Any Jet skier or a personal watercraft owner has at least heard of ride plates. You might have even seen different types of them. These plates are not very eye-catching, but professionals treat them as a crucial element.
Ride plates are placed right below the ski pumps at the back of the ski. Ride plates act as performance enhancers for skis as well as a protective cover for the pump nozzle. They generally increase speed, maneuverability, and stability as a side bonus.
Ride plates provide a lot of enhancement to the control system of a jet ski. But that is not even the original purpose of a ride plate. The metal plate at the back was originally designed to function as a protection unit. It helps protect the jet nozzle from the abrasion of water. These plates also protect the intake grates from the outside.
When a jet ski reaches extremely high speeds, a ride plate might be the only thing connecting it to the water body. That is why these plates are crucial for professional skiers, especially racers. The ride plates are generally made of heat conductive metal because they also need to act as a makeshift heat exchanger.
Ride plates can also keep the front end of the jet ski from bouncing if you use an extended version. Some plates help generate more speed, and others help with controlling the ski to make sharper turns.
Most ride plates come with a trade-off in performance. Ones that increase speed tend to sacrifice maneuverability or the ability to turn sharp corners. That happens because the speed-increasing plates lift the head of the ski, which reduces the contact with the water.
Types of Jet Ski Ride Plate
The plate types are not set in stone. People generally separate them into four primary categories. You may also see ride plates that have the characteristics of different types. I’ll give a brief overview of the four main types in the following section:
1. Extended Plate
Extended plates are the go-to ride plates for ski racers. The extension helps stabilize the ski and reduces porpoise. They are somewhat like inverted rear spoilers. Instead of air, the extended plate pushes on the water to keep the nose from going up.
The extension provides a large boost in top speed but reduces handling and control. It acts as a hindrance every time you try to cut a sharp corner. Most extended plates are at the very least 1.5 to 2 inches longer than the average ride plates.
2. D-Cut Ride Plate
D-cut ride plates are the most popular plate types among daredevil skiers. These plates offer very little in the way of control and handling, but their shredding capability is top tier. D cuts are a must-have for freestyling stand-up jet skis.
This type of ride plate makes the ski jump and keeps its nose up easily. The stability and handling are subpar, but a skilled skier can still use it to display amazing freestyling tricks. It is a terrible choice for any speed race and highly dangerous for beginners.
3. Concave Plate
The concave plate is the more extreme alternative to extended plates. These are so good at increasing the speed that it’s almost at the level of a cheat. But rest assured, these plates remain race-legal to this very day.
The defining characteristic of a concave plate is the protruding fins. These are nowhere near as exaggerated as a surfboard fin, but the slight curve on the side of the plate adds the same kind of effect.
As I said before, it is the extreme version of an extended ride plate. These babies are better at keeping the ski nose firmly planted to the water surface. It gives much better stability and speed for linear movement but is outrageously terrible at making sharp turns.
4. Ride Plate with a Traction vent
This type of ride plate is mostly designed for people looking to do stunts or obstacle races. The traction vents are placed on the body of the ride plates. The hole helps contain water flow and helps keep the skis head lowered. That ensures maximum contact with the water, thereby giving the best possible stability and control.
A skilled skier can use it as a makeshift brake, as well as a cornering tool. The traction vent provides a lot of pull, so the maximum speed isn’t as good. But the average speed in choppy water is much better than pure racing ride plates.
How to Install a Ride Plate On a Jet Ski?
The best thing about ride plates is that they are exceedingly easy to install by hand. You could replace or modify them at any time you want. Most serious jet skiers will carry spare ride plates when they take their skis out.
Here’s how to install one from scratch:
The easiest way is by keeping the jet ski on the back of your trailer. That will provide you with a way to reach the bottom from the back. You can try pulling it out a bit to get better access. Just be careful of the crews falling off when you’re working.
The second option is flipping the ski over on its back. It takes a bit more work, and you would need a suitable place to do it. But it provides a better workspace overall.
Step 2: Remove the existing plate from the ski. You can do this by unscrewing the plate, and pulling it out by hand.
All skis come with a plate, but the stock plate is more of a protective covering. It does not add much to the performance, so most people will swap to a suitable aftermarket version.
Step 3: Clean the area with a scrubber to get all the grime out. You might need to do a deeper cleaning if there’s any abrasion in the area. In the worst-case scenario, you might need to use a power sander to remove all the abrasion and apply epoxy to conceal it.
Once you get that out of the way, you can proceed to install the new ride plate. Most of these plates are aluminum, and you need a very specific primer for aluminum to shield it against water abrasion. Try to find a good quality primer and apply it over the newly installed plate, and it will last for years.
Each ride plate sacrifices one or two specs to boost other ones, and people generally switch between different plates depending on their activity.