Fired up and flying
When hovering above Lake Tahoe this summer, feet strapped to a platform propelled by a high-powered hose, there may be an instant where Flyboarders forget their flightless pasts and start feeling like some sort of superhero. At least, that's the way the basin's newest sport has been described by some of those who've experienced it. Flyboarding, a fairly new sport in its own right, involves riding on a board — or Flyboard — that's connected to a jet ski via an 80-foot fire hose. The board takes flight by harnessing the power of the jet ski, rendering the watercraft immobile, but allowing the flyboarder to boost several feet out of the water. It's a sport that has never been offered at Lake Tahoe before — not until now. "It's kind of like Aquaman meets Iron Man," said Stuart Maas, director of sales, marketing and information technology for http://www.tahoesports.com, adding. "The sky is the limit with these things." Flyboard Tahoe Sports, a new company created under Ski Run Boat Company, is the first to offer flyboarding at the lake. It opened for business on the Fourth of July with two Flyboards in its arsenal and an appetite to get people airborne. The experience starts by selecting a lesson option, which varies depending on how much customers want to spend and how long they wish to be in the air. Once settled, participants are whisked away to an offshore pontoon boat located near Ski Run Marina. They are given about 10 minutes of instruction, then fitted into a wet suit and strapped to a Flyboard. Travis Junkin, the manager for the activity, was giving tips to a beginning flyboarder on Wednesday. "You're going to want to keep your legs straight and move your ankles for balance," Junkin said, explaining how most people fall backward in the air for putting too much weight on their heels. "If you do fall, try to turn and land on your side." Sitting on the edge of the pontoon boat, feet stuck to a small contraption capable of unleashing the power of a jet ski, can feel a bit unsettling to a newcomer. However, it becomes a little easier to grasp after slipping into the water and getting a better feel for the board once the jets kick on. At Flyboard Tahoe Sports, power to the Flyboard is controlled by the jet ski operator. So hand signals are needed to go higher or lower. The power of Tahoe Sports' jet skis can allow a flyboarder to hover up to 15 or 20 feet in the air, Junkin said. Once a safe distance away from the boat, riders are free to attempt liftoff on their own, and it usually doesn't take very long. "One guy came out with a group on Monday," Junkin said. "He was up in under five minutes." Some people may be up faster than that. Snowboarders or skateboarders with practice using their ankles for balance could find themselves steadily hovering above the water in under a minute. Once airborne, flyboarders can do any number of maneuvers, including diving in and out of the water like a dolphin, pulling off back flips like a pro or just gliding through the air like Iron Man. Back flips may be out of most beginners' skill level, but novices might be surprised how fast they can pick up the sport. Since the sport is relatively new, Maas said the company is catering to first-timers, and he wants them to know it's easier to get going then they might think. "It's the first-time experience," he said. "That's what we're all about." Introductory lessons cost $149 per person for 10 minutes of instruction and 20 minutes of flight time, but advanced lessons can also be purchased for $229 per person for 10 minutes of instruction and 50 minutes of flight time. Additionally, a group package for up to four people is available for $499 with 10 minutes of instruction and 110 minutes of flight time shared by the entire group. Lessons can be reserved through Ski Run Boat Company, which can be contacted at 530-544-0200. For more information visit http://www.flyboardtahoesports.com.