Video produced by John V. Turner
Jetsurf’s motorized surfboards aim to take the world by storm.
Running along the channel beside a little slice of paradise, all palm trees and sandy beaches, I tried to find my legs before face planting at a cool 15 mph. And again. And again. And again, at one minute intervals. Each time I’d slide my torso onto the motorized board, doing my best to feather the throttle—attached via an electronic leash that doubled as a kill cord—slip my feet into the straps and stand up, trying to get my bearings while punching it. Whenever I’d hit a passing wake and go down (or face plant, as it were), I did so with a big smile. This was a hell of a lot of fun.
I was going to get the hang of this thing if it took me all day.
The “thing” in question was a 40-pound, carbon-composite board—what JetSurf, a Czech Republic-based company, calls a “motorized surfboard” and “the ultimate water jet board experience.” But at around 6-feet long, is more akin to a wakeboard or even a snowboard, only with a high-performance 100cc engine housed inside. Yes, the wild musings of your town’s local surfer bro with serious shades of Jeff Spicoli has finally come true. Unbridled speed on a board, dude.
The problem for a novice like me, however, was counterintuitive: to get better footing, and more control, you needed to go fast. Like really fast. Not its designated top speed of 35 mph fast, but close. “You look like you’re in shape,” JetSurf USA Marketing Manager Ondřej Přikryl said as I set out from Miami’s Pace Picnic Island, one of the city’s neighboring sandbars that was, on this weekday anyway, mercifully absent of party-goers. “You should have no problem getting up there.”
Challenge accepted. With the Miami skyline rising dramatically above the channel, professional MotoSurf racer Peter Svara joined me on his own board, offering instruction. As he zipped along—cornering on a dime, getting the air I was woefully missing out on and generally showing what can be achieved, albeit with a little practice—things started to click for me. (The learning curve for wakeboarders, surfers and those with better balance than yours truly should be even faster.) Whenever I stood up of my own volition, gunning the throttle and holding the leash taut for stability, I inevitably felt like the coolest person on the water. In those moments, it wasn’t hard to see how JetSurf has captured the attention of adrenaline junkies and watersport enthusiasts around the world.
Unlike the futuristic Zapata Flyboard, which is limited by its attachment to a Jetski, or the submersible Seabob, which, on average, goes less than 10 mph, JetSurf’s three boards—Sport, Adventure and Race—offer a new take on high-performance water toys priced around $10,000. In Miami, I was testing the Adventure board, which differs from the Race and Sport options in that it features a specially designed rack in the front that can accommodate an additional fuel tank or dry bag—perfect for exploring nearby waters or tooling around the mothership. (With a full tank of gas, the cruising range for a JetSurf board is around 45 to 60 minutes.)
When the company was founded, in 2008 by Martin Sula, an engineer with a background in the go-cart industry, there was hardly a competitor in the space. Today, though the market has gotten a bit more crowded, JetSurf is still the fastest motorized surfboard on the water, with leagues, academies and even a MotoSurf World Cup springing up around it. And Sula isn’t just working behind the scenes, or from the company’s factory in the Czech Republic—he’s a top five MotoSurf racer in the world. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is.
When I asked Přikryl how many boards have been shipped to the U.S. to date, he estimated anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000. But he was excited to share some good news: JetSurf has plans to double their production capacity by this year, which should track nicely with the rise of competitions and academies in South Florida alone. While we were talking, Mag Bay Yachts Vice President Barrett Howarth, who had supplied our chase boat, had given the Adventure board a spin, and had gotten the hang of it within minutes. I watched him careen around the channel like a pro. This won’t do, I thought. I tagged back in, and got some nice speed before face planting. I looked at the sky: There was still plenty of sun left. I gunned the throttle and tried to find my legs.