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On the first few generations of Flyboards, the rider’s feet were mounted to a single board and could not tilt independently, in order to turn a board, it required twisting the body and lifting one leg to tilt the board off-axis in combination.  When we first introduced the Jetblade with independent feet in July of 2014, Frank Zapata put forth the myth of the “spontaneous death spiral”, saying that individual foot freedom can only come at “a dangerous cost”. He had naturally “tried this the very first week” and found it far too dangerous.   He elaborated that the rider’s feet would be overpowered by the jets and the rider would be unable to control the board resulting in the board spinning out of control.  “Broken ankles from over flexion would surely be the result” and of course riders being injured.  This was and is, of course, nonsense, there are zero leveraging forces on your ankles, and the nature of the board and of all hydro sports is that the forces push on you and move you, not twist you into pieces.  Many fellow Flyboarders bought into and spread this meme and it became the reason to explain why they did not have the feature. We spent a good deal of energy in the first year setting the record straight and engaging with otherwise intelligent people on why theory held no merit and was fiction. Thousands of people in the real world took their first lessons on Jetblades and flew, little kids flew, older people flew, everyone was able to move and fly freely with no “complications”.  Ben Merrell was killing it with adding axial spirals to his tricks and yet the discussion still turned to how difficult it must be.   Yet the word spread, the Jetblade could do things no other board could do at the time.

Doubling down and risking it to maintain the hyperbole, the over-reaction.

In order to maintain this dramatic stance, in 2014 Frank instructed his product engineering company to come up with a solution to back him up on this nonexistent problem.  Using heavy springs and pins and axles and stops, Zapata Racing’s design company’s designers fabricated a complicated contraption that “protected” the rider from these nonexistent forces. To make matters worse, in order to compensate for being behind the eight ball in development, the directive was given to make the board out of plastic.  The idea being that ZR could “kill” the competition in price and be able to drive others out of the market.  Sadly, as with all things complicated, this only ended up making more and more problems once the board started to be used and tested in the real world.   Pins bent, plastic nozzles broke, springs required two people to change, pins unscrewed and fell out.  More recently, however, the very same fictional problem of the “death spiral” that was spread as a rumor, became a reality on the new plastic flyboard, aka the “Pro Series Flyboard 2015”.  Due to the soft character of the injected plastic top deck and all of the forces working on the springs and pins under the board, the two twisting decks actually can become locked against each other in the twisted position, leaving the rider helpless in mid-air to change the angle from maximum twist.  A continuous spiraling force is exerted on the rider until he inevitably and nearly instantaneously impacts the water.  So was it a dick move to make up a story about people getting hurt and killed on the Jetblade? Yeah.  Should the “spontaneous death spiral” get renamed the “karmic death spiral”? Absolutely. Have they addressed the problem?  Attention has been turned to the next “big thing” and the Flyboard Pro Series stopped production and the remaining overstock continues to be sold with springs and blocks and dozens of unnecessary, unreliable parts.

Is it a good design? Categorically no, despite Simon’s sycophantic attempts at revisionism.



All sports start with, or eventually develop a “soul”, a connected set of underlying themes and principles driving the participants.  The soul can be hidden, uncovered in steps and emerge over time, it can also become co-opted, molded by motives and commercial interests.  We saw unusual trends in hydro sport, we talked to people about the directions, X could not see a healthy hydro soul clearly emerging.  Knowing that a strong, fun soul is key to the survival and vitality of any sport, we wanted to find and help to build the soul of hydro sport.  We embarked on the search for the soul of hydro sport.  We call this the Hydro Soul Project.

We knew the ingredients we needed, a wide variety the best riders in hydro sport, a great location where we would have the freedom to play and explore, the time to relax and discuss what we discovered, good machines to power us, great equipment for us to fly, and some new tools to play with. We invited 12 of the best riders on jetpacks and jetblades and set up with our friends in Koh Samui Thailand, the historical test flight home of Stratospheric.  We know how cool Koh Samui is both on and off the water, complete freedom to relax, play and evolve.   Build the environment, keep the atmosphere open, free from competition, dogma or favoritism, this is about the riders and giving them the tools, time and freedom to explore.   We brought along a killer video crew to help us record this moment and get close to the action.   And naturally X was there to listen to the feedback and evolve.

Tens of thousands of kilometers flown from across the globe, the group assembled after midnight for the first time at a hotel near the airport in Bangkok, a recon team headed down the road to obtain a case of beer, had a very short night, took the short morning flight to Koh Samui.  Arriving to the open air terminal, the search for the soul of hydro had begun.

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Every one of our units ships world-wide in custom built plywood and steel crates. We go the extra step to make sure that the best built hydro flight gear in the world, arrives to you the way it is supposed to, ready to fly.  Order today and your X-Jetpack NX, Jetblade, or X Hydro Power System will be picked up, put on a plane and delivered to your door, in one piece. Why do we go to such lengths to protect your gear? Because we care about what we make, and we make it the best we can, right down to the box it comes in.



Around the time in February when Ben and Jeff visited Shanghai, X came up with what we thought was a winning slogan.  “We came to play, and we brought better toys.” X had raised the level of hydro jetboarding up by improving the equipment and quality, putting the industry leader on the defensive.  We thought that the term toys was cool because the super yachts industry uses the term “toys” to describe everything that gets stacked into the floating multi-million dollar playgrounds.  All good right? Cool high tech toys, just like Seabobs.  Then someone announced a plastic product to the market, with all the characteristics of a literal toy.  Suddenly it felt kind of painful to degrade our equipment with a name like “toy”, even for fun. Our gear wasn’t a “better toy”, it was sport gear.


We decided to put some distance in between X and the others.  X takes this sport and its future seriously. What we make is sport equipment, real gear for a real sport.  The light came on, the contrast is clear, we will not refer to our equipment again as toys.  The “We came to play” slogan is officially retired.

X-Jets Jetblade Scorpion

Jetblade Scorpion, X-Jets Carbon Concept Jetboard


Carbon concept Jetblade from the design lab inside Stratospheric Industries. Not in production, this is a design study of a reality based concept, a so called “concept car”, a springboard for discussions with top level riders.   X wants to gauge the reaction from the target market and get feedback from the users of our boards.  The brief: design the ultimate competition machine with no compromises, a state of the art hydro jetboard.

As composite material is light and swing weight has a higher priority than floatation, it was the first to go. Reduction of parts and streamlining is always a priority at X, we don’t like complications, the ocean does not like complications, we wanted a stripped down lean mean marine beast. Continue reading

Jetblades were introduced with independent control of the thrust nozzles.  A concept introduced to thrust vector propulsion in the 1950’s by Thomas Moore. Adapted into hydro by Raymond Li, adapted in 2013 into jetboards by the Russian four jet Adrenaline board.  When we saw the movement on that board, we saw the future.  Flatboards liked the status quo. Flatboarders said it could not be done, that your feet needed to have a “spring return to center”.  The leader of the Family howled, “danger danger people, only a professional like Ben Merrell can control the wildness of independent feet.”  The enforcer crew argued “your ankles will get locked into position!”. Pfft, right….   Anyone can ride with independent feet, it is what we are born with.    The people that have the toughest time for the first few minutes are the pro Flatboarders.  They are used to having to swing around their upper bodies in order to get the board to turn.  It is surprising when the board reacts quickly and naturally and just follows you.  After five ten minutes they get into the groove and start to explore, after a few hours, no one wants to go back. Continue reading


When a accomplished pilot does maneuvers  on the jetboard or jetpack,  a  Jetblade or an X-Jetpack, the forces are transferred along the hose back to the jet ski, some of the forces are in waves pushing the ski, some are in tension, pulling the ski.  These hose waves can be huge, reaching almost half as high as the maximum height of a pilot.  These waves travel back to the jet ski base unit and can wrap around the nose of the ski and even flip it over.   In some competitions, the responsibility falls on the rider to keep the hose calm and make sure the jet ski does not get flipped over. If you watch a good rider, he spend a lot of his attention keeping an eye on the hose and making sure he does not do too many tricks in a certain direction in order to keep the hose calm.  Team-Z calls this “hose management” and has a whole category of points and penalties dedicated to it in their contests.   Different teams have come up with different solutions to try to cut down on these forces, shorter tighter ropes, elastic ropes, different connections.  These connections and modifications are banned in the closed competitions because everyone has to ride the stock equipment.  This has been the status quo from the onset of jet ski attached hydro, no changes, same problem. Solution? Riders change the style of their riding to prevent it from happening, they hold back.  Holding back is bad, we needed to find a solution…

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Want to try out the new X Sleeve on your existing setup?  If you have ordered an X-Sleeve from us or if you have secured a section of a double walled section of your own, here are the installation instructions to get you going.

Dubai Jetblade Demonstration

undo the clamps on the jet ski end of the hose (Speed Clamp end)

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Sometimes the innovations are a simple solution instead of a complex one.  The issue at hand, securing the hose connection to the front of the ski.   Metal clips can bend or distort under the high loads and cause impact damage to the front of the jet ski with hard use.  Working of the suggestion of one of the athletes, we settled on a nice simple solution that offers the flexibility and ease of use that fits the task.  The knot.


insert loop through the bow hook

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