show us more of his skills.
Chase Finley has done a lot of flying and been associated with a number of Hydroflight companies but has yet to compete. We expect Hydro Fest to be a great stage for both peers and fans to see his skills up close and for Finley to see how competitive pressure influences the way he flies. This is one guy H2RO has yet to see in person and we are excited and ready to become Chase Finley fans.
Jordan Finley, yes Chase and Jordan are bros, is someone we saw way back in Doha, Qatar when he competed in the 2013 Flyboard World Cup. Jordan was a rider who went big and had some nice combos way back then so we’re very interested to see how he’s progressed and what his trick rep consists of now. Both Chase and Jordan are signed up to compete in the Jetbike division as well so fans are in for an epic weekend for sure.
H2RO World Ranked #12 (Veteran Division)
XDubai Flyboard World Cup – 9th in the Veteran Division.
At 63, Bruce is proving age ain’t nothing but a number and after flying well in both the 2015 NAFBC and 2015 XDFWC Veteran Divisions Hydro Fest will be another opportunity for this dentist to soar.
H2RO World Ranked #9
The big man with the big moves, we first enjoyed Sean’s flying during the 2015 NAFBC and look forward to seeing him continue to climb up our Veteran Rankings.
The Great Unknowns…
There are many Hydro Fest Jetboard competitors that H2RO has yet to have the pleasure of filming and so we can only say that we expect some of the following athletes to impress and shake things up for the more experienced riders.
Chance and Rance. The Ballard twins are coming from Texas and it will be interesting to see how their flying styles compare/differ.
Max Miller has been training up with Ronnie Feise and is certainly one of the athletes coming in under that radar that everyone should be watching out for.
Team-Fulhangi are a large group of athletes coming all the way from the Maldives to compete. We hope they have an awesome time here so we can all visit them and go flying in paradise.
- Ibrahim Khushan
- Ahmed Alim
- Hassaan Areesh
- Mohamed Irushad
- Mohamed Abdul Latheef
- Mohamed Nashim
H2RO is also excited to see athletes compete on the X-Board from FlyDive for the first time including product designer Ryan Lorence. FlyDive is a company we have been following closely for the last 16 months. Also competing on the X-Board is Nick Enciso.
Jesse Nickell is some of the new blood looking to make his name in Pahrump. At 18 he is a sponsored athlete of Flyboard Las Vegas. Manager at Flyboard Las Vegas and also competing at Hydro Fest is Sean Thomas Ray.
Troy Stowe is a name we’ve read a lot and there is good reason for that. Troy was part of the X-Jetpack’s Hydro Soul event in Thailand last year and also has flown shows with Jetpack Invasion. Apparently fire-breathing could be a trick Stowe unleashes if needed. We look forward to seeing him compete in both the Jetboard and Jetbike divisions.
Bringing their hydroflight skills all the way from Iran will be Farid Hatami and Navid Hatami. Welcome!
JETBOARD DIVISION (LADIES)
Kristen ‘The Destroyer’ Smoyer
H2RO World Ranked #3 (Ladies Division)
2015 XDubai Flyboard World Cup – 3rd in the Ladies Division.
The Ladies Jetboard Division at Hydro Fest is shaping up to be a very exciting and interesting field as unknown athletes with exceptional athletic resumes are matched up against experienced riders hungry for their first win. Smoyer has to be going in with a win-at-all-cost mentality after battling her way to a 3rd place finish at last year’s highly competitive Flyboard World Cup and since then working as a professional Hydroflyer doing countless demos and shows. Kristen is as focused a competitor as you will find in any division and it will take some seriously great flying to bump her off the top of the podium.
H2RO World Ranked #4 (Ladies Division)
2015 XDubai Flyboard World Cup – 4th in the Ladies Division.
Valentine Cambron not only impressed H2RO at the 2015 North American Flyboard Championship but Gretchen and Bobby Vance of Team Aquafly who soon after that competition signed her as their first Aquafly Angel. Cambron trained hard and delivered a fourth place finish at the 2015 World Cup proving she was committed to taking her flying to the next level with every opportunity. A stunning beauty and lovely person you will fall in love with Valentine both on and off the water.
Ladies Division Rookie Crew…
The competitors who are also ready to do battle in this division are Aishath Azhoora Ahmed, who in 2002 was named by the Maldives Olympic Committee as their countries best athlete, Sonya Eaves who put in some serious training with Scotty Knemeyer in Hawaii, Kim Crawford who was a competitive swimmer and water polo player in college and now flies for FlyDive and Leslie Burns who has recently transitioned from throttle woman for her Jetpacking husband to Jetboard rider.
After Hydro Fest we will be talking a lot more about the awesomeness of the Jetbike. This is where things get exciting for H2RO as we cover for the first time a Jetbike competition which includes some of the great pioneers on these rides.
We have seen video footage from some of these guys/girls and so we have our eyes on a few names going in.
Athletes like Joey Natale who we’ve seen throwing doubles on the Jetovator, Kurt Binter rides fast and aggressive, Jetboard cross-over riders like Ben Merrell, Ronnie Feise, Chase Finley, Jordan Finley, Max Miller and Troy Stowe will certainly bring creativity to the division.
Everyone in the Jetbike Division is going to make history as they popularize this Hydroflight experience by taking bikes to new heights.
- Kristen Frese
- Stephane Jacob
- Lee Major
- Ronnie Rocha
- Derek Stryker
The Jetbike keys to victory will be similar to the boards mentioned at the top of this article. Speed rules with Jetbikes and packs as athletes who really attack their runs will likely impress the judges and it never hurts to be able to string three trick combos together.
The original Hydroflight product that started it all will finally see its first competition at Hydro Fest. Jetpacks can fly with great speed and pull serious G-Forces. We got a taste of what the ‘pack’ can do at SESSION ONE with Mike Traster and Mike Helton. It’s going to be very cool to see what these pilots bring to a competitive run:
- Chance Ballard
- Sandy Burns (Jetpack Invasion wizard)
- Jeremy Cameron
- Rodrigo Delgado
- Farid Hatami
- Navid Hatami
- David Lantis
- Jesse Orlando (we have a feeling about this dude)
- Jon Statman
- Ed Valdez
The only thing we’ll say about our limited Jetpack viewing is that transitioning very quickly from horizontal movement to vertical flight creates great energy and excitement which has to be good in a competition. Working each of the low, medium and high altitudes will also be key for creating compelling visuals that bump up the scores.
HydroFest Jetpack Spotlight
Introducing Jesse Orlando and his hair. We’re feeling those trick names so let’s turn them in to real things at Hydro Fest!
Hydro Fest is going to be an amazing competition filled with drama and excitement. The best Hydroflight athletes on Jetboards, Jetbikes and Jetpacks doing what they love and helping to inspire the world to fly. WE’RE PUMPED!
To our friends attending/competing in the event we look forward to seeing you soon. To those who we’ve never met yet please say hi.
It’s going to be fun!