I am a water fiend – I grew up on an island in the middle of a lake, and I spent as much time as I could boating, swimming, inner-tubing, kayaking, canoeing, kneeboarding or waterskiing. If I’m near a body of water (with the exception of the Mississippi River), I can’t resist jumping in.
Recently while sailing on Lake Pontchartrain, I noticed someone in the distance being propelled about 40 feet into the air in what looked like a superhero outfit. (I later realized it was a life jacket and helmet.) Overcome with curiosity, I found out this sport was called flyboarding, and I thought to myself: Why not live out my childhood dreams of flying like Peter Pan and bobbing through the water like a dolphin on speed?
Like a lot of cool things in Louisiana, flyboarding originated in France. It was invented in 2012 by Franky Zapata, and it’s rapidly catching on at tourist destinations for outdoor adventurers across the globe. NOLA Flyboarding (7400 Lakeshore Drive, 982-8346, NolaFlyBoarding.com), owned by Tony Bertucci, is the only place where you can flyboard in the state. He operates two locations: one on the Lakefront (launch is at Brisbi’s restaurant) and another in Madisonville.
I showed up on a Saturday morning for my first lesson. After a brief overview of the mechanics of the device, safety precautions (flyboarding is actually very safe) and a lesson on how to posture my body and turn myself once I got in the air, my instructor, Geremy Stovall, took me out on the lake. He strapped me into some heavy-duty boots with jet nozzles connected to a board that’s hooked up to a long hose. The hose was connected to a personal watercraft – operated by Stovall – which propelled water pressure that allowed me to get into the air.
Flyboarding is a little tricky at first; it requires balance and a few tries before you get the hang of it. The guys are great instructors, teaching people as young as age 10 and upwards of 70, and they informed me that they have a 100-percent success rate. “Everybody flies,” is their promise.
You have to laugh at yourself a little bit – because you’ll most likely flop a few times before you get the hang of it, but once you get up in the air, soaring over the lake, you will actually briefly feel like a superhero.