Newly-crowned women’s world flyboard champion Queenstowner Gemma Weston won the title after only a few months’ training.
A stunt performer, Weston, 29, first tried the new sport in 2013 when her brother Beau Weston started Flyboard Queenstown.
She got back into it when she started working for the business a year ago, but only started learning tricks intermittently between June last year and last month’s world champs in Dubai.
She trained in Florida, in the United States, between stunt work in Ireland for the TV series, Vikings. In an interview with H2RO magazine, she says she “smashed” more than 30 times trying to land a backflip.
Weston was chosen along with nine other women qualifiers for the world champs through a video selection process.
When she got to Dubai, she says she was so nervous she could barely sleep or eat.
In the elimination process, she first beat the 2014 world champ, then in the semi-final beat her US PowerFly teammate and best friend Kristen Smoyer, who’d been teaching her just months earlier.
“I kind of thought my team mate would beat me because I had always been aspiring to get up to her skill level.”
Weston then beat another first-time international competitor Haruka Asano, of Japan, to grab the $2000 winner’s cheque.
“I had hoped to place high and maybe get on the podium but to win it completely, it still is a bit of a shock.”
Flyboarding - in which a rider, propelled by water pressure, manoeuvres on a board connected by a long hose to a watercraft - was only invented in 2012 and the XDubai Flyboard World Cup was only the sport’s fourth world champs.
“You’re out there and you do kind of feel like a superhero a little bit,” Weston, the first Kiwi to ever compete in the world champs, says.
In her HR20 interview, she says: “You truly do feel like you are flying, it’s one of the best feelings in the world.
“The thing I enjoy most is that it challenges the laws of physics, it enables you to do things you never thought a body could do.”
Weston is keen to grow the sport in New Zealand - she’s the country’s only competitive female flyboarder.
“We at Flyboard Queenstown are having lots of ideas and discussions to see how we can continue to promote flyboarding in Queenstown and throughout NZ.”
The next three world champs, at least, will also be in Dubai but Weston says “it would be nice to think one day the world champs could be held here”.
She says anyone can fly - “it’s just about technique and balance, especially”.
“It definitely helps to have a bit of a background in board sports.
“My stunt background definitely helps.”