When a Door slams, a Window opens

Jon B.

Owner of TOP GUN Flyboards, Jonathon Brockhoff’s story has a message for NextGen Family Magazine readers: No matter what life throws at you, you must never give up, and never be afraid to follow the advice of a good friend.

After attending elementary school at Palmetto Christian, middle school at Manatee School For the Arts, and graduating from Palmetto High School, Jonathon was wondering what the best direction for his life might be. It was then that a good friend told him about the amazing opportunities available through the welding program at Manatee Technical College.

Not many go through childhood dreaming of becoming a welder, but the job skills required for a rewarding career can be attained at MTC, and Jonathon’s friend was convinced it would be a good fit for his buddy. It turned out Jonathon’s friend was absolutely correct.

Jonathon loved his experience at the school, which at the time was called Manatee Technical Institute, and was still at its original location near Bayshore High School in SW Manatee County. At the time, Dr. Mary Cantrell was the ever-enthusiastic principal and driving force of the school.

The new campus was nearing completion. “The old classroom was dark and dusty,” Jonathon recalls. “We were the first ones to use the new facility. The new clean, brightly lit, and well-appointed classrooms were outstanding!”

Jonathon did remarkably well in the course and was hand-selected to be part of a special program with one of the area’s largest employers. As Jonathon was completing his certification, a job was secured for him at Air Products. Jonathon’s future looked as bright as a newly minted penny. He had a guaranteed position, with a jaw-dropping starting salary. Life was good.

The day he was scheduled to start this wonderful chapter in his life, Jonathon instead had to walk into the office and inform his new employer that he had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and was about to embark on a grueling course of chemotherapy. Jonathon told them that if all went well, he expected a long recovery process would follow. Sad to say, the company could not hold Jonathon’s position for him, and he walked away with nothing as he began what would end up being the longest, most difficult 10 months of his young life.

Jonathon is one in 3 million. He truly is, but statistically he is literally one of 3 million people diagnosed with this rare form of Lymphoma. He tells me: “Most people do not catch it in time. When they discover they have it, they are already in Stage 2 or 3 and their chances of survival are incredibly low. I was lucky, mine presented as a lump on my neck and I went right away to have it checked.” What followed was a whirlwind of doctor’s visits, surgery, and a rapid plan for therapy. He said: “One day I was fine, and literally the next day I was battling for my life.”

Through an outpouring of support from family, friends, and his community, Jonathon was able to complete chemo and make a full recovery. “It was tough,” Jonathon recalls, “I was so exhausted all the time, I couldn’t even get through folding a basket of laundry without taking several breaks. That’s how weak I was.”

Once he felt better and was ready to get his life back in motion, the welding career that had seemed so promising now held nothing for him. That’s when, after a beautiful day on the water, his uncle, Jim Morton owner of Prospects Plus in Lakewood Ranch, encouraged Jonathon to start a flyboarding business.

Flyboarding? What is flyboarding? Jonathon’s website says: “Flyboarding is like surfing on a hoverboard.” Flyboards were invented, according to Wikipedia, by a French watercraft rider named Franky Zapapta and was introduced at the Jet Ski World Championship in 2012 in China. Jonathon is one of a few thousand certified Flyboard Captains in the world.

The way it works is flyboard riders are strapped onto a buoyant board fitted with bindings (like a snowboard or wakeboard), but under the board are waterpropelled jets that send the rider almost 50 feet into the air! The flyboard is tethered to a personal watercraft, where the Captain controls the throttle and is always nearby. This set up allows for tremendous freedom for the flyboarder to travel through the air or dive through the water. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Is it hard to learn how to do? “Since I started TOP GUN Flyboarding, I’ve seen thousands of people of all ages try the sport,” Jonathon tells me, “Out of a thousand I would say only five or so can’t get the hang of it. Usually those are the ones who just won’t follow directions, for whatever reason. But if you can follow simple directions, you will get it and have a blast!”

Check out TOP GUN’S website: www.topgunflyboards. com where you can watch videos of flyboards in action and read the testimonials and reviews. It’s a pun I can’t avoid by saying that flyboarding will “lift you up.” It’s safe to say that Jonathon Brockhoff agrees when he says, “People always leave smiling!”