Happy New Year to all our Hydroflight Friends!
2016 is going to be a BIG year for the Hydroflight industry! We're looking forward to new tricks being invented, more open competitions, and much more product evolution up ahead. Every day thousands of people are just barely discovering our sport, and with so much novelty and innovation going on in the last few years, we figured we'd lay out a quick overview of the "hydro tech" you should be aware of as you're getting into the world of hydroflight boards.
There are currently 3 different general classifications of boards: Fixed, Independent, and 3-axis.
Fixed - The first hydro boards to come out were all fixed boards. By "fixed" we're referring to the fact that the rider is standing on a solid board, and the left and right nozzles are always pointing in the same direction. The most prominent example of this design is the original Flyboard from Zapata Racing (though there are a few others) While some have claimed that a fixed board creates a more stable platform for learning, the industry is starting to move away from this more basic design, in favor of a platform that provides more rider control and freedom.
Independent - Transitioning from "fixed" to "independent" is the first major product evolution that has happened in the industry, and for a good reason. Having independent control over your feet allows the rider to spin and twist with much less effort, and greatly increases the potential for tricks and freestyle movement. Independent board designs still have the same basic structure as fixed boards, but there is no longer a single board connecting the feet together. There's a pretty broad range of companies/products offering this technology, including X-Jets, Flyboard (Zapata Racing), Flydive, Dolphin Board, and a few others.
There are a few different variations of Independent board designs, the main difference being the degree of freedom between the two feet. Some designs allow the feet to rotate completely free of each other, while others have springs or torsion bars that still provide some level of resistance between the two feet. Most products providing tension between the feet are only doing so to help ease the concerns of those who might be reluctant to transition from a Fixed to an Independent board. (kinda like the leashes that attach snow skis together at the tips for beginners)
3-Axis - The above two board categories allow the hose to unwind beneath the rider (axis #1), and to tilt the feet forward, backward, or independently (axis #2), but the rider always has to stay in-line with the hose from a side-to-side angle. This means that spinning on an Independent board like the Jetblade or Flydive is very difficult unless the hose is directly beneath the rider. Also, if the rider is falling sideways, 2-axis boards are unable to pull out of a fall, without first spinning so that they are facing the direction of the fall, and only then can they attempt to pull their feet under them.
Adding a third axis (side to side movement), takes the Independent board design one step further, allowing the rider to spin and twist regardless of the orientation of the hose beneath them. It also helps the rider to recover from falls, regardless of the direction they are falling in. Adding a third axis is the final step in isolating the board from all the movement and tugs of the stiff and heavy hose, and will feel the most free and un-tethered in the air. Currently, DEFY is the only company in the industry offering a 3-axis board.
Other Hydro Tech - Another question that newcomers to the sport often have is regarding the use of hand nozzles. When the original Flyboard showed up on the market, they had hand nozzles in addition to the foot nozzles in an attempt to provide more stability on the board. These hand nozzles stuck around for about a year, but when riders started to experiment with removing them, they realized that they don't really add much stability at all, and to the contrary, were actually pretty limiting and cumbersome to have attached to your hands and arms all the time.
That's just a quick overview of the general board types currently available, but there is still quite a bit of variance and novelty between the different products out there (Flyboard, X-Jets, DEFY, Flydive, Dolphin Board, etc...).
If you're reading through this and find that you still have dozen more questions about all this new stuff, feel free to hit us up anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-664-2525.