At first I thought it was the copious consumption of booze and sunlight. There we were, one hot afternoon last summer, on a boat in the middle of Lake Mead, watching someone levitate above the water on a board tethered to a Jet Ski, two substantial streams of water blasting from underneath the rider’s feet. Iron Man? No, just some dude trying to keep his balance. This prompted lots of whoas, picture-taking and Instagram-posting, and group-Googling to learn more about the awesomeness we were witnessing.
Flyboarding is just one of a handful of hydroflight products that are the newest rage in water sports. What we saw last year was an individual’s private equipment, but over at the man-made freshwater lake at Spring Mountain Motor Resort & Country Club in Pahrump, Jetpack America runs a commercial operation that allows people to learn and use not only a flyboard (or jetblade), like we saw at Lake Mead, but also a jetpack—which, of course, I had to try.
Upon our arrival at the facility in Pahrump, I signed a waiver, watched a 10-minute video and practiced flight-enabling movements on a stationery pack with guidance from an instructor. Easy-peasy, I thought—I’ll be flying like George Jetson soon enough. I then donned a fertility-endangering wetsuit because, as another staffer told this desert rat rather unempathetically, “The lake is 50 degrees—it went down 10 degrees in just three days!”
Once outside, I tested a walkie-talkie helmet (so I’d be able to hear the instructions of another staffer over the Jet Ski and water jets exiting my pack) and put on a life jacket and the heavy-ish jetpack harness itself, neurotically bemoaning throughout that I couldn’t possibly maneuver myself above water if I was going to be frozen by it. But once I hurled myself into the crystal-blue lake, I actually found it less bone-chilling than the water temperature at Wet ’n’ Wild.
A staffer on a Jet Ski advised me at all times but sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher through my helmet’s speaker. I was told to loosen my grip on the control arms, but that’s easier said than done, not only because of all the weird, new sensations you’re experiencing, but how sensitive those control arms are to the slightest movement. And despite the jetpack (and life jacket) being buoyant, any move you’re not anticipating triggers a tread-for-your-life response I had to try and ignore.
Once I had mastered steadying the submerged jetpack, we cruised around the lake with me hydroplaning on my belly like Superman cooling off in the summer, which I could have done all day. And then, the Jet Ski operator cranked up my throttle—riders don’t get to do that until at least the second ride—ordered me to gently raise my control arms, and suddenly I was upright, completely out of the water and who-knows-how high. I wish I could have reveled in the moment, but I was technically in control—until I wasn’t. Just as I had gotten my David Blaine on, I inadvertently jerked one of my arms and fell sideways into the water.
That happens to everyone at least once, so back up I went ... and then back down, and then up again, and down, slo-mo dunking myself in the lake like a cookie. I never managed to remain suspended in the air for more than 10 seconds, something I felt I would have nailed had I tried again, but my 20-minute allotment was up. Which, frankly, was enough time to fully experience and appreciate something I’ll never forget doing. Plus, I was exhausted. Prepare for a full-body workout once you go jetpacking.
And prepare to shell out. New technology and frequently updated gear aren’t cheap. An introductory, 20-minute flight on either the jetpack or the jetblade runs $180, and doing both for a total of 40 minutes will set you back $330. However, JetPack America’s website is currently offering 15 percent off all flights (with code SPRING15)—a lesson and wet-suit rental is included—and once you break your hydrojet cherry, you can buy more flight time for less than half the cost via memberships. (There’s also $130 10-minute tandem rides, which means kids can participate, too.)
Here’s an even better deal: Attend this weekend’s Hydro-Fest Competition and Expo, a free event which features competitions with hydroflight athletes who can pull off some amazing maneuvers, a nighttime show where the performing riders are covered in lights, music, food, and other activities such as go-karts, volleyball and paddle-boarding. Best of all, JetPack America will make all six hydroflight products available for attendees to try—for free. It’s basically an open house by the awesomest toymaker ever.
Jetpack America Flight Center Spring Mountain Motor Resort & Country Club, 3601 S. Highway 160, Pahrump; 888-553-6471 or jetpackamerica.com. Daily, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Hydro-Fest Competition and Expo June 10-12, free, hydro-fest.com.