Come fly with me
Seasoned athlete Callon Burns was surprised to find hydroflight challenging when he first tried the sport four years ago.
His experience taught him to get low to find his centre of gravity, but that didn’t work on the moving board.
So the tenacious sportsman practised every day and his dedication has now allowed him to compete against the best in the world.
Next week, the 30-year-old is bringing it all to the island with a competitive flyboarding event, Battle on the Rock.
It all began in 2013 when he answered an ad in The Royal Gazette.
“Coconut Rockets owner Michael Swan pulled up YouTube and some google pictures,” Mr Burns recalled of the subsequent interview.
“I see somebody standing up at least 20 feet on some jet boots and I said this is what I’m going to be doing? Sign me up.”
He became an instructor at the Dockyard company and has seen swift growth in the sport over the last four years.
“When I first saw it I thought it was a budding sport and a little edgy, so I felt it may have the potential to go somewhere.
“I dropped my day job and focused on helping Mike build the business, which did really well the first two years. We got a lot of traffic — we made waves on social media.”
But then he decided he had to be closer to the action.
“I went out on a limb in my second year and decided to get away from Coconut Rockets for a bit to go overseas.
“I decided that if I really wanted to make something of it that I had to put myself where the actual events are.”
He began to enter competitions and in his first event he finished third in the 2013 North American Championships in Toronto.
At the World Cup in Dubai in 2014, he placed 11th out of 60 entries and was picked up by Florida team Powerfly.
The watercraft dealers acted as an agent for the jetboarder and he found himself being booked for shows around the world.
He spent 2015 travelling to the Maldives, Dubai, Mexico and the US.
“I sharpened my craft in the US. It’s a lot easier to advance your training when you’re practising around a lot of good guys,” he said.
A flyer, a rider — there are many names for those who take hydroflight. Mr Burns said it’s a tightknit community. As such, it was easy to gather the resources and equipment and source the riders for Battle on the Rock, with three days of events scheduled between Friday and Sunday next week.
The two-day competition takes place in Hamilton Harbour and is organised by Danilee Trott and Anthony Blakey of Savvy Entertainment.
Mr Burns will be the only local out of 32 competitors and will use equipment from new company, Jetblade.
When scoring the contest judges consider energy, proficiency and crowd engagement.
“What they’re looking for is overall impression. They want to see you wow the crowd,” he said.
“It’s very much like aerial acrobatics. A lot of it is flips, spins, combinations. They’re looking for technical proficiency — how difficult was the move you pulled off and how sharply did you land it?”
Typically, riders are technical or creative. He places himself somewhere in the middle.
“I’m a combination rider. I like to wrap people into what I’m doing. I like to add variations to the standard moves. Rather than doing an average spin backflip I add kicks and grabs to it.”
He’s come a long way since he started training with Coconut Rockets.
“I didn’t get up my first time,” he confessed.
“Being a sportsman you’re always taught to get low to your centre of gravity. While you’re standing in water on a platform that’s moving you have nothing to really push against, so if you get low it pretty much sabotages you.
“I come from a sporting family. I’ve played football since I could remember, I ran track when I was in primary and middle school, I’ve been boxing for a good ten years out of Controversy Gym, I’ve been taking up courses in personal training and I train out of Beast Gym.
“I wasn’t the worst, but I definitely wasn’t the best. I’m so competitive. I said, I’m going to be better than all of you guys.”
Still, he couldn’t perfect a backflip.
“I was doing side flips,” he said.
“We had one guy, Mark Tucker, who was doing backflips early on and he used to tease me.
“He was like, ‘Nobody cares about spins and dives. Everyone likes a backflip.’”
Flying high after the results of his first tournament, he invited his former colleague for a spin around Mangrove Bay.
“I let him ride first and then I went. I was dropping double backflips on him,” he said.
• Visit www.battleontherock.com/ for more information