Interview with Mike Z, The World’s Okayest Surfer, creator of Jetsurfingnation channel

1. How did this journey start for you? Did you get into surfing early on? 

No, I consider myself a late surfer. Growing up far away from the ocean I didn’t even know surfing was a thing.

All that changed In 2009. I was walking the streets of Laguna Beach, CA, and saw the sign “Surf lessons” by Rod and Goff. First I thought it was a stupid idea to try surfing when I am so “old”. I know most kids in the US start early, mostly in their teens.
This discouraged me, but I still decided to give it a try and got hooked right away. I
remember waking up at 6 AM to a very cold morning running barefoot to my surf instructor for a private lesson.

I was very passionate about it and progressed pretty quick but I also
hit my limit very fast as well, as I am not an athletic type of person.

I did not film much during that  time but here is one of the rare “home videos” I made back then in Laguna Beach, USA:

2. How long have you been into jetboarding? How did you hear about it?

As I mentioned before, it all started when I begun surfing back in 2009 in California… To be honest, I think I started surfing quite late in life, I wasn’t very athletic and was too lazy to paddle, the process was quite tedious and I thought to myself there has to be a better way to enjoy this sport.

All the younger kids were always cutting me on the wave leaving me very frustrated every time. Then again, most days are usually choppy and windy on the ocean and you are lucky if you even be able to catch a wave after 2 hours of endless paddling… The newbies know this frustration very well.

My research led me to a system called Wavejet which was unfortunately pretty bad but thanks to it, I stumbled upon the wonderful industry of jetboarding. It wasn’t long till I found Onean Carver, Radinn, and then Jetsurf and efoils and the rest was history.
It has been an amazing journey ever since! My mission became to test every single jetboard and efoil making fun videos along the way, sharing my knowledge, and spreading the good word about this new exciting sport helping the industry to grow!

One of my biggest inspiration during that time was Wayne Brooks from Jetboard Limited who was an expert in the industry and showed me different jetboards. Later we started “All Start Jetboard Testing Tour” together back in 2017.

4. It seems expensive to jump into jetsurfing, how did you get started?

You can get a used jetboard around 6-7k or a new one around 10-12k. It’s not cheap for sure but any new generation sport requires investment and the price level is similar to other watersports like jetski, fly board, etc.

I want to warn you however to avoid all Chinese ripoffs and copycats sold on Alibaba marketplace. Most of them look cheap but will break before you even put them in the water and good luck shipping them back to China for servicing and repairs. Only picks a genuine board from the local dealer that will help you fix it if things go wrong.

5. Today, if someone wanted to get into jetsurfing, how would you recommend they go about it?

I would definitely recommend they adopt the “try before you buy” approach like my friend Wayne always says. Find your local dealer or renting place, get a lesson, and try different jetboards and efoils and see which one fits your style better! We are all different, with different weights, surfing experience, age, physical conditions… there is no one size fits all “best” board. You have to try it first!

6. What’s the best part of the experience for you?

The best part of jetboarding or efoiling is gaining the ability to fully control your mobility on the ocean. No more sitting in the lineup for hours sharing one wave with 30 other pros that cut in front of you. The whole ocean becomes your playground, a great feeling of freedom and exploration. It’s also a much more fun and “guaranteed” experience, even if there are no waves, I can make my own waves.

7. There are so many different board companies out there, and you have been warning about scams and ripoffs – what are some things to look out for in a good company?

See how long the company is on the market?
Check if they have a good track record and reviews?
Do they provide quality post-sales service and repairs?
How many users are there in jetboarding/efoiling groups using this board?
Avoid all first-generation boards, preorders, and kickstarters
Avoid generic scam boards and ripoff clones sold on Alibaba

8. Just like every machine,  jetboards may develop faults too – can you recommend a brand with good customer service?

I always stay independent from any brand so I never push any specific brand. I do my best to share my reviews on Jetsurfingnation channel but it’s up to the user to make the final decision.

9. Travelling with Jetboard – some of us only have a small hybrid car, does a modular board that can be broken down into smaller pieces make sense in this situation? Which models/companies do you suggest?

Most jetboards like jetsurf are pretty small and will fit any small car if you recline the back chairs. You can also take petrol boards like Jetsurf Race DFI and Titanium on the plane and travel around or participate in races. I must warn you that you, unfortunately, can’t fly with electric boards because of the batteries.

The efoils are harder to transport because they are heavy and bulky but you can disassemble the foil and then it will fit easily even a small car.

10. Exercises to become more stable on a board – (I am recovering from a major surgery, or if a person is new to the sport/activity) what on land exercises can one do to get stronger?

Any activity that promotes a healthy lifestyle is a good practice. Additionally, I would recommend balance exercises, for example, get a balance board or Onewheel!
Also, consider that many electric boards and efoils are very heavy so a strong back is a must.

11. Electric vs. Petrol – yes, this looks more like an EU/USA thing – How do these two varying units compare? Speed, range, time, etc – Which is better, electric or petrol boards?

Electric boards are definitely the future of jetboarding, but it is not quite there yet… The battery technology hasn’t caught up to petrol yet. For instance, petrol boards are faster, ride 3 times longer and weigh almost 3 times less than their electric counterparts.

You can ride a 20kg petrol jetsurf titanium at a speed up to 64km/h for over an hour while electric jetboards weigh twice as much and may only last 30-40 mins at best. Efoils are another story, they can ride 1.5 hours as well but still very heavy because of the battery. I really hope the battery tech will improve so that the weight issue will be solved in the future.

12. What do you envision for the future of the sport?

The high price to enter the sport may have limited its growth for years now, but I am seeing things starting to change quickly as more companies are finding ways to develop innovative and affordable boards. The future of jetsurfing is very bright and I do my best to spread the word about it through my media outlets! Join me at jetsurfingnation and let’s ride into the future together!

Efoils are really becoming more and more popular and it gives more opportunity for people to get involved in this new exciting sport.

13. I wish every board had this one thing ________, and they don’t have it yet.

I wish the boards were more lightweight. For me, this is the biggest issue when it comes down to electric boards. I simply can’t deal with anything over 20-25kg myself and most efoils and jetboards are 35-45kg or even heavier. You need a trolley or one of your buddies to help you, heck, you may even need a yacht crew!

14. Price/Value – it’s easy to think Jetsurf or other well-known companies are the safest to buy from because they’ve spent a long time in the business – however, sometimes the new/young hungry companies are more innovative – what are some “newer” companies that look interesting to you?

Just avoid them. Making electric technology that deals with water SAFELY and RELIABLY is a big challenge. Most startups don’t understand that and you will pay for their mistakes.
If someone is asking you to “preorder” or “kickstart” them it’s almost always a red flag. They made one prototype that “kinda works” and want you to pay to become a beta tester and experience all kinds of issues. Trust the proven companies and don’t waste your money!

And make sure to avoid all those generic no-name brands from Alibaba. It’s a pure junk. Thank me later.

15. Kickstarter/crowdfunding – have you been burned in a crowdfunding that never arrived?

Yes, every time. The recent example was Blea Jetboard scam. Avoid kickstarters or crowdfunding. In the best case scenario, you will get a board YEARS later. In the worst case, you just end up losing your money.

Why would you buy into something that does not exist if you can get on the water next week and ride a trusted board? This puzzles me every time. Stop chasing “the next big thing”. There are plenty of great jetboards and efoils already to choose from!

16. Accessories, from clothing to cameras, chargers, etc. What other items should we consider when owning a board? A helmet?

Always wear a helmet and a life vest
If you plan on riding waves solo – take a coiled leash
Always have a plan B – a pair of flippers, a phone in a waterproof bag – to you can swim back or call for help

17. Salt and Freshwater – How do we care for our boards in different kinds of water bodies?

Saltwater is the biggest challenge. It ruins everything. Always spray the board with fresh water after each use and use WD40 for the metal parts and screws.

18. Insurance for board vs. accidents. What do you suggest is the best type of insurance to get?

Get marine insurance, talk to your local marine authorities. It all depends on the country and location!

Some locations don’t allow petrol boards. Others don’t allow efoils. Some require registration of your “watercraft”. Best is to check locally.

19. Wildlife and weeds – staying in Florida come with its perks. We have gators, manatees, algae, weeds, fresh/saltwater – algae. How does one handle all these and come out on top?

Gators? Not sure what to advise here.. Grab a rifle? Seriously, I would avoid going jetboarding in everglades. But the oceans should be totally fine!
See weed is a big problem, it can be sucked into the propeller just like a vacuum cleaner, it’s good to take scissors with you in your backpack to clean the prop.

20. When it comes to environmental impact, how does jetsurfing compare to boating or jetski?

Jetboards are incomparable to boats or jetski. A tiny petrol engine meets all environmental standards and electric ones and efoils are obviously zero local emissions machines.
The noise level is minimal as well.

21. The downside to jetsurfing seems to be that it’s a one-person ride. In what situation will a kayak, boat, or any other method make more sense since more people can participate?

Jetboarding or efoiling is a one-man sport for sure… If you intend to throw a party, of course, a boat will make more sense. Group rides are fun as well but it’s hard to find more riders around because the niche of water-based sport is still quite small!
Efoiling is mostly a one-man activity to clear the mind, I like to think of it as yoga on the water.

Jetsurf on the other hand allows you to participate in the Motosurf World Cup which is another story and very exciting:

22. Hydrofoil vs. jetboard – which one is better and why?

This is a really a tough question. To each their own. I’ve been riding jetboards for years now and efoiling as well. Sometimes I feel like riding adrenaline Jetsurf in the waves. Other days it’s a calm lake with a Fliteboard.. It’s just a different song…

23. I have lost a lot of weight, going from 165 Kg -> 78 Kg, with limited muscle loss. However, I am pretty light compared to most people – what boards make sense for me, 95 Kg? Also, how much does weight affect performance?

Congratulations on such a big weight loss, that is a very impressive achievement. Most petrol boards are strong enough to deal with a rider up to 100kg.
However for electric boards, the weight of the rider is critical, the lighter the person the more speed and riding time you will get. In my opinion the ideal weight for a grown up male is around 75kg for maximum speed on electric jetboard or efoil.

24. Carrying the boards from the car to the water may pose some problems. This is why some boards come with wheeled cases to help the user, but not all of them have wheeled cases integrated into their design. What is the best way to transport your board from the car to the ocean?

Great question. You can use the beach trolley to pull it or use a backpack style bag like jetsurf offers.
But it is best is to ask your friend for help especially if you deal with heavy electric boards.

25. Today, there are many kinds of boards on the market with different requirements and options. Does learning to ride one particular type of board mean you can ride the others? Or will the learning process have to start from scratch with a new kind of board?

Yes, I pretty much can jump on any existing board and ride it without any practice in the first few minutes. It’s like a bicycle, once you learn it, you can never forget it. It’s very easy and most people learn jetboarding in the first lesson.

26. Racing – looks like fun!

Yes, jetsurf races is a big industry and I participated in one in Brno, Czech Republic. It was a lot of fun and a great way to meet other riders that share the same passion!
However, I am not a racer at heart, I prefer solo wave riding in my favorite spot in Portugal where I live!

Here is my foto from the 2018 race – the best shape I’ve ever been lol

27. What are some of the safety rules you suggest? There are some stories of people getting hurt while jetsurfing, why does this happen?

Since it’s a solo sport – most likely you can hurt yourself rather than other people. Always wear a helmet and life vest. Use a leash. Efoils are especially dangerous because of their sharp wings and mast. Wear booties.
Get insurance and take it easy. Like any sport, it involves a certain level of risk.

28. Do you have youtube or other media outlets we can follow to learn more about the sport?

Follow Jetsurfingnation youtube channel, Jetboard Limited and E-Surfer magazine for up to date info on efoils and jetboards.

29. How did you get the idea of creating and publishing jetboard videos?

When I bought my first jet board, the Onean carver, I realized how hard it is to get started with it, sync it and get it going. The problem was – there was no information available at all during that time.

No videos, no reviews, no tutorials or tips. I was left alone and had to figure out everything from scratch with the help of great people like John and Jordan and later of course Wayne Brooks. So I decided why not be the first to do it?

Doing videos has always been another hobby of mine, so it was a relatively easy decision to combine these two hobbies into one.

It also allowed me to get an opportunity to visit amazing places and meet amazing people! For example here is a paradise place in Setubal where we ride with Pedro:

30. Let’s talk about investing in jetsurfing. Is it advisable to participate in buying shares of companies in this niche? What do you think?

I am not into the business part of it. I am just a rider who likes the sport. I don’t sell boards and I am not affiliated with any company this gives me a unique position to be independent and review all brands honestly.

31. Chinese, vs. US, vs. EU, vs. where else are they made?

Most boards (or at least their components) are made in China. There is some production in Europe as well (Spain, Germany, Sweeden).
But it does not matter. What matters is if your local dealer is well trained to fix possible issues after the sale is made. Do they have spare parts? Do they have proper training?

Never order directly from factory or from China. Find your local dealer – he will help you fix the boards and get the spares later.

32. DIY – could someone build their own board?

Yes, there are efoil builders forums where they build their own DIY efoils. Seems like a fun activity if you have an engineering background and a lot of free time 🙂

33. How does one get their spouse to be okay with them spending lots of money on a board – 🙂

Show them your passion. When they see it’s IMPORTANT to you, they will understand and allow it but you will have to buy them something expensive as well probably lol

34. If you stay independent from all brands how do you monetize your channel?

To monetize my channel I create a T-Shorts mech store where you can buy funny and ironic T-shirts, mugs, masks and bags and support my mission: HERE

35. Why do you always wear silly sunglasses and bright costumes?

The sunglasses help me to hide how nervous I am in front of the camera. It’s very hard for me to talk and remember 3 languages. Sometimes I prepare a script before filming and read it but you can’t see it because of my sunglasses.

As for the bright wetsuits? When I was surfing I was tired of boring black wetsuits that all look the same. I think bright orange looks much more fun on drone videos and bring a light of sun in our gray world.

Thank you for the interview. If you are a developer of jetboard or efoil, reach out to our Jetboard Testing tour to schedule tests and videos to help you spread the good word about your new board and help the industry grow!

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