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Franky Zapata Falls In English Channel Trying To Cross It On High-Speed Hoverboard

A French daredevil known for his souped-up hoverboard tried to glide over the English Channel on Thursday — but he ended up in the soup. Franky Zapata's jet-powered contraption sent him into the water when he tried to refuel more than halfway across the Channel.

At a press conference, Zapata said that while the airborne mission was cut short, it was worth it for pushing his body to the limit, perhaps enabling him to be more prepared for his next attempt.

He planned to cross the channel from northern France to southern England in just 20 minutes on his "flyboard," with an average speed of up to nearly 90 miles per hour. Halfway through the trip, though, he ended up plunging into the water.

The board couldn't compensate for choppy waves when Zapata attempted to land on a platform aboard a refueling boat, tumbling him into the water.

"So we fell," Zapata said. "We are sad about that."

But the world will see him make another go of it, maybe in "a matter of days," Zapata, a 40-year-old former jet ski champion, told reporters.

His hoverboard can be repaired, he said, and he sustained no major injuries — just a scratch on his arm.

Earlier this month, Zapata made audiences swoon in Paris on Bastille Day when he zigged over European leaders on his hoverboard, carrying a rifle and appearing as some sort of space-age soldier.

Though his ambitious new flight was a made-for-TV spectacle, Zapata said that crossing the English Channel has always been in his sights. And despite being brought down by turbulent waves, he told reporters that when he was above the waters, it was a moving experience.

"The sensation is amazing," Zapata said. "It was like flying in a dream. It was an amazing sensation." He added,"Not scary at all."

He scheduled his much-anticipated flight to coincide with the anniversary of the first-ever trip across the Channel, by French aviator Louis Bleriot in 1909.

"This morning everything was perfect, everything was smooth," Zapata said. "But the boat was too small, the water was too much waves."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.
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