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FlyBoard brings a new level of thrill to lakefront

BrandRobinsdemonstrates soaring diving FlyBoard Thursday opening Michigan City In-Water BoShow. | Dale Bowman

Brandon Robinson demonstrates the soaring and diving of the FlyBoard on Thursday at the opening of the Michigan City In-Water Boat Show. | Dale Bowman

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Updated: September 27, 2012 11:26AM



MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. — Trying to explain what it’s like riding a FlyBoard, Capt. Hank Fiene said, ‘‘It is like flying on the end of a firehose.’’

A wisecracker milling around the FlyBoard booth (and the FlyBoard attracts wisecrackers and audiences as easily as Jenny McCarthy finds exposure) Thursday afternoon at the opening of the Michigan City In-Water Boat Show said, ‘‘Who knows what that is like?’’

Fair enough. FlyBoard is something different — really different. Seeing it on YouTube is one thing; watching it in person is another.

‘‘Depends on your perspective,’’ Brandon ‘‘Fly Guy’’ Robinson said. ‘‘It is like another sport.’’

On Thursday, Robinson, an assistant national sales manager for FlyBoard, put on a demonstration that stopped boats and quickly drew a crowd that lined the rail.

‘‘You would never think anybody would be doing this in Trail Creek,’’ show spokesman Mike DiLorenzo said. He got that right.

Robinson took obvious joy in putting the FlyBoard through its paces. Occasionally he would splash and dive into the water. At first I assumed it was a loss of power or balance, then realized he was diving, sometimes from as high as 15 or 20 feet in the air.

When he came out, I asked if he preferred flying or diving. He thought a minute, then said, ‘‘Diving.’’

The FlyBoard is an Iron Man-like suit. It is attached by a hose to a personal water craft, which provides the water propulsion to fly or dive. The power of the PWC determines how much power with which the FlyBoard operates, either to fly the user above the water or dive him into the water.

Earlier this month, it became available to Chicago thrill seekers on a regular basis when Jet Surf Chicago began operations on the lakefront.

‘‘They looked at us more than they did the [Chicago] Air and Water Show,’’ Capt. Jim Gentile of Windy City Diving said.

Gentile said Fiene saw Robinson at the first Chicago In-Water Boat Show earlier this summer.

‘‘He went for a ride, then called and said, ‘[You] have got to get this,’ ’’ Gentile said. So Jet Surf Chicago was launched. The company provides one-time chances to try a FlyBoard or buy one. Other options, such as multiple-use tickets, are being considered.

‘‘Our goal is to introduce people to it,’’ Gentile said. ‘‘Show people how affordable and exciting it is.’’ So they were helping to run the booth for FlyBoard at Michigan City, a natural fit. Gentile ran the PWC while Robinson put on his show.

When people visit Jet Surf Chicago, they are first put through some basic tests, such as maintaining balance on a rolling disc (harder than it looks), and given instruction before trying it.

With good reason, if you listen to the analogies elicited by the experience.

‘‘It reminds me of a slalom run down a deep slope,’’ Gentile said.

‘‘It is like doing your own roller-coaster ride,’’ Robinson said.

You get the idea. It’s up-and-down and fast. Gentile, who is a year older than me and loves the FlyBoard, leaned over and asked, ‘‘Want to try it?’’ It was time. I took a pass.

For information on Jet Surf Chicago, visit jetsurfchicago.com.
For info on the boat show, which runs through Sunday, go to michigancityboatshow.com. For FlyBoard info, go to flyboard.com, or for $100, try it at the show.



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