After receiving questions and concerns from the public about a flyboarding business that was given the green light by the Greenport planning board in early May, a public hearing has been scheduled for June 25 at 5 p.m. at the 3rd Street Firehouse.
Shaka Flyboarding Ltd. is located on the dock at Preston’s Marina in Greenport and opened last weekend. No prior public hearing was held.
Owner Brian Carrick said flyboarding, a sport invented in 2011 by French jet ski racer Franky Zapata, “takes the water exiting the jet ski jet and redirects it into a 40-60 ft long hose, where the water exits a ‘Y’ pipe on the other end. The pressure of the water gives enough propulsion to lift a 300 lb. person out of the water, allowing them to fly around like Iron Man. From there, anything is possible.”
Experienced flyboarders can attain heights of 40 feet, while newcomers to the sport typically ‘fly’ about 10 feet in the air, controlled by the operator of the jet pump.
At this week’s planning board meeting, members of the community had questions about what flyboarding entailed.
The planning board said they were waiting on clarification from the Coast Guard; this week, the Greenport Village board also passed a resolution asking the Coast Guard to weigh in.
Planning board member Chris Dowling said the flyboarding is not new and participants all over the world enjoy the activity.
Some residents asked about the location of the business; a map posted online about the proposed parameters of where the business would operate raised some questions. Some asked about possible injuries.
Zoning board of appeals chair Doug Moore had questions about the location of the business and said there was a lot of traffic in and out of Stirling Harbor and near Claudio’s.
Dowling said Carrick was clear of the traffic lane.
Resident John Saldino asked why a public hearing was necessary.
Planning board chair Devin McMahon said new information and questions had come in from the Southold Town board and planning board.
Moore asked what information, if any, could make the planning board change its mind about the approval for the business, which was granted with the condition that it be reviewed monthly by the board.
McMahon said effects on the environment and to others in the area would all be taken into consideration.
Village resident Arthur Tasker said the village board has jurisdiction over anything taking place within 1,500 feet of village properties and had the ability “to regulate all kinds of water activities, and anything going on in the water. This has nothing to do with the planning board,” he said.
McMahon said that is why the planning board deferred to other agencies.
He added that the Southold Town board and planning board, the Greenport village board of trustees, and the town’s bay constable would all be given copies of the application so they could offer input and comments.
The Greenport Village Board passed a resolution this week requesting a letter to the United State Coast Guard for a classification on flyboarders; the board has some issues regarding village liability since New York State does not require recreational boaters to have liability insurance.
At a recent Southold Town board work session, John Bredemeyer, president of the board of trustees, discussed the issue of flyboarding.
“Currently, water skiing is prohibited in creeks and within 300 feet of the shoreline,” Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said. “If this sport is determined to be a form of water skiing then, the prohibition already exists and would be outside the jurisdiction of the trustees.”
Bredemeyer said flyboarding has no place in town creeks and would have to be “put under the microscope by the town. It’s not suitable for shallow waters.”
He added that the town would be obligated to look at each application to determine where flyboarding might be appropriate, such as some deep water areas, but added that safety and liability issues must also be considered.
Bredemeyer said the town is working with Greenport because if the activity moved outside village boundaries to town waters, there would need to be discussion about environmental impacts.
“It needs to be the right place at the right time,” Bredemeyer said.
Carrick, 27, born and raised in Riverhead, received approval from the Greenport Village planning board earlier this month to move forward with his proposal to make a splash with the sport on the waterfront.
To start, the flyboarding business will operate just on weekends; after July 4, the business will be open on Fridays, as well, with hours all three days from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. During the week, Carrick works at Peconic Bay Medical Center as a radiologic technologist.
Greenport, a tourist hub in the summer, is the ideal location for those looking to flyboard, Carrick said. “Greenport is known for its small town feel, shopping on Main Street, and its harbor. By bringing the flyboard to the East End of Long Island, Shaka Flyboarding can add their chapter to the flyboard story.”
Carrick believes flyboarding will provide a unique experience for tourists and locals alike and also prove a boon to the local economy.
In Riverhead, James Bissett IV launched Flyboard LI, the only flyboarding business on Long Island, but when Riverhead Town adopted regulations forcing him out of town waters and into the bay in November, Bissett took his operation out of town, saying that he believed flyboarding in the same waters as high-speed boat traffic posed dangers not seen in the cove downtown.
No state regulations exist to govern the sport.
“It’s a new, extreme sport,” planning board member Dowling said.
Some members of the planning board and Village Attorney Joseph Prokop raised issues about safety and liability.
Dowling said Carrick had “all his ducks in a row” and insurance in place. “There was no reason why we couldn’t pass it,” Dowling said. The use, boating instruction, fits into the waterfront commercial zoning district. As for safety, Dowling said the operator is in control of the flyboard while someone, even a first timer, is onboard, and can “cut the power” if he feels a dangerous situation has arisen.
“I’m glad it came to Greenport. We’re a maritime village, the more activities on the water, the better,” Dowling said.
For Carrick, a licensed skydiver, scuba diver, motorcyclist, surfer, boater, world traveler and now flyboarder, “Safety has been drilled into my head in everything that I have done, so not only is it second nature to me now, but with owning a business that entails a liability issue, safety is something that I won’t be able to preach enough,” he said.
In addition, he holds a New York State boating license and a state Power Squadron Boat Smart certificate, both with A PWC endorsement; he is CPR and first aid certified, as well as a certified flyboard instructor. All participants are required to wear a USCG approved Type I, II, or III life vest and a wakeboard and/or USCG approved helmet; it’s recommended that participants also wear a wetsuit provided by Shaka Flyboarding.
Carrick said he has also spoken with the Southold bay constable, who advised him that as long as he remains 300 feet from the shore and does not create a wake, he is within his limits.
“Shaka represents the meaning of being laid back, having a good time and enjoying life, much like how the residents of Greenport live their lives. I look forward to bringing a new flavor to Greenport,” Carrick said.