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Jet packs stoke fears of impact on ocean life

The water-powered devices merit a closer look, an official says

By Audrey McAvoy / Associated Press

POSTED:


Want to fly like George Jetson or Iron Man?

Thrill-seekers eager to try the next new water sport are rushing to strap on jet packs that propel people into the air with the help of pumped water. But the devices are meeting calls for regulation in Hawaii, where fishermen, scientists and state officials are questioning their safety and how they may affect fish and coral in the state's heavily trafficked tropical waters.

A device called the Jetlev can lift a person 30 feet high by pumping water from a backpack through a hose connected to a small, unmanned boat. Another contraption called the Flyboard, which looks like a small snowboard attached to a hose, can propel riders 45 feet in the air. Promotional videos racking up millions of YouTube views show riders shooting out of the ocean into the sky, then diving back in the water like dolphins.

The devices are starting to show up for recreational rental in San Diego, Key West, Fla., and Cancun, Mexico.

But some in the Aloha State are far less enthusiastic about the machines. Complaints from fishermen and other ocean enthusiasts prompted the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to call a public meeting about the devices last month. The department's top enforcement officer, Randy Awo, expressed alarm about unsafe maneuvers, such as riders dive-bombing into the water next to moving boats.

University of Hawaii coral scientist Bob Richmond told officials he was concerned about the noise the devices make, as fish avoid areas that are too loud. He's also worried fish and coral larvae could get pumped through some of the equipment the watercraft use and die.

Fisherman Carl Jellings said watercraft already scare fish away from Oahu's bays, and he worries these new machines will just add to the problem.

"More and more and more these bays are being run over, taken over by other activities. The marine life that depend on these places — they're being displaced," he said.

The state may find a way to accommodate the devices, perhaps in selected places, said William Aila Jr., chairman of the Board of Land and Natural Resources. But Aila said studies are needed examining how such water sports may affect fish and coral.

"When you look at it, it looks fairly exciting," he said. "But you got to look beyond the excitement."

Thom Hall, whose Salt Lake City company Rocky Mountain Flyboard has the rights to distribute the boards in Hawaii, said he wouldn't object to regulations, as long as he has input.

"There's room for this device to be used and be used in a responsible way," Hall said.

Jeffrey Krantz, owner of the company that operates the sole Jetlev in commercial use on Oahu, suggested the state set aside areas for jetpack use. His company, H2O Sports Powered by Seabreeze, takes about 10 people on Jetlev rides daily, at a rate of $179 for 15 minutes.

"Put it out all on a big map and say: ‘OK, this new technology could be something very useful for Hawaii, for its tourism, its residents and so on. Where would it be best to put it?'" Krantz said.

Victor Verlage, a 51-year-old corporate executive who donned a Jetlev jetpack while visiting Honolulu from Mexico, compared it to kite surfing but said it's "10 times better."

"You feel the adrenaline rush," he said.






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TaiBow wrote:
Jet skis are bad enough. Please leave near shore Hawaiian waters for water sports and other activities that do not require a motor or an engine! Another sign of too much time and too much money, with no consideration for Nature.
on August 11,2013 | 03:42AM
aomohoa wrote:
NO worse than fishing boats.
on August 11,2013 | 03:04PM
manakuke wrote:
Hydraulics are very powerful. Effects upon Northern California during the ‘Gold Rush’ days is very evident.
on August 11,2013 | 04:19AM
tiki886 wrote:
More evidence why Hawaii is the WORST place in the nation to do business!!!!
on August 11,2013 | 04:56AM
Shotzy wrote:
Sure enough, they will be trying to put dis guy doing his business 10 miles offshore or some other ridiculous rules.
on August 11,2013 | 05:41AM
Kailuaraised wrote:
I think most major companies have given up on coming here.
on August 11,2013 | 02:21PM
Silversword wrote:
"... this new technology could be something very useful for Hawaii," sez Jeffrey Krantz, owner of the only JetLev franchise in the state. Uh huh. An exclusive "JetLev" franchise might be very useful for Mr. Krantz' pocketbook, but I see no other benefit to our precious nearshore waters; rather just more chaos, greed, noise, danger...and the prospect of the state cordoning off more acreage of our common waters to accommodate private profit-seekers like Mr. Krantz.
on August 11,2013 | 05:35AM
tiki886 wrote:
You are one of the many reasons why Hawaii is the WORST place to do business in the nation!
on August 11,2013 | 06:16AM
holokanaka wrote:
silversword, agree 100%.
on August 11,2013 | 01:39PM
aomohoa wrote:
So now it's a sin to be success and make a profit?? Fishing boats are much worse. Do you want to band them too?
on August 11,2013 | 03:08PM
huponews wrote:
People... stop your crying, there enough ocean for all water sports................regulations is fine but when you talk safety.... state failed to regulate the thickness of solar panels....talk about safety and flying debris....man, the next hurricane...try and clean that up.
on August 11,2013 | 06:36AM
localguy wrote:
huponews - Where did you come up with this shibia - state failed to regulate the thickness of solar panels? State is not in the business of saying how thick solar panels should be, hasn't got a clue. Panels are built the same for all 50 states and installed IAW national electrical code and building standards. No way do island bureaucrats any idea how to work this. Our weather conditions are very similar to Florida, not a big deal.
on August 11,2013 | 07:52AM
onevoice82 wrote:
Our legislators know nothing about airplanes but they regulate the airport, I think what he means is the legislature maybe should get involved. I have been wondering the same thing about all these PV panels. I also see several different ways to attach to roofs of which many by the way are made of canic!
on August 11,2013 | 01:26PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Looks like a good source of some more tax revenue.
on August 11,2013 | 07:12AM
livinginhawaii wrote:
I can see it now, phony science like the anti GMO group: "they must be stopped - these devices are killing plankton".
on August 11,2013 | 07:38AM
Grimbold wrote:
The main impact on Oceanlife are net and spear fishermen. Oceanlife is already 99% down. And there is that dratted seaplane touching down again and again on Kaneohe bay with flying lessons.. It kills on impact swooping down.
on August 11,2013 | 07:46AM
localguy wrote:
This is just another example why the Nei ranks in the bottom of the 50 states in every area. Nei has always been stuck in the mud, afraid of change, now another example of fear from the jetback. Bureaucrats are wringing their hands, crying, "We must do something or the Nei will be destroyed." Ohh puhleeeze, give us a break. Instead of an island wide ban, come up with areas the jetpack can be safely used and not bother anyone who is afraid of it. Don't make us the world's laughing stock again by banning it. The jetpack can exist just fine in the Nei but only if calmer, intelligent, heads prevail. Sad to say those are in very short supply among island bureaucrats.
on August 11,2013 | 07:49AM
AIEA25 wrote:
IT IS GOOD FOR BUSINESS .NOT VERY WHERE THERE ARE CORAL FISHES FLOODING THE WHOLE ISLAND. VERY TIME WHEN SOMEONE WANTS TO START A BUSINESS IT ALWAYS GETS SHOT DOWN WITHOUT EVEN LOOKING AT IT UP CLOSE.THERES MONEY TO BE MADE AND THAT MONEY MEANS TAXES . TAXES ALL MONEY MAKING ADVENTURES THAT COMES UP .ITS ALL GOOD BUSINESS AND NOT EVERY BUSINESS WILL MAKE IT HERE BUT IT IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEAL TO LOOK AT IT UP CLOSE THEN FROM A FAR AND TO CRITICIZE SOMETHING TAHT YOU DON'T KNOW NOTHING ABOUT. GIVE NEW BUSINESS A CHANCE TO START AND SEE IF IT WILL WORK OUT OR NOT BEFORE SHUTTING IT DOWN.
on August 11,2013 | 09:09AM
localguy wrote:
AIEA25 - Press your "caps lock" key to unlock it and type like a real person does. QUIT SHOUTING as it makes you look like a posting rookie.
on August 11,2013 | 10:26AM
Macadamiamac wrote:
So when and where will the hearings be held?
on August 11,2013 | 09:20AM
Wazdat wrote:
GIVE ME A BREAK. There are ALREADY many OTHER things like Boats, jet ski, etc. And surfing is much more dangerous when the waves are big Grow Some
on August 11,2013 | 01:05PM
Kailuaraised wrote:
Hawaii blows my mind. People get bent out of shape over a jet pack that shoots nothing but water, but support a ridiculous over priced rail to nowhere that'll do much more environmental damage.
on August 11,2013 | 02:22PM
SLA wrote:
I'm not worried about a small number of jet packs shooting water around, they are too expensive to ever be too numerous. The lax fishing regulation enforcement, harassment of the dolphins and whales by the tour boats are bigger problems that occur every day around the state.
on August 11,2013 | 03:56PM
aomohoa wrote:
First I can't go on the Superferry and now I can't do this. Bummer.
on August 11,2013 | 03:06PM
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