Peter D'Italia is submerged to his neck in the Peconic River when he feels a thrust growing beneath his feet. As it gains power, he rises straight up, bursting through the water's surface and flying into the air like Iron Man.
D'Italia's height is controlled by James Bissett, owner of Flyboard LI, who is operating a WaveRunner in the waters below D'Italia at Treasure Cove Resort Marina in Riverhead. Water ejected from the WaveRunner shoots through a 50-foot-long hose that runs to a pair of boots D'Italia is wearing, giving him the propulsion to fly.
"You've got jets on your feet," Bissett says. "You're like your own superhero you've always dreamed of."
This is flyboarding, a new extreme sport that lets participants not only "fly," but also hover in the air, dive into and shoot out of the water like a dolphin and do acrobatics such as backflips. "It's like something you would see in the X Games," Bissett says. "It's a combination of wakeboarding, snow skiing and surfing."
ABOUT THE SPORT
The Flyboard was invented in 2011 by a personal-watercraft racing champion from France named Franky Zapata, and soon spread to the Caribbean and the United States.
Bissett, 26, of Patchogue, first experienced flyboarding while vacationing at Lake Havasu in Arizona. "I knew I had to bring it back to Long Island," he says. And he has the place to do that, as co-owner of the marina behind the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center. Now a competitive flyboarder, he's able to reach heights of 40 feet.
Bissett had his first customers at the beginning of May. Fliers should expect a workout -- they'll feel the muscles in their thighs straining to help them balance in the air, and they may fall into the water as they get used to rising up. The core of Bissett's clients are between the ages of 16 and 30, though some, like D'Italia, are older.
"I'm a pretty good snow skier, and I like to take risks in life and have fun," says D'Italia, 37, a partner in a Southampton plumbing and heating business, who is sharing a one-hour session with his sister-in-law Michelle Moses, 45, an industrial engineer from Westchester. It's the first flight for both of them.
D'Italia goes first. He puts on a helmet and life jacket and then laces the boots secured to the Flyboard, which is about the size of a skateboard. The water from the hose branches into a Y underneath the Flyboard, lifting the flier up as though he's on top of a fountain.
"The biggest thing is to keep your legs straight," Bissett tells him before liftoff. It will take several tries to get vertical, Bissett warns.
Six attempts later, D'Italia is airborne. He spreads his arms to help balance, his ankles wobbling like someone new to ice skating. But within 10 minutes, he is attempting a dolphin dive down into the water, with the propulsion shooting him up again.
"That was awesome. It felt like you were a bird up in the sky," says D'Italia after reaching about 18 feet in the air. Then it is Moses' turn.
"I cannot wait to do this," she says. Moses takes it slower than D'Italia, choosing to hover in the air rather than diving, waving to spectators on the dock. It takes her a few more tries than D'Italia to get up, and she reaches about 12 feet high.
"That was so great, I don't want to get out of the water," says Moses after her flight. "You have a propulsion system on the bottom of your feet. There's nothing like that."
WHERE Treasure Cove Resort Marina, 469 E. Main St., Riverhead
INFO 631-901-2661, flyboardli.com
COST $199 for 30 minutes or $380 for 60 minutes (two people can split a 60-minute session).