Hydro Flight: Soar above Destin on Flyboards and Jet Packs

SAVANNAH CHASTAIN
At Power Up Watersports you can truly fly with the company’s flyboard.

Editor’s Note: As part of the “100 days of Summer,” The Log will be exploring Destin and the activities it has to offer during the summer season. This week the featured pastime is hydro-powered flight.  

Flying; it’s the thing most dreamt about, the superhero power most coveted and it’s available in several different methods over the beautiful Destin waters.

Power Up Watersports

Power Up Watersports owner Ben Merrell, knows just how to describe the feeling of soaring above the water on a Jet-Ski-powered Flyboard.

 “It’s kind of like the scene from Iron Man where he tries out the suit for the first time,” said Merrell. “He’s kind of shaky at first, but once you got it, you’re flying.”

The Flyboard works like a hydro-powered flying skateboard. Each flyer is given boots, steps onto the board, then just like a water version of Marty McFly's hoverboard in "Back to the Future Part II," it’s time to start flying.

“It’s propelled by a Jet Ski, it’s hooked up to the exhaust,” explained Merrell. “As a rental, a certified instructor is going to be controlling the ski, and the board is controlled by your body position and weight,” he said.

Merrell told The Log that weight and balance play a big part in the maneuvering of the Flyboard.

“You need to be about 100 pounds, it works out to your advantage if you weigh more,” he said. “You start on your stomach, then you superman out, and once you get into a safe water depth we have you stand up, then we have you start flying.”  

A first time flyer can expect to soar up to 12-feet above the water, but Merrell said it’s all up to how comfortable each customer is in the water.

“We start people out at three to five feet in the air, and as they get better we’ll take them higher, but it has to be a mutual feeling between the instructor and them,” he said.

Merrell described the Flyboard technique as a three-part process; Swimming, the transition and flying.

“Swimming is the easiest part,” said Merrell. “Then the transition happens as you swim you bend your knees, and then do a back roll, like the dance move ‘the worm,’ then lock your knees to stand up.”

Once airborne, Merrell said the experience gets better and better.

“If I can get you in the air for five seconds then I can get you in the air for 10 seconds and it progresses from there,” he said.

Mary Barber, a kiosk employee for the company, said it’s really hard to explain the feeling of being up in the air.

“You’re just up there,” she said. “It’s not like anything else. The first time you just have to feel how to do it, but then it’s just like riding a bike, you feel like once you can do it you won’t ever not know how to do it again.” 

Power Up Watersports has a policy; If you aren’t able to fly, you don’t have to pay.

“We guarantee you will fly,” said Merrell. “Everybody has those dreams of flying. Now you can experience it in a safe way, over water.”

Power Up Watersports is located at 101 Calhoun Ave. For more information visit www.powerupwatersports.com or call 461-1034.

Jet Pack Destin

Jetpack flight has long been a futuristic aspiration, but now, it is a thing of the present; at least on the water.

“We actually get a lot of 50-year-old clients coming out because they’ve dreamed of jetpacks all their lives,” said Jet Pack Destin owner, Shannon Neal.

“They get out there and start screaming and giggling like kids, it’s quite an adrenaline rush, and it’s a jetpack so it’s got a lot of nostalgia to it.”  

The hydro-powered jetpack works like a backpack-meets-bicycle combination.

“You sit in it strapped into a five-point harness and it steers like a bicycle,” said Neal. “You look and lean the way you want it to go.”

The Jetpack is powered by a drone boat, which is attached to the pack by a 33-foot hose.

 “The power source pumps up to 1,000 gallons of water a minute,” said Neal. “That’s what jets you into the air.”

 Neal explained that as the client, or ‘pilot,’ operates the jetpack and an instructor rides nearby on a waverunner to ensure safety.

 “The first-time pilot wears a communication helmet so we can talk to them the whole time,” said Neal. “They will start out real low with legs in the water, then when they are able to show control and stability we get them flying.”

Once the flyer gets a feel for the jetpack, it’s time to bring on the tricks.

 “After they learn to steer and get comfortable we get them higher and higher,” Neal said. “In three to five minutes we will have people doing common tricks like walking on water and the stairway to heaven or the underwater submarine.”

Neal told The Log that the average height of a first time jetpack flight is 15 feet, but the pack can reach a maximum of 30 feet and can reach speeds of 30 miles per hour.

“Expect to fly, walk on water and get that adrenaline rush,” said Neal. “Everybody’s style is a little different, you have the control to do what you want with it; we are just there to coach you. It’s a jetpack; it doesn’t really compare to other stuff.”

Jet Pack Destin is located at the HarborWalk Village. For more information visit www.jetpackdestin.com or call 586-3047.