DIY McFly: Make a working hoverboard from common yard gear

A working hoverboard inspired by "Back to the Future: Part II" uses leaf blowers to glide over the ground. And you can build your own.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
3 min read

Mr Hoverboard is ready to turn you into Marty McFly. Ryan Craven

Yes, Virginia, there is a hoverboard. You can make it yourself and you don't need a special surface to ride on. Austin, Texas, tinkerer Ryan Craven has created a functioning hoverboard prototype. It's big and it's loud, but most importantly, it works.

Craven first got the idea to create a DIY hoverboard anybody could make after all the viral excitement of the Huvr, a hoverboard that turned out to be a well-made hoax. Mr Hoverboard, however, is a working prototype that operates using four battery-powered leaf blowers.

Mr Hoverboard in action
Ryan Craven takes Mr Hoverboard for a ride. Video screenshot by CNET

You may notice that Mr Hoverboard looks a little familiar. That's because it's essentially a miniature version of a hovercraft.

"A skirt fills with air that is released below from strategically placed holes that create a small pocket between Mr Hoverboard and the ground," Craven tells Crave. "The skirt alterations were one of the biggest steps I had to keep repeating as there's infinite combinations when trying to achieve proper circulation and balance."

Craven estimates that building your own hoverboard based on his design could cost anywhere between $250 and $500. He picked up four leaf blowers from Amazon for about $200. "The rest is all pretty simple hardware store stuff, shower curtain probably costs around $10, plywood around $20, hardware, tape, staples, whatever tools you might not own or have access to," he says. He crafted the main riding board from an old water ski found on the side of the road, a solution that ended up being much stronger than the plywood version he initially tried.

Craven has some design challenges ahead as he works to refine Mr Hoverboard. "It is loud, there's no hiding that. That said, I believe it's something that can be easily improved on," he says. He's already working on a hack for the next version that should reduce the noise. Improving the air flow should also reduce vibrations and, therefore, noise. "I would't expect it to sneak up on people like a Prius, but sound will certainly be more tolerable in future models," he says.

If Mr Hoverboard looks like fun, that's because it is. Craven describes himself as "not a very good skater," but he's really taken to the mechanics of the hoverboard. "With this board I'm pulling 900s and 1080s like I'm Tony Hawk. It's pretty wild," he says. He describes the sensation of riding as feeling like being "submerged in some weightless swimming pool."

Craven's next step is to promote Mr Hoverboard within maker communities. He's putting together a maker team in Austin to help improve the design. "Two obstacles I'm looking to explore within the next month are going over water in addition to ramps at the skate park," he says.

Ever since "Back to the Future" fans got burned by Huvr, it's been important for hoverboard pioneers to prove their creations are real. The Hendo hoverboard has done that, but its magnetic-field solution requires a special surface for riding. Craven has offered up video evidence of his hoverboard gliding around at a skate park. Ultimately, he suggests anybody who doubts Mr Hoverboard should just go and build one of their own. He's kindly put maker instructions up on the Mr Hoverboard website.

For visual proof of Mr Hoverboard's functionality, check out this video of the invention in action.