Greers Ferry visitors get chance to fly RVO

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published July 11, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated July 9, 2013 at 5:21 p.m.
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Nick Hillemann

Clay Nowak, an employee of Ozark Flyboard at Greers Ferry Lake, demonstrates Flyboarding, the lake’s newest watersport. Josh Foster, the owner of Ozark Flyboard, said Flyboarding is like a using a jetpack powered by water.

A jetpack might seem like a product of the future to some, but Ozark Flyboard at Greers Ferry Lake is giving visitors the opportunity to experience the future now — or at least the next best thing.

Josh Foster, the owner of Ozark Flyboard, said the lake’s newest watersport is like a jetpack powered by water.

“It just looked like fun to me,” Foster said. “It also looked like something we could make money on. It was a unique opportunity.”

Foster jumped at the chance to buy two Flyboards for Greers Ferry, which is the only Flyboard site in the state.

Lee Burchfield, who works for Ozark Flyboards at the Dam Site Marina, said this is the first year for the sport to be available to Arkansans.

“The closest place to Flyboard [besides Greers Ferry] is in Austin, Texas,” Burchfield said.

Flyboards are attached to a 50-foot Kevlar hose that is powered by a personal watercraft, Burchfield said.

The watercraft driver controls how much thrust the Flyboard rider gets, and the rider steers the board with his feet.

Flyboard riders and spectators are taken out into the lake by a party barge, where flyers are launched.

A rider starts out in the water on his belly, with the board to the back of him; then more thrust is added, Burchfield said.

As the thrust increases, the rider can bring the board underneath him, like a skateboard or a wakeboard. Once the rider is balanced, he can hover above the water like he is flying.

Burchfield has worked at the Dam Site Marina since he was in high school and met Foster while working there.

He said his favorite part of working with Ozark Flyboard is showing people how to “fly,” then seeing them do so.

“It’s a new experience for them,” Burchfield said. “Nothing is like it. We’ve flown anyone from 17-year-old girls to 71-year-old men.”

The Flyboards made their first scheduled appearance at Greers Ferry Lake on Memorial Day weekend, but Burchfield and Clay Nowak, another Ozark Flyboard employee, have been practicing their Flyboard skills since March.

When they aren’t taking others Flyboarding, Burchfield and Nowak take the time to work on developing their own skills.

“When we’re not busy, we’re riding [the Flyboards],” Burchfield said. “We’re practicing, doing flips and spins.”

When the two are out on the water practicing, Nowak said, boats stop and watch them.

“Everybody likes watching it, but I think they might be intimidated by it,” Nowak said.

Burchfield said he’s seen first-time riders hover above the water in the first five minutes they were on a Flyboard and wave to spectators.

Foster said the experience of Flyboarding is unique.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You’re not going to get this kind of rush or feeling from any other watersport,” Foster said.

“I’ve had people who were world-class skydivers [who] say [Flyboarding is] just as much of a rush as skydiving.”

More information about Ozark Flyboards is available at www.ozarkflyboard.com.

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online Reporter Lisa Burnett can be reached at 501-378-3887 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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