YAM’s intrepid adventurer pulls the plug on safe and staid, opting instead to kick off the summer by staring fear in the face with a flyboarding thrill.
Today is the day I have agreed to wriggle into a neoprene sausage casing, strap my feet to a rigid board and be towed into deep, freezing-cold water. I have agreed to accept the delivery, via a narrow hose, of several hundred horsepower straight into the bottoms of my boots. I have also agreed to wear a helmet, follow my instructor’s directions, and pray I don’t fall onto the Jet Ski below and dislocate my first seven vertebrae, a number of teeth and all eight of my cranial bones. Oh, and I’m supposed to stand 10 feet off the water while I’m at it!
On YouTube, Rick Mercer makes flyboarding look hilariously fun, but I’m not so sure. I’m kinesthetically stunted, seemingly incapable of learning no matter how many times I do a task. Rock climbing is an example. Let’s not even talk about telemark skiing.
On my way to Elk Lake, I realize I should at least tell someone what I’m about to do. I send a text to my ex: Going flyboarding. If no one picks the kids up from school, I’m either dead or in hospital.
Island Flyboard owners Rob Paton and Darwin Schellenberg are waiting at the boat launch when I pull in. My vision wobbles as I read the waiver. I cross my fingers and sign.
Darwin and Rob strap me into the bindings. My tummy rolls. I am tethered to The Flyboard, a powered water-craft accessory connected by a 50-foot-long hose to a Jet Ski, the power of which will be transferred into the hose and right into my feet, allowing me to soar through the air and swim in and out of the water like a dolphin. I peek around, wondering if it’s too late to make a break for it. How fast can I hop through the forest while tied to a plank? In a wetsuit?
Too slow. I’m off the dock and into the drink. Darwin hollers at me to stretch out like a superhero so the rocket-boosters in my boots can do their magic. It’s a bizarre feeling. I tow us out to deeper water, swallowing surprise gulps as the waves splash me. A pool-bound city sissy, I’m not used to swimming in “live” water.
“Get your boots right under you and then lock your legs,” Darwin coaches. But my inner snowboarder protests. Lock my legs? Only a dummy would do that! Stubbornly, I instead perform a number of graceless dolphin-like undulations, flushing my sinuses end to end with every new plunge.
“Lock your knees,” Darwin grins. “Pretend you’re Ironman!”
Fine. If I break my legs, it’ll be all his fault. But I do as he says. I put my feet under me in the water, lock my legs … and rise.
Three feet above the water, I start to panic. What do I do now? My natural disinclination toward falling means I lean too far back. And let me tell you, from four feet up, a lake is a hella hard surface to fall on your ass. And fall I do. Over and over, bellyflopping and whipping around like an unattended garden hose on full blast. Until all of a sudden, I get it! I am IRONMAN! I rocket away from the water’s surface and hover five feet up. I even look around a bit. I test my carving ability by lifting one knee and …
SMASH! Score one for gravity.
But I get the gig now. I know how to get up … and how to stay up.
By the time we head back to the dock, I am sporting the ear-to-ear grin of a flyboarding noob. I am light years away from being able to do fancy tricks, but I didn’t land on the Jet Ski, and I didn’t die, and so that’s a good day for me in the land of extreme recreation.
By Alex Van Tol