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Business is up

Relentless Watersports flight instructor Ricky Amend shows the Jetlev system in action Monday in Montego Bay, turning tricks like “walking on water,” above. (Clara Vaughn)

(Aug. 2, 2013) If you’ve noticed an unusual scene in Montego Bay this week, you’re not the only one. Jet Skis, boats and cars have stopped in the area as passersby watch Relentless Watersports’ customers tackle Ocean City’s new adventure sport: water-powered jetpacks.

The packs, called Jetlevs, pump about 1,000 gallons of water a minute through a hose hoisting thrill seekers more than 10 feet in the air over the bay. Customers get a 20-minute ride, plus a boat trip to and from the launch site and the guidance of a jovial Jetlev crew.

“It’s like riding a bike,” Relentless Watersports marketing manager Nick Strong said. The first, second and third attempts involve some spills, but once you’re in the air “it’s actually incredibly simple.”

Relentless Watersports staff chose the spot off Harbour Drive in the bay for its depth — up to six feet, depending on the tide. After boat taxiing customers to the site, the crew straps them tightly to the pack and reviews safety and controls. Pilots are outfitted with a helmet, and then they’re ready to jump in the water.

When the customer is ready, he or she starts the Jetlev’s engine — what looks like a large Jet Ski with no seat or steering, connected to the pack by the hose. The helmet holds a one-way communication system, so trained flight instructors help guide pilots through the subtle hand movements that carry the pack into the air.

After a few minutes, customers get a feel for flying and the crew takes them through simple maneuvers like a low-water hover, S-turns and the “walk on water” trick.

“So far, everybody who comes out — they love it,” Strong said.

“Every single person,” Relentless Watersports owner Matt Fram said.

The idea to bring the Jetlev system to Ocean City came in late April when Relentless Watersports staff were vacationing in Florida. They saw a video of the Jetlev system in action that set their entrepreneurial wheels in motion, Fram said.

The crew of six — Strong, Fram, flight instructors and owners Ricky Amend and Alex Vonbussenius, flight assistants Taylor Glisson and Mason Torres, and owner Stan Holmes — secured sponsors and a location, and Relentless Watersports carried its first customers to the Montego Bay site, off 130th Street, on July 25, making it the first business to offer Jetlev’s sky-high experience in Ocean City.

With about three or four clients taking to the skies each day since, they’ve heard “only positive responses,” Strong said.

“The best thing is just seeing everybody smile,” he said.

With continued success, Relentless Watersports plans to expand, opening a location in south Ocean City in the next few years. They also have plans to carry the Jetlev business to Puerto Rico during Ocean City’s off-season and might expand onto Tennessee’s lakes in the near future.

Relentless Watersports will run through mid-September, or later if business keeps up, Strong said. The staff presents a daily Sunset Show, when the crew turns tricks such as barrel rolls on the jetpacks over the water near Harpoon Hanna’s on Route 54 in Fenwick Island, Del., around 7:30 p.m.

Find Relentless Watersports on Facebook, at relentlesswatersports on Instagram, at the Twitter handle relentlessws or at www.RelentlessWatersports.com. Learn more about the Jetlev system at www.jetlev.com.

Customers must be at least 16 years old to operate the Jetlev pack . Those 18 and younger need a parent’s signature to fly. Flights cost $199 for a 20-minute session, but the entire trip takes about an hour and a half. Same-day flights are available, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Relentless Watersports is located in the green outbuilding at 39084 Harpoon Road in Fenwick Island in Harpoon Hanna’s parking lot. Call 410-390-2384 to arrange a flight.

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