SUTTLE LAKE — The ice crackled and popped Monday morning as Jason Hardy flew 20 feet above the frozen lake on his Flyboard.
“The ice is a little thicker than I planned,” said Hardy, who co-owns Fly Board of Bend with his wife, Marla Jo.
Hardy frequently rides his Flyboard at lakes and rivers throughout the state, as well as at the ocean, to promote his Flyboard-teaching business and gain exposure for the sport.
“The whole concept (of Flyboarding) is only 2 years old,” he said. “We aren’t sure if it’s adventure sports or pure entertainment. (It’s) definitely a water-sports tourist attraction.”
A pipe with a 45-foot hose is attached to a personal watercraft, such as a Jet Ski. The other end is attached to the Flyboard. Propulsion from the personal watercraft sends water through the hose, propelling the rider out of the water.
“The same propulsion that makes this Jet Ski go 70 miles an hour comes out under your feet,” Hardy said, adding that riders can soar up to 30 feet. “The more experience they have, the more rpms I’ll give them, the more tricks they can do and the higher they’ll go.”
Hardy started the business in September after trying the sport in Montana three weeks earlier. Including the Jet Ski, he said, the equipment cost him about $20,000.
However, he is waiting to receive federal permits before he can start charging $165 per hour for rides on lakes in the Deschutes National Forest.
“What people rent is just the time on the equipment,” he said. “It’s not like they just rent the Jet Ski and the Flyboard. I’m in control the whole time. They come; I instruct them how to be the flier, take them up to the lake and let them fly for the hour.”
To date, he said, about 30 people have flown with him. Most have been one-time fliers, but he has about five students who have flown multiple times.
“In my past, I’m a skydiver, bungee jumper, mountain biker, alpine skier and scuba diver, and this is the only sport I know of where you actually go up and stay up, everything else you go down,” he said.
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Q: Where do you see the business in the next five years?
A: I think what would be nice is to have a Flyboard permanently at each lake, providing the entertainment for the different lodges, building really good relationships with all the different businesses at the lakes and to have a travel Flyboard to go around the state and also to the coast as often as possible.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge in getting the company off the ground?
A: The government process has been the biggest hurdle, mainly because it’s so new the (U.S.) Forest Service doesn’t have any policies in place. … Communicating with the Flyboard company has also been difficult. If there is an equipment problem with the Flyboard itself, it is difficult to get answers because (the company is) based out of France.