x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Flyboarding gives you a bit of a lift

The Zapata Flyboarders swim underwater like dolphins, then burst upwards to give the appearance of flying through the sky on their boards.

The Zapata Flyboarders will be performing on the Corniche as part of Abu Dhabi Science Festival. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Science Festival
The Zapata Flyboarders will be performing on the Corniche as part of Abu Dhabi Science Festival. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Science Festival

ne of the most awe-inspiring spectacles of the Science Festival will take place this weekend at the Corniche. The Zapata Flyboarders will swim underwater like dolphins, then thrust themselves out and up to give the appearance of flying through the sky on their boards, all while connected to a jet ski a few metres away.

Although the Flyboarders may look like superheroes performing dangerous stunts, the show’s manager, Stephane Denis, says the science of the contraption makes it easy to fly on and no flyboarder has ever been seriously hurt so far.

“The sport is actually safer than riding a bicycle. It is not dangerous, for sure, because if you fall, you fall in the water. The only danger is getting too near the jet ski.

“So it’s not like watching a magic show, where you just watch it and think: ‘How does he do that?’ You can actually try this for yourselves, and 80 per cent of people who try flyboarding can do it after five minutes, it’s so easy and natural. But it takes a lot longer to learn all the tricks that we do in the show.”

All six riders will perform tricks in choreographed routines, including playing with giant holograms in their night show. “When it gets dark, riders will ‘light shoot’ with LED lighting all over their waterproof suits, so it will look really spectacular,” says Denis.

One of the stars of the Flyboarding Show will be Stephane Prayas, who won the Flyboarding World Championships in October 2012 in Doha. The Zapata Flyboarders were in Doha again a fortnight ago for this year’s world championships and although Prayas didn’t manage to repeat last year’s glory, he did make it to the quarter-finals. Prayas’s teammates hail from Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain, and this will be their first performance in the UAE.

The show gets its name from the inventor of the flyboard, Franky Zapata, a mechanical genius from France who spent three years as the world jet ski champion, then built the world’s first stand-up Personal Water Craft. Two years ago, Zapata fulfilled his dream of flying by inventing a device that enables the rider to both swim and fly.

Denis explains: “The board we use is similar to a wakeboard and is connected to a jet ski with a 20-metre gap between the board and the jet ski. It uses an air and underwater propulsion system, with water being sucked from the ocean through a hose attached to the jet ski and blasted back out again. The rider can do a lot of turns, backflips, twists, swimming underwater and jumping out of the water, up to 20 metres high.”

There are 2,500 flyboards around the world, several in the UAE. They can be rented from Abu Dhabi Marine Sports on Yas Island, or from Al Mamzar Slipway in Dubai via the company Flyboards UAE (Dh300 for 30 minutes per person). Call 050 817 3071 or email info@flyboards-uae.com for details.

• The Zapata Flyboard Show takes place tomorrow at 5pm and 8.30pm, and on Friday at 8.30pm. Visit www.abudhabi­sciencefestival.ae for details

artslife@thenational.ae