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Yu Shing Ting

LIFT OFF!

A new water sport in Hawaii Kai makes it possible to fly, as MidWeek‘s reporter discovers

It’s kind of like Aquaman meets Buzz Lightyear with the new Jetlev at SeaBreeze Watersports in Hawaii Kai.

In just two months since its launch in Hawaii, this new water attraction is sure making a splash. And it’s easy to see why.

Imagine driving along Kalanianaole Highway and about a quarter-mile out on Maunalua Bay: It’s a bird, it’s a plane nope it’s some flying human shooting up above the water followed by two powerful jets of gushing white water.

“We get approached all the time with new activities, and this is one I actually gave a second look at,” says Courtney Krantz, vice president of SeaBreeze Watersports, which also offers parasailing, Jet Skiing, banana boat and bumper tube rides, scuba diving and snorkeling.

According to Krantz, the Jetlev jet packs cost $100,000 and there are only 10 units in the world (two are at SeaBreeze, five are personally owned, and three are at JetLev Flight Centers in Florida and Newport Beach, Calif.).

SeaBreeze has had about 50 customers try the amazing water-propelled jet pack, including me, whom Krantz notes is just the fifth female to take the flight.

The adventure begins with a brief video introduction, followed by about 10 minutes of instruction by one of SeaBreeze’s five certified Jetlev instructors, and then it’s lift off.

“There are three components the pod, the hose and the pack,” explains Jetlev instructor John-Brandon Pang. “The pod provides the power and it has all the fuel (26 gallons of unleaded fuel). The hose is 33 feet long, so the highest you can go is about 30 feet. For firsttimers, the highest we’ll get them is 10 feet.

“The pack is 27 pounds and neutrally buoyant. The customer also has a life jacket on so they’ll float.”

As I’m strapped into the Jetlev, I feel a mix of excitement and nervousness. I remember being told to keep both hands level, to drop my right or left shoulder slightly for turns, hold the start button down for two seconds when told, and to remain relaxed and not panic.

For beginners, the Jetlev instructor has control of the throttle remotely. You also can hear them direct you through a speaker inside your helmet.

The flight pattern begins with a low-water taxi with just your chest out of the water, then mid-level, which is your knees out of the water, and then the high-water taxi, which is completely above the water.

The first five minutes of my experience was pretty challenging and spent in the water, with my body not wanting to relax and naturally going into panic mode. Oh, I also couldn’t see because my helmet was a little loose and shifted down, covering my eyes.

I returned to the barge, Pang re-adjusted my helmet, helped me understand what I was doing wrong and then it was round two.

This time, I was conscientious about keeping my body relaxed, and within what felt like seconds, I was up and flying!

“It’s tough at first, even I went through the same pattern that everybody who comes here will do,” says Pang, who has mastered the

Jetlev with the ability to perform a variety of very impressive tricks. “It’s more a mental game than anything. Once they release that fear and they start to relax, it’s a lot easier versus them overthinking everything. We’ve had people who can’t get the concept of keeping their hands level at all times. They’re like driving a car, every time you tell them to turn they start dropping that hand and they start to dive. Come with an open mind and we’ll do our best to get you up and flying. That’s our goal.”

The Jetlev flight is about 25 minutes, and is open to adults 18 and over. Participants should weigh at least 85 pounds and not more than 320 pounds.

“I don’t think there’s anything to compare this to,” adds Pang. “I’ve never experienced anything like it. The comments we’ve gotten are that it’s exhilarating, uplifting, one of a kind.”

SeaBreeze, located at 377 Keahole St., offers its Jetlev for $399, but for a limited time kamaaina can fly for $199. For details, call 396-0100 or visit www.seabreezewatersports.com.

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