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#23 - Water Sports

Zapata: Reaching for the Sky

The Zapata Flyboard (Photo: Zapata)

Former jetski racer Franky Zapata has built a successful company around his futuristic Flyboard, a patented invention that is paving the way for a range of new devices.


Our first Flyboard demonstration was a surreal experience as we witnessed a man flying through the air in the marina while being followed by a jetski. The two were connected by a hose but it didn’t impair the pilot swooping and soaring as they moved between the moored yachts.

Powered by jets under the pilot’s feet and controlled by a hand throttle, this patented device and other water-going versions made by the French company have sold in four digit numbers since its inception in 2012.  Early challenges included a lawsuit with a similar product and even a flying ban from the French government but now they are literally reaching for the sky, company spokesperson Clara Elliot told NauticExpo Magazine.

NE e-mag: Your current range of products include air and water devices, do they all use essentially the same technology?

Clara Elliot: No, the water products are hydroflights, meaning that they are powered by the water that comes out from the jetski. These products are connected to the ski by a 23 meter hose. The air products are powered by jet engines. They also use new technologies such as special algorithms for stabilization and control. All the air devices are powered by Kerosene.

The Flyride is a two person flying personal water craft which is attached to another jetski by a hose. (Photo: Zapata)

NE e-mag: Are you considering other energy sources—for example electricity?

Clara Elliot: We cannot use electricity for many different reasons such as, for example, the autonomy. However we are working on using eco fuel or other technology but these details are confidential.

NE e-mag: What is the latest development in your company?

Clara Elliot: The latest development in water products is the Flyride and in air products the EZ-Fly. All products included, we sold around 12,000 water products mixing Flyboard Legend, Flyboard Sport, Flyboard Pro Series, Jetpack by ZR, Hoverboard by ZR and Flyride. All of our products are manufactured by our company.

NE e-mag: You list a wide range of uses from military to recreation so does the same product suit each application or do you customize it for the market?

With EZ-Fly, you only need 30 minutes training to be able to fly. (Photo: Zapata)

Clara Elliot: The same product can suit different applications and there are not many changes to be made. However, some future products will be used only for the military market and others for recreational activities.

NE e-mag: Do you supply a market or are you creating a new market?

Clara Elliot: We could say both, depending on the application. With the air products, the goal is to revolutionize the transport field in both the military and civilian domains.

NE e-mag: How skilled/trained do recreational users have to be?

Clara Elliot: It depends on the product. Everyone can try our water products easily especially the Flyride. With Flyboard it can take 10 to 15 minutes to be able to come out of the water and fly in the air. With the Flyride it is five seconds, the time for you to get on it!

Franly Zapata flying the Flyboard air. (Photo: Zapata)

With our air products, Flyboard air is not accessible to all. For the moment only Franky can fly with the device but with EZ-Fly, you only need 30 minutes training to be able to fly! This was tested with former soldiers and water Flyboard riders in America in October 2017.

NE e-mag: Your Guinness world record was an impressive feat, a flight of 2,252.5 meters so how much further will these devices travel?

Clara Elliot: It will depend on the device. Flyboard Air can fly for six minutes and the maximum speed reached is 187 km/h.

NE e-mag: Your products were banned in France so what is the current situation?

Clara Elliot: The situation changed a lot since last year. We have a permit to fly and we are happy to participate in many big events with Flyboard air. We also have a training zone next to our office in Le Rove that helps us a lot in our daily work.



Read more about water-propelled bikes and water jetpacks on NauticExpo website. 

About the Author

Kevin Green is a Sydney-based yachting journalist who contributes to international boating publications.

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