Cameron Pritchett is a freshman business management major and the sports editor for The Current
If you were to have told me on Aug. 10, 2018, that I would be jetpacking in the middle of the ocean in St. Petersburg, I would probably have looked at you like you were crazy. As it turns out, that is exactly what happened that day. My mom and I were in Tampa for a conference and we had about five hours in between the morning and her next meeting. We ended up going out to lunch with a couple of her clients, and we made some small talk about the usual; I thought it was going to be another boring day. It wasn’t until someone mentioned the “JetLev flyer” that my suspicions of boredom changed.
“Cameron, have you heard about this water jetpack they have at the resort?” Of course I hadn’t — I thought jetpacks were a thing of the future. They asked me if I wanted to try it out that day, and I, of course, said what every 17 year old kid would say, “I absolutely would.” Later that day, I was put on a jet ski and brought out to the spot where I would be meeting the instructor for my jetpack ride. We were on a boat in the middle of the intercoastal where I was told I would be out for about 45 minutes, 15 minutes of training time and 30 minutes of flight time. I made the crucial mistake of barely listening during the training session because I was way too excited to get suited up and get going. Finally, after what seemed like an hour, I was ready to get in the water.
The suit felt like it weighed 100 pounds, but designed to keep me afloat. It also had two handles you were supposed to hold in either hand with buttons that allowed you to travel in either direction or go up; the rest was up to you to maintain your balance. It also had a microphone and speaker so I was able to hear the instructor. The first question I was asked before I got in the water was whether or not I was afraid of heights, which I was, but naturally said no.
I hopped in the ocean and got started. I took it lightly for the first couple of minutes, just trying to get a feel for things. After about five minutes, I got arrogant and decided to take it up a notch. I gave it a bit more power and started moving at about 25 mph and elevated to about 20 feet in the air. I felt weightless and free, almost like a bird. The feeling was indescribable and lasted all of four seconds as I lost balance and face planted right into the ocean.
I heard my instructor and mom cracking up through the microphone and I could not blame them. I saw the video of it after and ended up laughing until my ribs hurt after. After the face plant, I took my arrogance down a notch and simply tried to enjoy the next 25 minutes without any other problems. I had a great experience, and hopefully next time, I can hit the maximum height of 30 feet and maximum speed of 30 mph.
Photo: E. Stevens