For the last n+1 years the geek literati have been waiting for two things: jetpacks, and flying cars.
Flying cars are still an impractical dream, but jetpacks are here. However, nobody seems to care.
Video is linked below.
I was recently on vacation in Osoyoos, BC (that’s in Canada, a small country that is actually slightly larger than the country south of it), just hanging out doing water sports, tours of wineries, and relaxing:
On our first day we saw some guys flying around in an honest-to-god jetpack. Sure, it was tethered to a Jet Ski (providing the 100+ horsepower and the water that is the reaction mass) but anything that lets you fly around by tilting your feet sounds like a jetpack to me.
I was intrigued when I realized that they were renting this fabulous device. Could it be true? Were jetpacks finally here?
I had to try it. For $3 a minute it was cheaper than renting a boat to go tubing, and far more amazing.
They put me in a wetsuit (I get cold easily, even in Canada’s warmest lake) and strapped me into the flyboard. When they first lie you down in the water you feel perilously close to drowning, but when they turn on the Jet Ski you feel like superman. With all of the Jet Ski’s thrust going through your feet and arms you actually tow the Jet Ski out into deeper water. And then you take off.
Taking off means pulling your feet underneath your body and then standing up. In the water. And then standing up. Above the water.
I found it pretty easy. They said that it takes 5-10 minutes for most people to learn. I think my unicycling/tightwire/skating practice might have helped because I mostly started flying right away. After five minutes I was flying pretty high:
I wasn’t entirely stable at that point – it takes a while to avoid over correcting – so this is me after about seven minutes:
I think this fall was from about fifteen feet up. But hey, it’s water. I was wearing a helmet, a wetsuit, and a wakeboarding lifejacket, so my worst fall ever was pretty mild.
I did two twenty minute sessions – $60 a pop. By the end of the second session I’d internalized how to control this thing and hovering twenty feet in the air felt about as complicated as standing on one foot. Maybe a bit easier.
I’d mastered low flight, high flight, rotating in place, and spraying the Jet Ski driver in the face. At that point I started playing. The Jet Ski operator controls the throttle and at this point he had it at maximum, but I wanted to go down. My plan was to tilt the thrust way back so that I would descend to the water. The vertical component of the thrust vector is proportional to the cosine of the deviation of the thrust vector from the vertical vector, so a forty five degree tilt of my feet would reduce my vertical thrust impulse by 29.3%, a sixty degree tilt would reduce it by 50%, and so on.
I figured that when I fell into the water the operator would cut the engine and I could ask him to use less thrust. This basically worked (I lost altitude as planned) but when I hit the water I failed to fall. Once you get the hang of flying a jetpack it is almost impossible to fall. Whenever I decided to stop descending – whether I was five feet into the water or still a few feet above it – I would just point the soles of my feet down, and up I would go. It was amazing! I spent the last five minutes bouncing across the water like a deranged bunny rabbit.
If you do just one thing today…
Flying a jetpack is awesome. And it is easy. And not too expensive. Other tourists in Osoyoos were clearly fascinated and impressed by the jetpack, but also intimidated. Very few people were trying it. After decades of waiting for jetpacks they are being received with a ‘meh’.
So if you see somebody offering a flyboard for rent you owe it to yourself, and to the generations of geeks who have been waiting for a jetpack, to try this awesomeness, and support those who bring awesomeness to our lakes and rivers.