“That isn’t flying, it’s falling with style.” Well, actually, it’s neither, but just like Buzz Lightyear, once I get the hang of Flyboarding, I feel like I can go to infinity and beyond. But looking back over the images after scrambling back to shore reveals that the heights I reached were in fact ‘one small step for a man’ rather than anything more momentous.
Still, though, it’s not how high you go, but how euphoric you feel (Burj Khalifa’s looming presence in the backdrop considered). Because genuinely, there are few feelings like this. The uniqueness of ‘flying’ is unparalleled, especially when partnered with a hint of ‘walking on water’. And there's no substitute for the overwhelming sense of achievement from nailing something really quite cool. Sprinkle in the stunning views of the beautiful Downtown skyline, along with a fiery sun setting across the Arabian Gulf, and this is every bit as awesome as my pictures appear.
It certainly doesn’t start that way. My experience begins at Jumeirah Fishing Harbour – home to numerous cute eateries, including the award-winning Omnia Gourmet, and one of the most peaceful points along our coastline. It’s also the base for SeaRide Dubai, whose jet ski tours, led by seven-time world champion Steven Dauliach, are Trip Advisor’s top activity of its kind. The team are warm, friendly and, importantly, have the patience of saints.
Naturally, when throwing yourself into anything extreme you check your dignity in at the door, exchanging it for a life jacket and helmet. Sure enough, the exit from the harbour is hardly in keeping with the understated and stylish yachts, catamarans and other sea vessels that line the route out. Lying flat on the surface, jets already attached to my feet, I act as lead out for the jet ski to which I'm attached (it's the driver who provides the power direct to the Flyboard through a vast hose that lies underwater and can easily and alarmingly be mistaken for a sea snake from the corner of your eye). At the front, my face carves its way through the waves as I gurgle sea water by the litre. It’s an inauspicious start.
Once beyond the harbour entrance, it’s time for a tutorial. The ‘how to’ seems simple enough; go from prone to upright under the water, stand there, let the jets do the work, no sudden movements. Of course, the reality is somewhat different.
What I can say is getting to ‘almost’ is the easy part, and the quick turnaround between attempts means there’s precious little time to get disheartened, not like with wakeboarding, for example, when there can be up to a couple of minutes' hold up, since it's customary the first few tries to fail to get out of the water when the boat darts forward. With Flyboarding, though, a quick repositioning into Superman pose on the surface and I'm ready to go again. And again. And again.
“Don’t lean forwar...” SPLASH. “Not so far bac...” SPLASH. “Straighten your le...” SPLASH. “Bend your kne… SPLASH”. To be frank, there’s a child-like excitement at the constant ducking and diving. What's more, it’s almost impossible to get hurt. The angles of the jets simply prevent a bellyflop. And then it happens. At first, there’s something quite unsettling about the experience as I put daylight between me and the water. It’s smoother than I might have expected, but that’s what's so unnerving; I’m not meant to hover…
A bit like finding the biting point of a clutch on a manual car or simply riding a bike, once you’re tuned in, you wonder how you ever failed to find it in the first place. Slowly, I feel encouraged by the power output from the jet ski to move a little.
The main hazard here is overcompensating in any direction. A small wriggle to the left and instinct flings us to the right. Similarly, a little lean forward, a sharp lurch back, and again, SPLASH.
Next time, though, I rein that in a little. And the next time, a little more. By the end of the 20-minute time slot, I’m positively cruising. The word you’re looking for is Space Ranger. Come in Star Command.
Dhs300 for 20 minutes. SeaRide Dubai, Jumeirah Fishing Harbour, www.sea-ride-dubai.com (055 157 8393).
Four to try More extreme watersports
Wake Evolution has just taken up residency at Riva Beach Club on The Palm. Parade your skills in front of the Burj Al Arab, or try wakesurfing, a pursuit described as “much less aggressive”.
From Dhs250. Riva Beach Club, Shoreline Apartments 7-8, Palm Jumeirah, wake-evolution.com (050 154 5385).
Head to Abu Dhabi’s Al Forsan and practise cable boarding on one of two man made ‘lakes’. Flung around the track attached to what look like telephone lines from above, it’s a great place to hone your skills.
Dhs125 per hour. Al Forsan International Sports Resort, Abu Dhabi, www.alforsan.com (02 556 8555).
From Dibba to Fujairah and even out in front of the Palm, the UAE has some excellent diving sites, right up to advanced level wreck dives. You can learn right up to PADI level with certified divers in Atlantis’ world-famous Ambassador Lagoon.
From Dhs950. Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 3000).
Remember how much you wanted feel like Marty McFly whizzing around the futuristic Hill Valley? Well, with SeaRide Dubai you can. Almost. The skateboard shape is familiar, but the angle of propulsion is anything but. “Way harder than Flyboarding,” the guys say.
SeaRide Dubai, Jumeirah Fishing Harbour (055 157 8393).