Water craze off to flying start in Bay

Shaun Gillham

IT IS official, walking on water is now much more than just a pipe dream – you can even fly on it. This has been shown, to the amazement of curious onlookers at North End Lake in Port Elizabeth, by two intrepid Nelson Mandela Bay guys who arethe first to have introduced the globallyfast-growing sport of flyboarding to the city.

Upping extreme fun a level, flyboarding is described on its inventor's website as a "perfect fusion of wakeboarding, surfing, kite surfing and jetski freestyle".

Those who have experienced it have said it is amazing, exhilarating, awesome and "the closest thing you will ever get to experiencing a jetpack or simply flying".

Flyboarding, the latest global extreme-sport craze and invented by renowned French jetskier Frankey Zapata in 2011, involves flying or diving through the water on the board which is attached, by a thick pipe, to a jetski turbine. The jetski turbine or outlet then gushes water through the pipe, and up you go.

Leonard Strydom, 33, of Rowallan Park, and Cobus Sandenbergh, 38, of Charlo, have laid claim to be the first in the Bay to introduce the thrilling sport, which will see its inaugural national championships staged in South Africa in April.

"It's absolutely awesome, simply great fun," Strydom said. He has been flyboarding at the North End Lake since December.

"A friend of mine, based in Johannesburg, saw a flyboarding video on the internet about two years ago. He told me about it and eventually got his own flyboard. I eventually got hold of one too, and the rest is history. We have been having fantastic fun. Everyone who sees it wants a go," Strydom said.

He warned, however, that the sport was both a bit risky and expensive.

"Not only do you need a jetski, and one that has a power output of 120kW or more, but the flyboard alone can cost between R60000 and R70000, so it's pretty expensive. Fuel is also a big factor. For a Saturday's flyboarding at the lake, we use about R1000 in fuel.

"Then, while it is loads of fun, you have to be careful, because you can get hurt if, for example, you fall incorrectly into the water or you land on the pipe," he said.

Sandenbergh said he and his friend were working at promoting the sport in the Bay and were looking for sponsors for potential business opportunities. He said the sportwas relatively easy to learn. It could be done by people older than 15 and up to 120kg in weight.

"You feel absolutely free and you can travel all over, even pulling the jetski behind you. The only reason people want to come down is because their legs are tired. I am pretty sure that, in time, this is going to take the country by storm," he said.

Sandenbergh said riders could be pushed more than 10m up into the air and were only restricted in theheight they could achieve and the distance they could move from the jetski by the length of the pipe.