FIRST Flyboard North American Championship
With two World Cups and now a Flyboard North American Championship in the books the sport of Flyboarding is gaining significant momentum around the world. Major media outlets were on hand along with thousands of onlookers as the Toronto waterfront witnessed the unique and incredible feats these athletes delivered.
Pro Flyboarding brings together aerial acrobatics, theatrics, and diving while putting unique and challenging physical demands on the body. Recreational flying is fantastic and easy for everyone to enjoy but a leg burning slalom session up into a huge reverse dolphin dive from 40 ft isn’t something your certified instructor is going to have you try anytime soon. No, when you fly up extending that hose to its max and then whip your head backwards to throw a backflip or double the heart is most certainly beating hard under the life jacket.
This was the third professional competition for our young sport and H2RO Magazine’s second having attended the 2013 Flyboard World Cup in Doha, Qatar last November. What an amazing progression from Doha to Toronto. The eighth place competitor in Toronto would have likely been the World Champion in Doha. The big tricks are being landed so we now turn our eyes on the little details that begin to separate perfection from good execution. How did our top eight play out?
Damone Rippy from Team Aquafly out of Austin, Texas flew himself to the top of the podium a position that each judge and every competitor unanimously agreed with.
The ‘Eye of the Storm’ Damone’s insane double back flip in which he spins so quickly that both tiny hose loops sit side by side brought the crowd to its feet and left little doubt that we were all watching the best pilot in the world. The double, no matter how amazing, would not have won the championship alone and it was Rippy’s controlled aggression, technique, showmanship and superior hose and Jet Ski management that held the respect of his peers and the judges.
His final run was absolutely the best five minutes of Flyboarding the world has ever seen and yet knowing Damone’s desire to get better everyday I’m sure he will look at it and say… I can go bigger. In fact after watching his run back he could have added a board grab 720 or 1080 spin and also taken his back flip to dolphin combo higher so the dive component was a little longer and more spectacular… yes Damone you’re forcing me to dig into the smallest details.
Challenging Damone for top spot was the ultimate showman Jordan Wayment. Though not as technical a flyer as some of the other competitors Jordan’s ability to score well in every available category kept him advancing and gave the crowd a chance to see the ‘wack-a-mole’ more than once. He did have the 360 backflip dialed in and always gave us at least one huge swag dolphin per round which countered the fact that he didn’t have a landed double at the event. His cannonball from 25 ft was good for a laugh and a few points for originality.
Bursting onto the Pro Flyboarding scene was third place recipient Callon Burns. Cal was ultra smooth, effectively incorporating backwards flight into his runs much like master technician Aaron Gould. Cal was able to achieve a fantastic result without employing the EMK. Driver Michael Swan did a phenomenal job on the ski delivering the power perfectly, managing the hose, stabilizing the ski and at times just holding on for dear life. Cal’s double side flip ‘ The Sidewinder ‘ was very cool looking and scored well due to his ability to fly out of it with stability and control.
Rounding out the top four was 23 year old Caleb Gavic from SkyHigh Flyboard out of Minneapolis Minnesota. Throwing his doubles from 40+ feet and flying out of them ten feet off the water had everyone dockside breathless. His progressive three dolphin sessions, single, 360, then 720 dolphin dives were beautiful to watch and it was only the speed at which his spins were executed that didn’t seem quite as fast as Cal’s which may have been a deciding factor. Perhaps the wetsuit was a bit restricting… we’ll have to ask. I’d like to publicly give props to Caleb for the exceptional sportsmanship shown during his Round of 8 battle with Aaron Gould.
Aaron’s ski was underpowered and though it is the responsibility of the competitor to notify the judges of any issues when they happen so their time can stop and the issue resolved Caleb agreed to a one minute extended battle which gave Aaron a chance to execute a few of his big tricks which needed full power. Caleb still won the round and at the same time earned a few more cool points with the Flyboard Family.
Speaking of Aaron Gould, it was really great to see his complete repertoire of tricks on display including very technical spin sessions, huge combo dolphin dives and his double which he landed successfully on more than one occasion.
With his brother Lars driving him on the ski Aaron looked like he was really enjoying his battle rounds and made the judges lives very difficult. I just know there is a perfect storm awaiting Aaron in a future competition that will finally put everything he can do into one incredible run.
Getting past the qualifying round might seem to some experienced competitors to be just a formality but in actuality it is a very strategic and important opportunity to set up your ability to challenge for top spot. Cooper Riggs is most certainly one of the world’s finest Pro Flyboarders but due to a less than stellar qualifying score which saw Cooper ranked 11th it set up a Cooper Riggs vs Damone Rippy bracket in the round of 8. With a very diverse trick list it was attention to detail on some landings and a hose wrap on the ski which made getting around the ‘Safety Cone’ impossible. I have no doubt Riggs will bring it even harder at the next World Cup.
The future of our sport is bright… bright green to be specific as first time competitor Scotty Knemeyer fought through adversity from the moment he got on the plane in Hawaii until a less than unanimous result took him out in the Round of 8. He brought innovation to the sport with the ‘Knemeyer flip’, at kick spin into side flip combo executed 40 feet in the air and the world would have been treated to a couple more unique creations had he moved on to top four. This was a good example of the growing pains our young sport is still going through. As judging criteria and scoring is reevaluated prior to the next World Cup I believe it is safe to say that everyone involved wants to simply see the pilot who delivers the best Flyboarding during each round move on. You might ask didn’t the best pilots in Toronto move on each round… some would say no… not all of them.