We know that hydro flight sports are about the coolest way to spend a summer day with friends.   The first “anti-gravity” sport lets you fly with the built is cushion of a water landing to ease the bumps of learning. Lots of questions are asked about how it all works, we are here to answer each and every one.  Here are the basics of every hydro flight device on the market, a jet ski is converted into a floating pump.  The force of the water exiting the end of the system has the opposing reaction of driving the hydro device up in the air, aka anti-gravity sport!.  This section is the get the new users acquainted with the system and provide the basics  for determining the best devices and approaches to enjoyable and safe hydro flight.  We will be filling our this set of posts in the coming weeks with contributions from hydro specialist Frazer Grandison, pro rider Ben Merrell,  sport legend Kevin Delaney and others.  If you have any basic questions that you would like us to address, please email us at info@x-jetpacks.com

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This is a real question that gets asked a lot at trade shows and by casual observers.  We are direct in our answer, no sugar coating .  It is a sport in water in a variety of uncontrolled marine environments using gasoline powered jet ski pumps, it has risks as all water sports.  You can lessen the risks with training, proper care of equipment, and monitoring your environment. The risks can never be reduced to zero, be patient and careful with your progression in the sport, from your first day, to your practicing for an open competition.  If you are looking for a zero risk activity, you will want to look elsewhere.

The most obvious danger of any water based sport is, of course, drowning.  Using a proper Personal Floatation Device (PFD) is mandatory for all participants in hydro flight sports.  Just as having confidence in your ability to stay afloat is the best remedy for falling off a kayak or surfboard, hydro flight participants will spend time in water floating and waiting to fly.  Properly built hydro devices such as the Jetblade and the X-Jetpack have additional floatation built in to assist. However relaxing and confidence in the water prevents panic. Taking swimming lessons is an easy confidence-builder for anyone who will be out in open water.

Although the speeds involved in hydro flight are less than those in recreational personal watercraft usage, logic tells us that hydro flight participants can be at higher risk of head trauma than some other water enthusiasts.  Height, obstacles, objects under water and falling or colliding with the jet ski are the immediate risks.  Wearing a water sports helmet can help reduce the impact of these collisions, but nothing substitutes for proper training and a good throttleman. Knowing the topography of where they’re playing and practicing good technique will keep most of them safe.

Another universal danger in all ocean sports is trauma from marine life such as coral and jellyfish.  Don’t touch any marine life or coral; be aware of your surroundings at all times.  Common sense rules.

Here are some universal water sports guidelines:

TEN TIPS FOR SAFETY…..

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  • Be aware that there are elements of risk in boating, skiing, and riding and hydro sport flying that common sense and personal awareness can help reduce.  Know your ability level and stay within it.
  • To increase your enjoyment of the sport of hydro flight, follow the “watersports responsibility code”.

It is your responsibility:

  • To familiarize yourself with all of the applicable laws, the risks inherent in the sport, and the proper use of equipment.
  • To know the waterways where you will be skiing, riding and flying.  Not to ski, ride or most importantly fly, in shallow water, near shore, docks, pilings, swimmers, or other watercraft.
  • Observe the environment and keep distance from any obstacles, your own watercraft, the power supply hose.
  • Not to dive into unknown waters, if in any doubt, don’t dive!
  • To always have a person other than the boat driver as an observer and agree on hand signals before starting.
  • To always wear an approved Type III (PDF) Vest.
  • To read your owner’s manuals and online updates, and inspect your equipment prior to each use.
  • To fly within the limits of your ability.  Always fly in control and at speeds appropriate for your ability.
  • To always turn your ignition off when anyone is near the watercraft’s power drive unit.
  • To never operate watercraft, ski or fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning from engine exhaust fumes may cause injury or death.  Never “Platform Drag” or touch a swim platform while the engine is running.

 Adapted for X-Jetpacks from the Water Sports Industry Association “Watersports Responsibility Code”

One of the main questions we are asked, “what is the minimum horsepower required to fly an X-Jetpack or a Jetblade?”  First off, all machines are not created equal, the normal recommendation is the same as any performance sport, the higher the horsepower the faster and higher you will go.   However, for rental operations fuel economy and a solid dependable machine that gets good performance is what is needed.

Basic minimums, 2-stroke engines will not have enough power to run a hydro jet device, the starting point is a 4-stroke engine.

Several rental operations have had good success running an entry level SeaDoo 130, importantly is the addition of a after market dual impeller from Skat-Trak or Solas.

All jet skis can benefit from the addition of a dual impeller, also called a preloader. There are two companies that manufacture dual impellers.  For more information, see our model specific posts on the Hydro Good Machines© page.

Wakeboard bindings offer a huge choice of models, price ranges, functions, and yes even colors. These bindings and or binding/boots systems are standard choices for jetboards.  Due to the fact that there are so many choices, X-Jets does not supply a binding with the Jetblade.  If you have experience with any bindings and can make a review or a recommendation, let us know at info@x-jetpacks.com

So with all of the choices, what styles do we recommend?

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Liquid Force Domain, simple thick strap system

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There are dozens of configurations of pumps, steering nozzles, reverse mechanisms, sump vacuums, etc.  This post will give you the approach and tips for correct conversion to your hydro flight system.

X-Jets Jetblades and X-Jetpacks operate in a tandem config with two people. The operator on the watercraft (“throttleman”) has control of the engine throttle and operates the hydro jetboard in conjunction with the pilot.  The throttleman gauges the amount of thrust needed and is in constant observation of the pilot who can communicate with simple hand signals.  Thumb up, thumb down.  The pilot controls the direction of travel and whether to use any available power to go forward or to fly more vertically with less forward speed.  The throttleman is responsible for the safety and well being of the pilot on the jetboard as well as surveying the surrounding conditions. The throttleman has the ability to safely lower the pilot to the water level if any condition or situation requires it.  This is a buddy system like in scuba diving, just a little more closely linked.  This is a built in safety factor for beginners all the way to the highest levels.  It also leaves the machine that supplies the power, the jet ski or PWC, with an unmodified engine control system.  Nice and easy.

Naturally many people want to be able to control the throttle themselves. Although in the early stages of learning they are busy enough staying balanced and learning to move in the air without having the additional worries of controlling an engine.  For the users that want to move to this method of riding, there are throttle control systems that work from the pilot.  One such system is produced by Flytronics LLC and it is a wireless system.  Flytronics is run by Ben Merrell and Jeff Elkins.  You can find out more about their wireless jet ski control systems at Flytronics.com

Safety is our number one concern.  Although this is an action sport and there are risks as with any water based sport, there are ways to minimize the risks and make a safer solution for the participants and riders. We spotted the first flaw in hydro jetpacks, the Jetlev, in the first video we saw.  Face down floatation! What sport equipment floats you face down?  We designed our X-Jetpack to assist you in floating face up, we knew from the start not to cut corners on safety.  Then we designed a secure, simple, rust proof, sand proof, ocean proof release mechanism.  One pull of the tactile coded pull strap and you are free of the jetpack.

Then came the jetboard.  Our first lesson on a Flyboard, the instructor ties the boots tight, then wraps the long laces around the legs and tucks them into the boot.  What if you need to get out in a hurry? Then we heard the stories of people that needed to get out in a hurry and could not.  Chilling. We designed the upward facing, toe side oriented Big Pin Clamp with release leash to allow one pull separation of the Jetblade and the hose.  If an instructor needs to get you released in a hurry, the clamp allows a one pull connection point.  We also recommend the use of velcro strapped wakeboard bindings that allow you to get out fast.  This is to account for two main dangers, the hose gets stuck on something under the water and does not allow you to surface, or a passing boat goes over the hose and drags the ski and the rider along.