Soaring like 'Iron Man' — Flyboarding superhero owns the sky over Palm Beach International Boat Show
SOARING ACROSS sky, Kristen Smoyer looks like a comic book superhero come to life.
Her feet strapped to a water jet, she rises 40 to 50 feet over the Intracoastal Waterway, waving to the crowd below at the Palm Beach International Boat Show.
Then, the song “Black Betty'' blares from a loudspeaker, Smoyer’s showtime cue.
She backflips, twists and dances in midair as jets of water, shooting from beneath her feet, spray circular wakes through the air — a Blue Angel, but without the thrust of a Navy fighter jet.
“‘Iron Man.’ That’s what it feels like,’’ she said. “You feel like a superhero.’’
Smoyer is a professional flyboarder and the 2016 World Flyboarding Champion. She’s performing aerial aquabatics this weekend at the Nautical Ventures ‘AquaZone,’ a “show within” the Palm Beach boat show, designed to market the company’s roster of cutting-edge, and expensive, water toys.
Other athletes will offer demonstrations of Sea Bob diving sleds, Fliteboard electric foil boards and Yujet electric surfboards. But Smoyer, with her hourly demos of the Zapata Flyboard, might be the main attraction.
Invented in 2011 by French sportsman Franky Zapata, the flyboard is a system composed of a water jetpack — a small board with slots for boots — connected by hose to a jet-ski.
Jets of water from the jet-ski turbines shoot up the hose, powering the flyboard to heights of up to 60 geet. The jet ski can be controlled by a driver or via remote control by the flyboarder, as Smoyer did on Friday.
Based on the size of the crowds along the Flagler Drive sidewalk watching her soar over the water, Smoyer was the clear crowd favorite.
“The tricks you see here are my very well-practiced, I-could-do-them-sleeping tricks,’’ she said a few minutes after a performance. “It's a show, right? So you want it to be dangerous and fun but also smooth.’’
While it can take just 10 minutes for a layperson to learn to stand up on a flyboard, it can take at least six months or longer to learn tricks like backflips and aerial dives.
“It depends on your skill level,’’ said Smoyer, who first tried a flyboard in 2014.
“It takes very basic concepts, such as standing on your feet, walking, turning. It's the same exact motion on the flyboard, only you're up 50 to 60 feet in the air.’’
It just takes practice.
“It's always getting back up and sometimes that involves injuries. It's just how bad you want to do it,’’ said Smoyer, who had her share of nasty spills along the way.
“I have a rule every time I practice, to try and do something that’s in my wheelhouse but outside my comfort level. That's the only way I feel I can get better.’’
But not every flyboard owner has to flip and spin like a pro. Just rising 20 to 30 feet over the water can be exhilarating enough.
“It’s the best view in the world. You can see everything and you’re above everything,’’ she said. “It’s beautiful. It's amazing.’’
The flyboard Smoyer demonstrated can be purchased at the boat show for about $8,000, not including the jet ski. The price can drop to around $6,000 without the wireless remote that Smoyer used Friday, but you’ll need someone to drive the jet ski.
“They’re getting more and more popular, especially for a lot of charter yachts around the world. It’s a very cool thing for them to have on board,’’ said John Farris, a Nautical Ventures watersports specialist.
If you can’t get to the boat show this weekend, you can still shop for a flyboard at Nautical Ventures Marine Center Palm Beach in North Palm Beach or at locations in Stuart, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Sarasota.
“Bicycles are supersafe to ride around and everybody rides bikes but when you start going off ramps and doing tricks, it becomes dangerous,’’ Smoyer said.
“Bicycles are supersafe to ride around and everybody rides bikes but when you start going off ramps and doing tricks, it becomes dangerous,’’ she said.
“And it's the same with the flyboard. The flyboard is supersafe. It's really easy to learn actually.’’
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About the author
Joe Capozzi is an award-winning reporter based in Lake Worth Beach. He spent more than 30 years in the newspaper business, mostly at The Palm Beach Post, where he wrote about the opioid scourge, invasive pythons, the birth of the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and Palm Beach County government. For 15 years, he covered the Miami Marlins baseball team. Joe left The Post in December 2020. View all posts by Joe Capozzi.