Flyboarding regulations staying grounded, for now

Lawmakers are trying to grapple with the legal issues surrounding flyboarding and other similar water sports. (Credit: Paul Squire)
Lawmakers are trying to grapple with the legal issues surrounding flyboarding and other similar water sports. (Credit: Paul Squire)

The pros and cons of flyboarding were debated during Tuesday’s Riverhead Town Board meeting, at which a proposal to set new regulations for the relatively up-and-coming activity was the subject of a public hearing.

Flyboarding involves being thrust into the air by water-propelled jetpacks that are attached to people’s feet and powered by a jet ski tethered to the device.

Flyboard LI, which is headed by Jim Bissett IV, began operating downtown in the waters behind Treasure Cove Marina this summer. The town has claimed that while town code doesn’t specifically address flyboarding, the operation is in violation of state navigation laws and it has issued them numerous violations.

The new proposed legislation to specifically address flyboarding also takes aim at activities involving jetpacks, Jetlevs, hoverboards, parasails and wakeboards.

It requires such activities to be conducted at least 500 feet from shore.

“The 500 feet is excessive,” Mr. Bissett said. It’s also dangerous, he argued, because putting flyboarders in open waters potentially places them in the path of speeding boats.

He and Bryan DeLuca, executive director of the company that owns Treasure Cove, Hyatt East End and the Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center, both suggested the town adopt a flyboarding regulation recently approved in Maryland.

Maryland regulations require flyboarders to be 100 feet from shore, something Mr. Bissett and Mr. DeLuca said they don’t oppose.

“We’re building a tourist destination,” Mr. DeLuca said, adding that he hopes having the only flyboard operation on Long Island will attract people to the area.

Some neighbors who live near the area where flyboarding takes place complained of noise from the activity.

Mr. Bissett said he moved the operation to the south portion of the river, which is in Southampton Town, to reduce noise.

“My fear is we’re going to get lip service from this gentleman, like we did all summer, and he’s going to do what he wants,” said neighbor Glenn Brewster. He said he doesn’t want to put Flyboard LI out of business; he just feels it’s in the wrong location.

Another neighbor, Garrett Moore, said he has no problem with the company.

“Mr. Bissett has shown me courtesy all summer,” he said, adding that when he’s inside his house, he can’t hear the flyboarders.

The board took no action on the proposal.

“I imagine this should end shortly as the water gets colder,” Supervisor Sean Walter said