A water-propelled jet pack that soars up to 30 feet over the water is coming to the TradeWinds resort in April, aiming to give thrill-seekers a pricey ride inspired by James Bond's famous escape in the title sequence of Thunderball.
The St. Pete Beach resort is one of only two spots in Florida offering flights from JetLev, a Dania-based company started by inventor Raymond Li, a Chinese-born Canadian engineer. Calling it a "Jetsons-like experience," the jet pack joins a growing stable of playthings the resort has been adding every year to distinguish itself from other vacation spots, said Travis Johnson, vice president of marketing for TradeWinds.
A floating 200-horsepower engine sucks water from the ocean and then squirts it through JetLev's twin nozzles with enough force to lift the wearer into the air (or flat-faced on the water if they don't handle it right).
The rider is outfitted with a backpack and a helmet with an earpiece so that the JetLev operator can talk the rider through the motions. The company maintains control of the unit's speed and operation via remote control, to prevent adrenaline junkies from getting out of hand.
A 45-minute JetLev session will cost $285, or $250 for hotel guests, TradeWinds spokeswoman Kelly Prieto said. Fliers must be at least 18 years old.
Jane Mulkerrins, a travel writer for the UK's Guardian, took a ride on JetLev at Hawk's Cay Resort in the Keys earlier this month and reported that navigating was "surprisingly tiring work" and fairly tricky, sending her plunging face first in the water several times before she started to relax and enjoy the soaring sensation.
The jet pack is one of a number of water sports the TradeWinds has been adding to its properties in the past few years. Also new this spring will be battery-powered surfboards known as WaveJets, which travel 8 mph ($50 an hour). And the resort has also set up a giant slide, a Gyrosphere — where guests flip and spin in the globe-like device poolside — as well as a bungee trampoline, a 100-foot slack line and the Splash Island Water Park, a playground floating in the Gulf of Mexico 60 feet off the resort's shoreline.
"We feel the beach makes a vacation memorable enough, but we have those thrill seekers, too," Prieto said. "Half the family wants to lay on the beach, and the other ones will be able to get all these experiences."
This is first year JetLev has offered its mega water toy for sale. At $100,000 a unit, the company is selling them to high-end resorts and the wealthy.
To see a video of the JetLev in action, go to www.JustLetGo.com/JetLev.