August 10, 2014

Flyboard business lets riders soar above May River (with video)

A Bluffton entrepreneur's new business has customers soaring above the May River.

Alex Greger's RipFly Watersports is renting out Flyboards, a hybrid snowboard-skateboard that connects to a 30-foot-long fire hose. A trailing watercraft pumps water through the hose, propelling riders as high as 50 feet.

"A lot of people say it looks like 'Iron Man,'" said Greger, 28.

The Flyboard was invented in 2011 by French personal-watercraft racing champion Franky Zapata, and it soon spread to the Caribbean and the United States.

Greger, who owns a power-washing company, discovered the board while searching YouTube for faster ways to pressure-wash a house, he said.

"I just had to have it," said the California native, who grew up surfing and skateboarding near Venice Beach.

He spent $9,000 on the board and another $15,000 on the JetSki. He started the business with friend Tyler Jones this summer after completing an operator's course required by Zapata Racing. It certified him to teach riders and rent out the watercraft.

He charges $150 for a half-hour, $300 an hour, he said.

First-time riders usually start 5 feet above the water. Greger controls the throttle, and all riders wear a helmet and lifejacket, he said.

"It's a great workout," he said. "Anyone that can stay up there 30 minutes their first time is like the Hulk."

The new business follows another extreme watersport in Beaufort County.

In April, HHI Jetpack opened. It lifts riders as high as 30 feet at speeds of up to 30 mph.

Greger, who also Flyboards competitively, said his board gives riders more maneuverability in the air.

"I had a 13-year-old kid doing back flips his first time, if that tells you anything."

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