French Jet Ski Champion Franky Zapata Trying To Fly Across English Channel With Hoverboard

Photo: Instagram 
Who Is Franky Zapata? New Details On The French Jet Ski Champion And His Attempt To Fly Across English Channel With Hover-board

When I was a kid I couldn't wait for the future. I thought that by the year 2019, we'd all be driven to work by robot butlers and living on the moon instead of going to the beach for our summer vacations. One thing of which I was certain, everyone would have jetpacks and hoverboards and we would merrily ride them wherever we wanted. Honestly, the fact that this isn't the case may be one of the saddest thing of my adult life. 

Thankfully, there's somebody else who believes in the power of the hoverboard, and he's working hard to try and make my dreams (lol) a reality. His name is Franky Zapata, and he's an inventor with a mission: Fly across the English Channel on his own hoverboard. He made his first attempt this week, but things didn't go as planned. That said, Franky has no intention to stop trying. Who is Franky Zapata?

1. The News

French inventor and erstwhile adventurer, Franky Zapata is in the news this week for trying something that sounds straight out of the pages of a steampunk novel. Zapata, you see, had a dream, and that dream was to cross the English Channel (the body of water which separates Britain from France) using only his jet-powered hoverboard. Zapata eagerly took off on July 25th, but he missed a platform while landing to refuel halfway across the Channel and thus his grand adventure ended in a slightly less grand tumble into the sea. Zapata, who is 40, was not at all injured when he plunged into the water, and he has no intention of making this attempt his last. It's the other side or bust, for this invention.

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2. What Went Wrong

Zapata thought he had his entire exploit well-planned out, but there are some variables even the most prepared adventurers couldn't have accounted for until the first attempt was made. "When I got closer to the platform, the boat took a wave and it hit the foot of the machine and broke it," Zapata said during a press conference following his thwarted attempt to cross the Channel. "I lost balance, I fell in the water. The flyboard is damaged, the electronic part has to be redone, the motors are ruined but the base is saved," he continued. Yup, that's a lot of work and he's going to have to get it all done and fast if plans on ever trying this stunt again, and it sounds like that's the idea. 

3. Try, Try Again

In his press conference, Zapata was happy to answer questions about his invention and his first attempt. In fact, he was pleased to reveal just how close he made it from France to English shores. According to Zapata, he was just about 11 miles away from the finish of the flight which was scheduled to conclude at St. Margaret's Bay, in England. "I could see the British borders," he said. That might be all the incentive that this plucky dude needs, too, because when he was asked if he plans on making the attempt to fly across the Channel again, he didn't just say yes, he mentioned that if all went according to plan he hopes to be back out at the beach making the bold adventure once more as soon as next week.

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4. The Launch 

Zapata didn't pick the date for his first attempt to cross the Channell at random, either. He picked the date because it's the 110th anniversary of the first time anyone actually crossed the Channel in a plane! He left the shores of Sangatte, France at 9:00 AM local time and was fairly confident that he could reach his destination and conclude his treacherous flight of 22 miles in about 20 minutes. A pretty bold claim, but hey, you've got to be bold when you're in the business of hoverboard stunts, right? Obviously, people were fascinated to see if Zapata's idea and invention would work, and they lined up to wave him off. This meant that there's lots of great footage that was recorded by onlookers using smartphones. It's pretty trippy watching Zapata peace out. 

5. The Board

Maybe my favorite thing about this entire stunt is the device that Zapata rigged up to help him do it in the first place. He calls it a flyboard but that conjures images of something sleek and compact and this sucker is anything but. The flyboard looks more like a short skateboard and has five, that's right, five engines attached to it to make it work. Are those five engines small? Sure, but are they still all actual engines? Very much so. The board is powered by kerosene and it uses a lot of it. Zapata took off with more than 100 pounds of the stuff in his backup, and yet he still knew he would have to stop to get a refuel. This is where I point out that the flyboard doesn't sound exactly practical, and here's where you point out that it's a flyboard and thus my argument is invalid.

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6. Challenges

The board itself moves fast, upwards of 87 miles an hour, and when Zapata first flew it he did so over Paris on Bastille Day which is pretty much the equivalent of riding a hoverboard amid the fireworks on the 4th of July, and it got the same reaction too: People couldn't get enough! Though he still thinks he has only about a 30% chance of making it to the other side, he's not giving up. But he admits that there are challenges. "When you fly with your body, even your hands affect the direction you want to go in. You feel the turbulence and the air through your fingers. It's like becoming a bird. But it's also very hard. I have to fight against the wind with my legs so there's pain too. It's not as peaceful as it looks."

Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cats, Batman and Margot. She's an experienced generalist with a passion for lifestyle, geek news, pop culture, and true crime.