Jet Skis are often their own best advertising.
Who can look at someone scooting around on the waters, having the time of their lives, without wanting to get in on that action?
If you think that a jet ski might be in your future, here are the most important things you should know.
What is a Jet Ski?
A Jet Ski is a personal watercraft. In fact, the term “Jet Ski” is actually a registered trademark of the Kawasaki company. However, like the word “Hoover”, the brand name has come to refer to any personal watercraft that works on similar principles. Basically, Kawasaki was a victim of its own success with their first JS400 Jet Ski model hitting the market in 1974.
There are various designs of personal watercraft that people refer to as Jet Skis, but they all have one single thing in common: propulsion.
Rather than moving through the water using a spinning prop, Jet Skis shoot high-pressure jets of water from their aft sections – propelling them forward. This makes them some of the fastest personal watercraft you can buy and also has the advantage of being safer to be around than a vehicle with spinning propeller blades.
There’s a Huge Range of Models and Prices
Jet Skis come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and prices. They are made for different performance levels and use cases.
While there is no such thing as a cheap Jet Ski, the difference between the cheapest and most expensive Jet Skis can easily exceed ten thousand dollars. This makes it extra important to consider what you actually need from a Jet Ski.
What Jet Skis are Used For
That brings us to the big question. What do you want to do with your Jet Ski?
If all you want is a transport craft, you want a Jet Ski with enough passenger capacity. There are Jet Skis out there that can take as many as four people riding tandem. This is a great solution if you have a larger craft, like a cabin cruiser, which you don’t want to dock every time you want to go to shore.
Other Jet Skis are powerful enough to act as a compact way to tow skiers and wakeboards. This can be more practical and affordable than buying a large runabout boat to do the same job.
Then there are Jet Skis meant for only a single rider—the ones with high performance and handling. These are the thrill-seeker machines, the equivalent of a superbike but on the water.
Jet Ski Safety
Jet Skis are fun, but these powerful and fast machines can be dangerous if you don’t respect them. Although a Jet Ski might look a little like a motorcycle, they are nothing like one to ride.
The main safety tip you need to consider is getting the right training. Go to a professional school or other organization that teaches how to ride and operate Jet Skis the right way.
You also need to make sure that you never take your Jet Ski out without having all the right equipment with you. If something goes wrong or you get stranded, it could be a very serious issue. Unlike a boat, a Jet Ski doesn’t offer you much in the way of shelter while you wait for rescue.
A life jacket is an obvious requirement, especially since it’s much more likely that you’ll be thrown from a Jet Ski than a boat.
Since Jet Skis are powered by fossil fuels and have electrical components and batteries, you should always have a fire extinguisher designed for use on these craft with you. Believe me, if a fire starts on the only dry place for miles, you’ll want that extinguisher.
Keep a drybag with you containing your smartphone, GPS, airhorn, and any legal documents such as your license in it. If you get lost, you should have the ability to phone for help, signal your distress, and navigate back to shore.
Other common-sense safety rules apply. Don’t operate a Jet Ski under the influence of alcohol. This is one that many people find hard to stick to.
You also should not be out on a Jet Ski after dark, since their speed and small size make them practically invisible to people in boats and ships.
Getting a License
Do you need a license to operate a Jet Ski? The answer is most likely yes, but the exact requirements will vary from one country to the next. Just as with any vehicle, a Jet Ski can be very dangerous if operated without the needed training or diligence.
There are also regulations regarding when you can use which Jet Skis and where they are allowed. This will differ from one country to the next, but small Jet Skis under certain sizes may not be allowed on the ocean, given that they probably won’t hold up well in ocean waters.
The key lesson here is that you need to make sure that the license, Jet Ski class, and use case you have in mind all match. Otherwise, you might end up wasting a lot of your time or making a few very expensive mistakes.
Once you have your Jet Ski, it will also need to be serviced and certified on an annual basis. It has to be inspected for seaworthiness and may need to be marked as such. Check your local regulations carefully!