If you've seen an Iron Man or Avengers movie or even one of the innumerable TV ads for them, then you've seen the – let's face it – ultra-cool way Iron Man can hover and fly thanks to powerful air jets shooting out of the bottoms of his iron boots. You probably secretly imagined yourself doing that, too, and wished you could. Well, guess what? You can! Sort of.
Flyboarding is the newest water recreation sensation that allows you to approximate Iron Man's aerial acrobatics. The flyboard is essentially a personal waterjet board that mounts to your feet and is pushed up into the air by powerful water pressure created from a Jet Ski that shoots through a long hose that splits into two nozzles. Got it? Imagine it? Yippeeeeeee!
Alexander Maravegias, owner of Lake Lanier Flyboard and flyboarder extraordinaire, gives a hint of how this extraordinary experience feels. "When you're on the flyboard it is a sensation that cannot be found anywhere else. The weightlessness of your body in the air makes you feel like you came straight out of an Iron Man movie. You are truly defying the laws of gravity and it is amazing! The thrill of it all will put a smile on your face from ear to ear that no one can deny. It is an incredibly fun experience whether it's your first time or your 100th time."
And it's not, according to Maravegias and others who've done it, as difficult as you might imagine. With good instructors and equipment and decent physical coordination, you can be hovering within a few minutes. Often, first-time flyboarders can begin to control their movements and "fly" within a half-hour.
A certified trainer who is experienced in flyboarding is controlling the water pressure. As long as the Jet Ski he or she is on is providing power, the rider can hover in the air for as long he or she wants, and a rotating bearing under the flyboard keeps the supply hose from kinking, no matter what kind of twists and turns might ensue.
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Blaine Jeffery, founder H2RO Magazine, which is devoted to high-skill flyboarding as a sport, is very encouraging for first-timers. "Hydroflight has quickly become the hottest water sport in the world. The great thing about flyboarding is people of all ages and athletic abilities can enjoy it. It's actually very easy on the body and 90 percent of flyers are up and having fun within 10 minutes of their first lesson. Our sport does have amazing athletes who can soar 60-plus feet in the air and land quadruple backflips, but when I cruise around at 5 or 6 feet off the water it really does feel equally exhilarating. If I fall it's just like jumping off a dock into the water. No one has come back in from a flight without a huge smile."
The South is obviously great for any watersports, including flyboarding, and there are a handful of good flyboarding operations in the Southeast. Check out the following flyboarding locations online. Most offer other high-adventure watersports as well, so make sure to check hours of operation and things like age and weight restrictions that are specifically for flyboarding.
The Atlanta area's iconic recreational lake has one of the top flyboarding operations in the South. Lake Lanier Flyboarding is the official distributor of Zapata Racing for the state of Georgia and offers flyboarding for the complete novice as well as training by certified instructors on flyboards and hoverboards for more experienced fliers and "surfers."
Lake Lanier Flyboard, 6800 Lights Ferry Road, Flowery Branch. 1-844-33-WE-FLY (93359). lakelanierflyboard.com
Just a couple hours up the road in Hiawassee, nearly to the North Carolina line, Mountain Wake Flyboard offers flight experiences, lessons and group packages on Lake Chatuge amidst the beauty of the North Georgia mountains and the Chattahoochee National Forest. Flyboarding at Mountain Wake is by appointment only and only on weekends.
Mountain Wake Flyboard, The Ridges Resort & Marina, 3379 Highway 76 West, Hiawassee, 828-421-1020. www.mtnwake.com
South Carolina's coastal Old South paradise of Charleston isn't necessarily known as a primo outdoor adventure destination, but it has one heck of a flyboarding operation. Hydrofly Watersports reps meet you at the Bristol Marina and take you out by chartered boat to the company's very own floating Tiki Hut! Then a certified flyboard instructor tells and shows you everything you need to know to enjoy your flyboarding experience. Hydrofly specializes in working with first-timers, so relax and enjoy.
Hydrofly Watersports, 185 Lockwood Drive, Charleston. 843-990-0707. www.hydroflynow.com
Percy Priest Lake, on the eastern edge of Nashville, is home waters for Defiance Flyboard, though the company will move the experience to other lakes in the area including Old Hickory Lake, Tim's Ford Lake, Dale Hollow Lake and Center Hill Lake. Percy Priest Lake is only about 20 minutes from the heart of Nashville so if you're planning a trip to Music City to do a little boot scootin' in one of the many honkytonks then flyboarding with Defiance is a great add-on adventure. It's only about four hours away from Atlanta. Defiance was the first flyboard operation in Tennessee.
Defiance Flyboard, Nashville. 615-956-3669. www.defianceflyboarding.com
There's great flyboarding and other such on-water craziness about five hours' drive down in the northeastern part of the Sunshine State. Extreme Water Adventures is located at a marina in a snug cove of the Tolomato River just a couple miles from historic downtown St. Augustine. It's a gorgeous coastal spot surrounded by inviting sandy beaches. Extreme Water Adventures is very safety conscious and claims to be "the only flyboard company in North Florida that carries insurance and has the most comprehensive policy available."
Extreme Water Adventures, 3070 Harbor Drive, St. Augustine. 904-945-6576, www.extremewateradventures.com