Though not to be confused with Bond-esque ‘jet packs’, JetPads are arguably every bit as cool – and infinitely more environmentally friendly. Battery-powered and virtually noiseless, these brand new personal watercraft are being touted as a safer, more family-friendly alternative to the jetski and jetbike; JetPad’s founders are also expecting them to be exempt from most of the rules that govern the use of jetskis in the UAE.
With top speeds of about 45kph and a running time of 60 minutes once the battery has been charged for just 30, the founders of the JetPad have seen an enormous amount of interest since they first showcased their product at the Dubai International Boat Show earlier in the year, and are expecting many of the UAE’s hotels to place orders. The first major delivery of JetPads is scheduled for May, and from then you can expect to see them skittering across the sea throughout the emirate.
Approximately 18 months in the making, JetPad technology has been designed in a way that will allow hotels to set an invisible perimeter outside which the watercraft will not work (it will shift to idle mode), meaning the vehicles will never stray too close or too far from shore, keeping everyone as safe as possible.
On the day I arrive at Jumeirah Beach Hotel’s Pavilion sports club to try the new technology for myself, I’m able to make a little noise-pollution comparison of my own: there’s a very loud jetski competition taking place on the open beach next door. JetPad’s claims are no exaggeration – the sound emitted by the battery-powered engine as I slowly cruise away from the beach is barely a murmur. At the moment, there are two seating configurations available: one that resembles sitting in a go kart (aptly named Go Kart), while the Leisure model has a saddle similar to a motorbike, which can either be straddled on the knees or lain across with feet dangling over the end.
Despite the fact we’re only able to reach speeds of 35kph today, it still feels incredibly fast. When Danny, the young surfer and instructor that JetPad has brought on board to demonstrate the watercraft, suggests I try doing a 360° spin at full pelt, my first reaction is to refuse point blank, convinced I’ll flip it and go flying. ‘Just go for it – I’ve tried to loads of times and I still haven’t managed to flip it,’ he insists. With a great deal of apprehension, I chug back to get some distance and pick up speed, before pulling down on the throttle and hurtling off in a straight line. Turning hard, I’m amazed to complete a full spin without feeling even slightly unsafe, and I’m soon making myself dizzy with repeated attempts.
Back on land, JetPad chairman Alexander Schellnast explains that the vehicles are safe enough that a child of eight could use them, though no doubt the number of eight-year-olds hurtling about in the same pool of water would need to be monitored in order to avoid light collisions and trapped fingers, if not flipping over. As with any beach activity, a degree of common sense needs to be employed in order to avoid an expensive game of water dodgems.
Aside from the usual precautions, however, Schellnast believes the UAE and its 800km stretch of coastline has been crying out for JetPads since restrictions on traditional personal watercrafts came into place. Once the sale of the first JetPad designs has properly taken off and manufacturing is in full swing, there are plans to begin the manufacture of different variations, including the ‘Explorer’ model, which has a viewing panel, allowing riders to look at the seascape beneath them. Perfect if you don’t dive, but want to nosey around Shark Island in Khor Fakkan or Snoopy Island in Fujairah. And infinitely more useful than a jet pack.
JetPads available to order from approximately Dhs60,000 per watercraft. For more information, demonstrations or to enquire about trying out the new technology, see www.jet-pad.com (04 399 6199).