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Video: Learning to Ride the Hoverboard Was a Balancing Act

I didn’t plan to ride, but just to show my teenagers what they missed, I hovered on the Hendo.  

Hoverboards Are Real

WATCH: The hoverboard may have been immortalized in the Back to the Future movies  but it's no longer science fiction. Arx Pax, a California-based company, has designed a working version they call the Hendo.

As a suburban mom, I don’t often get the chance to ride a real-life hoverboard that floats on a cushion of air. Like never.

But on a recent Saturday morning, I put on a helmet and stepped aboard the Hendo, which uses magnets to lift riders off the ground.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d seen a YouTube video of skateboarding legend Tony Hawk cruising on one. His flight, if you can call it that, wasn’t nearly as sensational as Marty McFly’s spin in “Back to the Future II.”

Still, he was pretty good. He did multiple turns and a few small jumps. Me? I simply wanted to stay vertical. Even that wasn’t easy.

Frankly, I didn’t want to try it. I went to Smithsonian magazine’s “Future is Here 2015” festival in the nation’s capital to interview the creators of the Hendo hoverboard, Greg Henderson and his wife Jill.  They have grand visions for using magnets to levitate even big things like trains and buildings. I wanted to hear about their plans and watch someone ride the Hendo. (Here’s more on the Hendo and our conversation.)

When Jill Henderson asked me to take a spin, I initially demurred, fearful of my poor balance. After we talked about technology and our teenagers (not sure in which order), she insisted I ride—just to show my two daughters what they missed by deciding to sleep in rather than accompany mom to this demo. She grabbed my iPhone and started filming.

A whiz who helped engineer this new contraption gave me a gentle push across a copper-plated stage and for a few eerie seconds, I left gravity. I levitated about an inch off the ground, feeling almost weightless.  Then as I neared the end of the stage, another whiz caught the board, turned it and cast me off for more hovering.

The turns were difficult. I struggled not to fall backwards, my arms spinning like windmills. Somehow, I managed not to fall off. I made a few more short, jerky glides before, relieved, I stepped off.

When I got home, I showed the video to my newly awakened 18-year-old, munching Cheerios and staring at her laptop. She was incredulous. “No way, mom. That’s so cool.” My 14-year-old joined in the watching. Then they pointed at my terrified face and flailing arms and started laughing. So much for cool.

The story is part of a special series that explores energy issues. For more, visit The Great Energy Challenge.

On Twitter: Follow Wendy Koch and get more environment and energy coverage at NatGeoGreen.