The airborne abilities of Iron Man and Marty McFly used to exist solely on movie sets, but two new water toys can launch anyone into flight.
Invented by Franky Zapata in 2011, the Flyboard is a water jetpack that attaches to the back of a personal watercraft and pumps 5,000 gallons of water per minute through a fire hose, propelling its rider more than 50 feet in the air.
While it may seem otherworldly, the largest Flyboard distributer on the globe is located in Salt Lake City.
Thom Hall, a certified financial planner and Utah resident, discovered the Flyboard in 2012 when a client sent him a video of the water toy: “I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen, so I started tracking down where to get one,” Hall said.
Hall discovered the Flyboard’s main distributer was in Florida where he’d be flying for a business conference two weeks later: “I extended my trip an extra day, and I drove to this place, spent a full day getting trained and bought a Flyboard,” Hall said.
Upon his return, Hall took his brother, son and nephew to St. George, Utah, to test his new toy, and a business was born.
Thom and Dave Hall quickly got the OK to distribute Flyboards in Utah, but that was only the first step. They still needed to prove to Utahns — in the middle of February — that Flyboards were worth a try.
Enter Devin Graham, a YouTube sensation.
When Dave realized there weren’t any viral videos featuring Flyboards, he connected with Graham, and the two made plans to fly to Hawaii: “We filmed that first video in three days, and it instantly went viral and just launched our business,” Dave said.
At the same time the video launched, the Flyboard distributors in Florida were fired, so the Halls picked up the largest distribution contract in the United States and Flyboards sold out worldwide.
Now, the Halls ship Flyboards to 10 states and sell them from Edge Power Sports and Rocky Mountain Flyboard in Utah. They also rent Flyboards at Utah reservoirs including Jordanelle, Deer Creek and Quail Creek.
“Utah’s response has been tremendous,” Dave said. “The thing that’s fun about this business is that everyone that does it walks away happy. We’ll have a family of four or five come fly, and everybody’s on the back of the boat watching the other person with their iPhone and they’re cheering for each other. Because everybody gets up, everybody’s happy.”
Dave said learning to conquer the Flyboard is much easier than wakeboarding.
At an event last summer called “The Man Games” at Deer Creek, the Halls helped teach nearly 500 people to get up on the Flyboard in less than five minutes.
“If people will listen and follow instructions, you can get up pretty quick,” Dave said. “Wakeboarding takes a lot more strength and a lot more skill. With the Flyboard, you stand up in the water and get your balance, and it literally levitates you off the water.”
Although the activity is highly adventurous, Dave said Flyboarding is a family friendly, safe activity.
There have been a few minor injuries sustained while Flyboarding around the world, but there is a perfect safety record in Utah, largely due to the required four-hour lesson people receive before Flyboarding on their own: “Because of that extra effort to make sure people are trained, it’s been very safe, and we intend to keep it that way,” Hall said.
Many people believe family and business shouldn’t intertwine, but Dave said he prefers spending time with his brothers over anybody else.
“In our family, we’re very quick to share how we feel about things, so if someone’s got an issue we lay it out right on the table,” he said. “In business, we try not to let things fester and keep clear communication.”
Thom and Dave Hall each juggle Rocky Mountain Flyboard, SkySurf Flyboard, their own separate businesses and fatherhood.
“We’ve got a lot going on,” Thom Hall said. “It’s been an adventure.”
And the adventure keeps growing.
In just a few weeks, the Hall brothers will receive a shipment of a brand new product: the Hoverboard.
Fans of "Back to the Future II" may never see the self-drying jacket or grow-your-own pizza that Robert Zemeckis predicted would exist in a 2015 world, but Franky Zapata invented the Hoverboard just in time.
The Hoverboard is similar to the concept of the Flyboard, but instead propelling its rider upward, the Hoverboard has one jet that sits behind the board, shooting the rider upward and forward: “Imagine you’ve got a surf board, but you don’t need an ocean because you create your own,” Dave said.
Hall and Devin Graham joined forces again six weeks ago when they shot the Hoverboard video in Cancun.
Although the Hoverboard isn’t in stock yet, the product can be preordered.
Megan Marsden Christensen writes for the Faith and Family sections. She recently graduated from BYU-Idaho with a bachelor's degree in communication.