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Sky High

FOR SOME, the thought of defying gravity may spark that feeling of adventure while the thought of being 40 feet high in the air may evoke fear for others. For Devon Bates, being at height is euphoric and addictive.

EASY Magazine met Devon at Pirate’s Cove, where he operates his business, Jet Blade Barbados.

Devon explained that the hydro flight venture stemmed from a ministerial speech.

“I saw this type of flying online a few years ago,” he said. “It was one of a kind and I decided that I wanted to bring this experience to Barbados. I heard some words from Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy, who stated a call for locals to contribute more to the sector . . . to help develop any unique products.”

Devon was in between jobs, so he built up the courage to take the plunge, so to speak and embarked on training for months in the Cayman Islands and Miami to become a master certified flight instructor.

“With anything, there is always a risk but as I have seen it could be a successful business,” he said. “I am familiar with other rental operations like this in the United States and one or two in the Caribbean so I knew it was something viable. I have every belief that I can help make Barbados the go-to destination for this experience in the Caribbean.

“The reason why my team and I do this is because it is an absolute passion. We get something out of it when each person grasps and understands the fundamentals of the sport . . . . People have myths about what hydro flight is actually about and need some assurance, others are pumped, while a small percentage is terrified.”

Hydro flight sports are a category of sport in which water propulsion is used to create sustained flight where lift and movement are controlled by the person riding on a propulsion device. There are three main propulsion devices used – jetbikes, jetboards and jetpacks (which Devon owns).

The 33-year-old said that the jetpack draws a lot of attention. It is really a sight to see someone hovering in the air . . . looking like a superhero.

Over the year of his operation, he has shared this experience with more than 600 guests. The youngest person to fly was eight years old and the oldest, 80.

In order for someone to try this experience, however, Devon said they must be above five feet but less than six feet two inches and weigh less than 300 pounds. He added that people do not have to know how to swim to hydro fly and he also stressed the importance of safety.

“We consider safety to be very important and that is why we even have lessons on our Facebook and Instagram channels. We illustrate the floatation of the jetpack and how to roll over if you splash down. I have been in this industry for over five years so I know how terrifying it could be for people in the jetpack for the first time; I would never shoot someone into the air without them showing me that they are stable and fully understand what is required of them. Also, the lessons are a way to quell some of the myths people may have about flying.”

Before Devon became a master in his field he recalled being scared during his first flight.

“It was nerve-racking and terrifying but when I got out of the water the experience was really unique. It was a different perspective,” he said.

“I think that is why people enjoy it so much too. So far I have never had a negative review and I am grateful for that. I am also grateful for the support I have had in initiating this venture from the Ministry of Tourism, Commerce and International Transport, the Coast Guard and the Marine Police.”

Devon plies his trade by bookings only (9 a.m. until 5 p.m.) and he also works in collaboration with the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, giving interns first-hand experience in the tourism industry. (SB)

IMAGE: Devon Bates sky high in the jetblade pack. (Pictures by Lennox Devonish.)

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