Personal Watercraft Guide: Jet Skis, Water Scooters, PWC

The summer period is just around the corner and it is one of those golden times when we can step into the pool, lay on the beach, indulge in sunbathing, and enjoy our favorite water sports.

Summers are for everyone who is looking for some thrill and adventure and to share special moments with their loved ones. Nothing can stop them from stepping into the clear, cool, and crystalline water.

Those fine sandy beaches are the best places to spend an ideal summer with your friends and family. This post is for all those who are looking to spend their summers enjoying water sports!


Unlike the common perception, not all water sports crafts are the same. There are a lot of differences when it comes to their interior as well as functioning, handling, and operating. However, there are three common terms used in water sports that are often confused:

  1. Jet ski:

Jet ski is the most popular watercraft that is a registered trademark of Kawasaki. Kawasaki is a famous brand and its jet skis are most popular among the water scooters around the world.

  1. Water Scooter:

A watercraft that is powered with the help of a water jet is known as a “Water Scooter”. The real name of this craft is VNM which is the short form for “Motor Watercraft”. You will always find this name official for a water scooter or any water vehicle that is operated through a water jet. It doesn’t matter which brand manufactures it (like in the case of Kawasaki) as its primary identity is that it is operated through a water jet. A water scooter is also an affordable water ride as it doesn’t rely on electric power or any other expensive power source. Hence, it is more reliable.

  1. Personal Watercraft:

If you are into water sports, then you will constantly hear the world “Personal Watercraft”. This term simply refers to any water scooter you own. It is a generic term that is quite commonly used when it comes to water sports.

If you read the above three descriptions, you will realize that there isn’t any primary difference among the three except the name. That is true! The only difference among these three relies upon their brand and the manufacturer. However, Jet Ski, which is manufactured by Kawasaki is the most popular one due to many reasons we will further mention in this article.


A jet ski or personal watercraft (PWC) comes with tons of uses and benefits. You can avail it not only as solo fun but also as a family sporting activity. Following are how you will most likely use a jet ski:

  • The standard model of any jet ski is the perfect ride for anyone who wants to start from somewhere. It is the easiest to operate ride as compared to all other water sports vessel.
  • A jet ski is the best ride if you want a private fun activity with your loved ones. You don’t need to hire anyone to operate it. It is easy to learn and even easier to operate. Thus, you can have a family fun experience by staying within your comfort zone.
  • If you are looking for an adrenaline-fueled ride, a jet ski is the best option.
  • Due to its size, a jet ski is ideal for any aquatic activity including fishing. The size of this ride allows you to navigate the narrow channels as well as shallow waters. Big boats and vessels are unable to reach such areas. Thus, jet skis are perfect for fishing.
  • Jet skis are used by lifeguard stations on shores and beaches. They are always on standby as they are easy to operate and are the best rescue options.
  • Jet skis are also beneficial for law enforcement officials. They are ideal for patrolling waterways and rescue those who require help.
  • Jet skis are highly stable and can be operated even by younger users.
  • As jet ski is open from all sides, so its prices are greatly reduced in the colder months. So, you can get good deals during winters.
  • Jet skis are excellent options for couples in terms of cost and space both.



Among plenty of other reasons that why should get a jet ski, the following are the most prominent ones:

  1. The Freedom and Independence

Unlike boating and other water sports that require the help of an operator or an experienced person, you have the opportunity to enjoy jet skiing on your own, without any help or interference. Since it is a personal water vehicle so you are just on your own inside your floating craft. Moreover, since it is open from all sides so also have the chance to sunbathe inside it with your loved ones in private.

It cannot be denied that jet skiing allows you to enjoy all you can, without any restrictions or privacy issues. Being able to enjoy your adventure without anything or anyone around you is pretty amazing!

  1. The Indulgence and Luxury

If you are planning to get a jet ski then keep in mind that not everyone gets the privilege to own something as luxurious as personal watercraft. So, if you can do that, then why not stand out in the crowd and witness an experience that not everyone can? So, if you can afford it, then consider it a privilege and get it because you won’t regret the experience. Whether buy it or rent it, but do forget to do it! You will love being on the water all by yourself!

  1. No Age Restriction/Barriers

Unlike diving or boating or any other water sport, jet skiing isn’t dependent on age groups (obviously except those who are younger than 7). It is easy to operate and is considered one of the safest water sports worldwide. However, don’t forget that safety always comes first, as with any other activity.

If you are over the age of 14, you have the chance to go out on the water as a jet ski is easy to operate and even easier to control.

  1. A Chance to Explore Wonders

Who wouldn’t like to avail a chance to explore the places no one else can? With jet ski, you have the opportunity to reach even those areas in the water which are unseen and untouched by others. Many places are only accessible if you own personal watercraft. Due to their ease of use, ease of control, and size, these vehicles can take you to places where kayaks or other normal boats cannot reach. Hence, you can explore more than an average boater if you own jet ski.

  1. Easy to Handle/Store/Carry

As a jet ski comes in a small size, so it is highly portable. There is no doubt in the fact that everyone wants to go on a vacation without carrying huge kayaks or boats. We all dream of a peaceful vacation and a pleasant time on the water. Such vacation can be accomplished through a personal watercraft or jet ski. They are easy to carry, light in weight, and small in size. Hence, the best options for water sports.

On the other hand, if we talk about boats or kayaks, they are not only heavy and difficult to carry or drag but they also have a downside that the owner has to visit their local marina to haul the craft. A jet ski, however, can fit easily even in your garage. Thus, it makes the best option for a holiday.

  1. Perks of getting in touch with the same community

If you like making new friends where ever you go then here comes jet skiing again with its wonders. Even if you are alone on your trip and looking for company, know that your watercraft community is always there for you. You can socialize with them if you want and make new friends. Moreover, you will also have the relief of calling someone out in case of need.

  1. The Two-Stroke Engine

Jet skis come with a two-stroke engine that is simple, lighter, and hence also highly affordable for the users as well as for the manufacturers. This type of engine also comes with the potential of double power in one go as it has twice power strokes in a single go. This unique combination of lightweight, simpler body, and double power gives the jet ski an amazing power-to-weight ratio as compared to other complicated four-stroke engines.


Just like any other activity, the jet ski also comes with some downsides. However, there aren’t many and most of them are associated with the inexperience or negligence of the operators or users. For example, it has been seen in the past that if we compare the ratio of accidents between boats and jet skis, then PWC or jet skis have more accidents due to many reasons that also includes the negligence of the users themselves.

Another downside of jet skis is that they are considered a threat to wildlife and even to people due to their noise factor.

Thus, the primary downsides of owning and using a jet ski are:

Maintenance Issues related to jet ski

They can be difficult to maintain if you are a new user in many ways.

Firstly, it is difficult to maintain the operating cost of a jet ski. Although, it isn’t expensive initially when you buy it can become your life-long regret if you aren’t ready to pay so much for a sport. That is because of the construction of its two-stroke engine which is mentioned further in this article. As you read on, you will find out how the engine of a jet ski works and how it becomes so expensive in the long run.

Other than the expenses, another maintenance problem lies in the way the watercraft works. Unlike other vehicles where you simply go to a gas or a fuel station to fill it up, a jet ski requires a lot of effort. You need to pre-mix the fuels of a jet ski which becomes not only hefty but also costly.

Moreover, a jet ski doesn’t work like a regular vehicle where you can simply fill in the fuel or gas when it is finished. In the case of this watercraft, if the oil or the fuel is burnt and you haven’t fill it till for long, you will lose its engine forever! Hence, you need to be very dedicated to maintaining the normal functioning of a jet ski or “bye-bye engine”!

Another maintenance issue arises when you take your jet ski out in saltwater, you will put yourself in a lot of trouble as cleaning the craft becomes very messy and hectic. We know that salt water isn’t good for many materials as it is highly corrosive especially to metals. Unfortunately, the exterior body of a jet ski is also made up of metal. Moreover, the propulsion parts of this craft also consist of metal. Thus, cleaning these parts isn’t only extra hard work but it also reduces the life of these parts. You will either have to replace these parts by spending more or will need to get a new jet.

If you are one of those persons, who can take good care of their vehicles and watercraft, then the maintenance shouldn’t be a daunting task for you! but if you are not, then think again before spending too much on a jet ski.

Engine Issues of a jet ski

Jet skis have a two-stroke engine which is prone to easy damage. This two-stroke engine is one of the main reasons why it is banned in many countries around the world. This engine isn’t considered the most advanced in terms of technology.

The primary issues related to a two-stroke jet ski engine are as follows:

  • It is quite obvious that the life of a two-stroke engine is shorter as compared to a four-stroke engine.
  • The lubrication system of a two-stroke engine isn’t as efficient as the other types. Thus, it tends to wear off much faster.
  • Although the initial price of a two-stroke is less than the others, the price of maintenance is higher. That is because of the reason that it consumes around 4 ounces of oil per gallon of gas and for every 1000 miles, a gallon of oil is consumed.
  • The engine of a jet ski is also less efficient when it comes to the consumption of fuel. It means that with a jet ski, you get few miles per gallon.
  • Another greatest downside of a jet ski is that its engine produces a lot of pollution as it burns more oil in less time. That is a serious threat to the ecosystem and wildlife.

Among all the other disadvantages, one of the biggest ones is pollution. Due to the same reason, jet skis are banned in nearly all the national parks in the United States.

Safety Issues with a jet ski

The safety issues related to jet skis cannot be neglected whether they are personal or related to the machine itself. There are many safety issues associated with this vehicle.

Firstly, unlike boats, jet skis are prone to flipping over easily due to which the severity of accidents can be greater. Due to this reason, different places and countries have different standards and rules when it comes to operating a jet ski. In the USA, many states require people who are under the age of 21 to undergo a safety and operating test before they using a jet ski. Likewise, in many other states, an operator has to be above the age of 14 years to do so. Similarly, there are also other kinds of age restrictions. So, before getting a craft, don’t forget to check with the local standards and regulations of your state.


Size of the jet ski as a safety issue?

If we compare the size of a jet ski with a boat that is out on the water, it is very small. With this small size, many disadvantages also come with advantages.

It is obvious that when a craft has a smaller size, it automatically has less space to install safety features. Hence, it has more chances of breakage, flipping over, catching fire, or engine failure. That is why it is mostly suggested that the operators of a jet ski should carry all kinds of safety devices with them in case of any emergency. Moreover, it is also mentioned in the law that if any operator or ski owner is in danger, others must help them.

Another downside of small size is that it plays a major role when it comes to certain accidents due to visibility issues. According to a report generated by US Coast Guard, among all the watercraft and boats, jet skis represent only around 10 percent ratio and yet they are involved in more than 25 percent of all the accidents that occur in this domain.

Thus, it is quite clear that if you are inexperienced, you should either pass the Boater’s Safety Test or take other necessary steps and practice before operating a jet ski.


Instability or loss of control as a safety issue:

Instability or loss of control is another safety hazard that depends upon the position of the operator. Whether the operator is standing or sitting down while operating the watercraft has a lot to do with its stability. The best position that is considered safe and avoids unnecessary risks is when the operator is sitting down while handling the craft. This position helps in avoiding the “flipping-over” accidents, however, they can still happen. However, the stand-up position is riskier and more dangerous due to the basic physics involved. Whenever an operator is standing inside a moving watercraft and the height of the person is more than that of the craft, it automatically creates an imbalance, and hence, the chances of flipping increases.

Speed as a safety issue:

Speed can only become a safety issue if the jet ski is going too fast in the presence of an inexperienced person. However, it is still better to keep the speed only in a controllable range to avoid unnecessary trouble.


If you are still on the fence about getting a jet ski after reading the above section, then this one might help you in making your final decision.


If you have made up your mind about getting a jet ski, then don’t skip this section. Keep in mind the following important points as you search for the best jet ski:

  1. Know where you will use your jet ski

The most important factor to consider before you buy or rent a jet ski is to know where you will use it. Are you going to use it in a river or lake? Or maybe in open water or saltwater bodies? While it is true that saltwater can be damaging to any personal watercraft due to its corroding properties but many PWC owners don’t consider this factor before spending. That is why it is important to know that where you will ride your watercraft. If you have no other option than saltwater, even then you shouldn’t worry much. You can get skis with closed-loop cooling systems. Such PWCs are the best ones to consider in saltwater conditions. Such systems work by cooling down the engine with the help of surrounding water and doesn’t let the water enter the engine.

An open-loop cooling system, on the other hand, lets the surrounding water directly pass through the engine. This way, metal is exposed to corroding materials and hence damages the watercraft.

It is highly important to understand the main terms as well as the differences between various PWCs as it will help you in making the best decision.

Also, keep in mind that it doesn’t matter what type of cooling system you use for your jet ski; you still need to keep an eye on your craft and keep on maintaining it regularly. You need to clean your PWC properly to keep all the problems and issues away for the longest possible time. If possible, make a plan of flushing the engine with clean water now and then to clean the interior and exterior parts. By doing so, you will be able to keep your jet ski in the best running condition.

  1. Who will be the operator of your jet ski?

As mentioned earlier in this article, jet skis are smaller in size as compared to boats or kayaks. Due to this factor, it is always important to consider the experience of the operator before handing over the watercraft to them. It is a general but very wrong concept that a lightweight or a small crat is ideal for a less experienced operator or rider. However, the fact is that a lightweight jet ski is more difficult to handle and hence it is only ideal for experienced users.

If you consider yourself inexperienced, then it is better to opt for a larger and heavier model. It will be easier for you to operate as a beginner. Experienced riders have a free choice of agile and leaner models.

It is also important to consider jet ski’s specifications as well. If you are getting the jet ski for an inexperienced user, then you must not buy certain models such as Kawasaki’s Ultra 310R, Sea-Doo’s RXP-X, or Yamaha FZR. All of these models have the capability of hitting 70mph to 90mph. Thus, as a responsible user, you must make sure that the power of the craft, as well as its engine, is a perfect fit for the operator or rider.

  1. Do you require insurance for your PWC?

Different regions around the world require different regulations when it comes to the insurance of any vehicle or watercraft. For example, in the United States, some states like Florida don’t require insurance at all. If that is also the case in your region, then don’t forget to purchase a policy for your jet ski. This policy shouldn’t only cover the personal injuries but also the property damage as well as medical costs.

  1. Know the type of maintenance you will require for the specific model

Different jet ski models require different sorts of maintenance. That is why it is mandatory to know beforehand that what kind of maintenance is required by your specific model. The maintenance routines are also different for new and used models. For example, if you own a new jet ski, it will most likely require less maintenance effort and repair work. However, even in the case of new models, you need to stick to a proper maintenance schedule. It is also important to have adequate knowledge about the person who will do the maintenance work for you. Will it be you or a mechanic? It isn’t for you, then make sure that mechanic is located anywhere that is convenient for you.

  1. Other than the PWC itself, do you need any other accessories?

Before buying a jet ski, it is also important to know about any accessories that are mandatory for your watercraft. Few accessories are required by law for all water sports for example life jackets.

You will also need to have ski covers for proper storage as well as transport. Other accessories include a marine GPS unit, dry bags, fishing gear (if you have plans of fishing), a safety whistle, waterproof covers for various gadgets, tow rope, and tow tube, etc. These are only some of the accessories. You can figure out more according to your needs and luxury.

  1. Consider any brand preference if you have

If you have any specific brand preference, then don’t forget to do your research beforehand and then decide anything by keeping in view the speed, size, power, and most importantly, the cost of PWC.

  1. Figure out the ways of storage and transportation

Not everyone is lucky enough to own waterfront property. If you are also the one, then, first of all, you need to figure out a safe and reliable way to store and transport your jet ski. Trailers can be one of the safest options for transportation. Likewise, it is also necessary to figure out where will you store it. In your garage? Storage unit or a shed? If you don’t have any of these options, then you might consider storing the jet ski in a recreation area. If you opt for this option, then don’t forget to find out the cost, required insurance work as well as accessibility options for your PWC.


New models of jet skis contain advanced technology, better specifications, and innovations. You can get all the bells and whistles you want in these models. New jet skis also have a warranty so you don’t have to worry about the wear and tear of the watercraft. Moreover, you can save yourself from the worries of spotty maintenance issues when you opt for a new jet ski model. However, it is also obvious that new models of jet skis also come with a higher price tag.

If you are not an experienced rider when it comes to jet ski, then the best option is to probably look for a used model. This way you cannot only save yourself from spending too much but also from the worries of accidental damage. Used models are less expensive than new ones. However, the cost also depends upon the model and make just like any other vehicle. Many jet ski users also advise that the beginner riders should get a pre-owned or second-hand jet ski model. Doing so will not only allow you to learn the basics of your ride but will also aid in learning the primary maintenance tasks. You will also get a chance to know if you like this sport and ready to invest in a new model.

If you choose to get a pre-owned or used PWC, don’t forget to check the engine, the maintenance records as well as the wear and tear of the jet ski. It is also better to take an experienced user with you or take the PWC to a mechanic. Lastly, don’t forget to go for a test drive before signing the paperwork!

In a nutshell, look for the following factors when buying a used jet ski:

  • The size and functionality of jet skis.
  • How do you want to use it?
  • The lifespan of the jet ski. Typically, the average lifespan of a jet ski is 300 hours. Low usage is mostly under 50 hours of usage while above 150 is considered as high or overused.
  • Pay close attention to the features and specs such as speed and performance.
  • Check the maintenance records.
  • Check the wear and tear of the interior and exterior of the ride. The exterior examination includes scratches and dents and the condition of other parts such as handles, paddles, seats, and other controls. Interior includes the engine and rusting or weather damage.
  • Don’t forget to ask the owner about where and how the ride was stored. If it was kept in the sun or left sitting in the water, there are high chances of its damage.
  • Do the test drive and mechanic checks in place.
  • Warranty.

Pros of buying a pre-owned jet ski:

  • Pre-owned PWC will be less costly.
  • Used jet ski will help you in becoming a better rider. You will get a chance to gain experience without the worry of protecting your ride from damage.
  • A pre-owned jet ski is a great investment.

Pros of buying a new jet ski:

  • You don’t have to worry about the wear and tear issues.
  • New models of jet skis also come with better improvements and advanced technology.
  • It comes with a warranty.


  • Solo jet ski:

Solo jet skis are also known as “stand-up jet skis”. These crafts don’t have seats and the rider always have to stand while operating the ride. This type of craft is hard to operate and handle and requires experience to control it adequately. They are also good for freestyle tricks.

  • Sport jet ski:

Sport jet ski is for one rider only like a solo crat but they also have a seat. These crafts are easier to master with adequate practice but they can also be quite unstable and difficult to control. Sport jet skis consist of small dimensions.

  • Two-seater craft:

Two-seater jet ski crafts are the easier to control rides which makes them a fun ride. They are heavier and less nippy as compared to single-seater rides which automatically increases their stability.

  • Three and four-seater jet ski craft:

Three and four-seater jet skis are very stable, easy to handle, and versatile rides which makes them excellent options for families. That is why they are gaining more popularity than all other types of jet skis. Such crafts are also used for towing.

Tips and tricks for beginners

Here are some tips and tricks for all the beginners who want to experience jet skiing:

  • As with any other sport, you should consider the safety of your ride as your priority. Always keep a life jacket with you and wear it at all times. When it comes to the safety of your ride, it doesn’t only mean your safety but also involves the safety of other riders as well as swimmers. Moreover, safety also means the protection of anyone who is riding your jet ski with you. So, as a responsible sports person, make sure that you are engaged in the best possible safety practices.
  • As a beginner, you should also stay in close contact with experienced jet ski riders and learn from them. Whether you want to learn new riding techniques or want to improve your overall performance, seeking help from a professional can save you from many major troubles.
  • You should be aware that jet skiing isn’t only about fun and games. You will also need to learn all the basic maintenance tricks as it is mandatory for the proper working of your jet ski. Keeping it covered and cleaning it regularly is also important. You also need to know how to winterize your jet ski during the winters. Make sure you dry it thoroughly after washing it. Furthermore, it is equally necessary to perform the scheduled maintenance checks.
  • Don’t hesitate to reach out to a mechanic if you feel like you cannot handle it properly. Always accept help!
  • Although it obvious that as a rider you will always check the fuel levels of your watercraft but when it comes to jet ski, things are a bit complicated. You need to refill your vessel way before its tanks reach the low fuel level. Neglecting this factor will end up damaging the engine. So, as a beginner, never assume anything with the fuel level, always keep it full before hitting the water.
  • Always keep a first aid kit with you on your ride, have a communication device, and also take an extra life jacket with you for any unforeseen situations.






The first-ever jet ski was introduced in 1972. It was a stand-up Kawasaki jet ski that became popular due to its unique construction and exceptional features. However, before that, the first-ever sit-down jet ski model was invented back in the 1960s. The actual name for this ride was “water scooter”. The ride kept on changing its form over time and took a new form with the inclusion of a power pump. Previously, jet skis came only with an outboard motor. The new power pump form of the jet ski was introduced by an American inventor known as Clayton Jacobson. As he was responsible for introducing the pump jet system, that is why he is known as the inventor of modern age jet skis.

Fact: “Jet Ski” is the trademark of Kawasaki. It is the same as “vacuum cleaners” are known by the name “Hoover”.

History and key dates:

Given below is the brief history of jet skis along with the key dates ranging from in time of invention to present-day formulations of jet ski:

  • In the year 1968, the most basic version of the jet ski, known as Ski-Doo PWC was introduced by Bombardier Recreational Products.
  • In 1972, the popular Kawasaki came up with the first-ever jet ski model known as the “stand-up jet ski”.
  • Kawasaki released the next formulation of the jet ski, “the sit-down jet ski” model later in 1982.
  • 1995 was the time when the previously invented “stand-up jet ski” came with further advancements of dual carburetors.
  • The most recent jet ski model was released in the year 2011 that consists of two-stroke stand-ups. This model is also the fastest yet.




The first model of jet ski didn’t gain much popularity and remained off-market for a long time. However, when Kawasaki entered the market, that was the time when PWCs and jet ski niche started gaining popularity. It was the mid-1970s that is known as the golden time for jet skis. From the mid-1970s onwards, this ride kept on becoming common and popular as they were capable of doing much more than the old water scooters.

The “sit-down” models of jet ski allowed the riders to control their ride easily while sitting. Moreover, it also became possible to accommodate two riders at the same time which wasn’t available in any other ride at that time. Thus, it was considered as a unique social aspect of this ride which led to the rise in its popularity.

If we fast forward to the present day, PWCs and jet skis are now much popular than they were ever before in history.


Statistics from the present-day data has also revealed that jet skis are mush popular. According to a report released by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (you can also visit their website to view the data), in the year 2016, the sales of PWCs and jet skis have increased rapidly. According to this report, their sales have even crossed the sale ratio of powerboats and kayaks. So, if we consider these stats from 2016, it is quite clear that the market for jet skis and PWCs has increased by 7.4%.

Inside the United States of America alone, the sales of jet skis have hit 60,000 which makes a quarter of all the powerboat sales.

This data is only for the new jet skis. If we combine the ratio of used jet skis and PWCs being sold in the year 2016, then there are around 130,000 PWCs that are being bought in that year.

In the United States, the most popular state known for jet skis in Florida. This state makes up 14.3% of the total jet ski sales. Texas comes in second place having a share of 8.9% in the market and Michigan comes at third with a 5.6% market share.

Hint: If you are planning to buy a second-hand jet ski, don’t forget to check the usage hours on the clock.


One of the most popular activities for people looking for thrills and adventures during their vacations is jet skiing. If you are looking to spend your holidays on the coast then jet skiing is perhaps the best leisure activity for you. Among plenty of other reasons, one of the reasons for its popularity is that it involves easy diving. Moreover, it is also easily accessible to all which makes it more favorable as a leisure sport.

However, since most of the water sports are similar to each other, so it is important to know the basic differences first before getting a craft. In this article, you will go through all the necessary details to help you get started with your jet-skiing adventure.

Fact: Jet skis are commonly known as PWC which are the short form of “Personal Watercraft”.

Let’s begin with the basic differences between various water sports crafts.

Even with all the downsides and risks, jet skis and PWCs are still going to be in the game even more in the next decade and it is expected that they will continue to gain popularity.


Motorcycles on the Water

1968 Sea-Doo

T he very first commercial jet-powered personal watercraft (PWC) was built in 1968 by Bombardier riding on the coattails of their success with the Ski-Doo. Naturally they called it the Sea-Doo. Interest in the craft was limited because it was new, single passenger, and expensive, (and frankly, it was slow at around 30 mph). In fact, Bombardier called it quits in 1970, after just two years of manufacturing them.

However, two years after that, in 1972, Kawasaki licensed the concept and began manufacturing the Jet Ski (by the same designer of the Sea-Doo, Clayton Jacobson II). This stand-up version was more challenging for the adventurers who would buy such a thing, and it quickly became the first commercial success in the PWC market.

As Kawasaki made the market noteworthy with over a decade of work, Yamaha learned in the background, developing expertise. Their first entry was an amazing machine, but there was one oversight in the design—it was too small for a North American adult. Japanese adults have a smaller physical stature and even when planning for the NA market, no one had thought to make it a bit bigger…

The next year’s model was more appropriately-sized for export, and suddenly everyone wanted one. Yamaha introduced the single-rider MJ-500S, two-passenger MJ-500T, and later, the MJ-650 that could manage three occupants. Thus, Yamaha entered the market in 1986 with their WaveRunner vehicle. Similar to Sea-Doo’s original, it was a sit down model, and its popularity grew for those that didn’t want to stand all the time on a Jet-Ski.

Within two years, Bombardier had decided to re-enter the market; it was time for them to get back into the business of watercraft. In 1988 the Sea-Doo came roaring back, and now Bombardier controls nearly 50% of the market. Sea-Doo was focused on slower, sit-down, multi-person, family-oriented machines, and that had a great deal of appeal for more average consumers.

The Downside

However, it is vitally important to note that you should never use the throttle in less than three feet of water (waist-deep for most adults) because the amount of water drawn in by the impeller can actually pick up rocks off the bottom and massively damage your engine.

Sure, you can go where many boats cannot go, just as a motorcycle can go off-road more successfully than a car, but you are likely to get fouled by seaweed, grass, or what we call “river-salad” if you imagine you can go fast everywhere!

Just leaving the dock can suck up the flip-flop that some kid lost last week. That will make for a really short trip!

Use Your Common Sense

The water intakes for PWCs are on the bottom, designed in such a way so as to collect the maximum amount of water with the lowest impact on overall performance. They are protected by a grate that is pretty much the ideal size for power while keeping really big stuff out.

But that means that as you are coming into shore to beach your machine, it needs to be off or you are going to put a huge amount of highly abrasive sand, rocks, and seashells through your drive. In fact, once you are away from the beach, before you start your engine, you should rock your machine vigorously from left to right to let any collected sand and gunk fall out.

Safer, but…

The good thing is that they do not have an exposed propeller, making them much safer, especially if you are using your craft as a tow-vehicle for water-skiers, or inflatables.

Conversely, they draw in so much water that there is an excellent chance to gobble up that rope when you are idling or getting set up for a run. You see, most PWCs don’t have a true idle because they are “direct drive”, so the prop always turns.

In fact, they don’t have a true “reverse” either! Instead they have a redirector (often called a “bucket”) that drops down over the water-flow and sends it forward. Therefore, if something gets jammed in the drive, you can’t get it out by “reversing” the engine…

Maintenance and Wear

The higher performance models from Kawasaki and Yamaha have extremely tight tolerances on their drive trains, so small objects can do a lot of costly damage when ingested into the jet. Sea-Doo, on the other hand, has lower tolerances and has a polymer liner-collar that can take some abuse, and be replaced relatively inexpensively, comparted to a jet mechanism.

All of these machines will suck up some junk, whether its rocks from accelerating in shallow water, weeds from places overgrown with plants, sticks set loose by a recent storm, or trash floating in the water. It is inevitable. Where and how you use your PWC will dictate some of your purchase considerations.

Your annual oil and fluid change will be about $100 per season. Insurance will cost up to $500 per year. You’ll burn through 4-10 gallons per hour for fuel, so your fuel will be several hundred dollars, say $100-200 for every ten hours.

Which Should I Buy?

One PWC is not intrinsically better than another—it all depends on what you want to do with it. There is a lot of range between a bus and a sports car, and the same is true of PWCs… Still, the general consensus is that beginners should go with a Sea-Doo because it’s not designed for aerial stunts like a 360º backflip as you cross another boat’s wake. They’re designed to let you and your passenger(s) enjoy a reasonably safe day on the water.

Jet Skis will always be the fast-for-the-sake-of-fast toys on the water. That’s fine if you have the skills. Stand-up Jet skis, however, are a SOLO activity. No passengers, no towing, and since they are so difficult to learn to operate, you can’t let guests borrow it. Sit-downs are something most people can grasp fairly quickly, and multi-passenger units let you help guests enjoy the experience, too.

WaveRunner covers the ground in between a Jet Ski and Sea-Doo, with both stand-up and sit-down models. Your first car should not be a Lamborghini Countach, and your first PWC should probably not be a stand-up Jet Ski.


So yes, the best analogy for PWCs is your family car compared to a motorcycle. Your car might be a station wagon for hauling stuff; it might be a crossover for getting you to hard-to-reach locations; it might be performance car designed just for cornering and speed.

Nevertheless, motorcycles generally outperform cars because they are lighter, have more power compared to mass, and are more maneuverable. Your PWC can (literally) run circles around most boats, irrespective of manufacturer. They can accelerate quickly, turn on a dime, and they can idle in some pretty shallow water.


Like a motorcycle, however, learners are going to fall over (off). Clayton Jacobson II originally designed the “water motorcycle” because he was tired of picking gravel out of his wounds. He wanted to go fast but not get seriously hurt when he fell off.

It doesn’t matter how physically talented you are. It doesn’t matter if you can pat your head, rub your stomach, and ride a unicycle at the same time. You are going to fall off your PWC. It is part of the shape of the Universe and it cannot be avoided.

My Promises to Everyone That Cares About Me

I will never operate my PWC after drinking alcohol.

I will always wear a life a jacket.

I will always use the kill-lanyard which stops the engine if I fall off.

I will know how to roll the machine upright if (when) it flips.

I will watch for sharks.

I will know how to re-board a machine safely after I’ve fallen off.

I won’t take a passenger without a life jacket and proper instruction about how to lean into a turn with me.

I will be careful at all time.

I will explain to passengers what to do if they fall off (Keep arms above head and moving so they are visible. Heads are often too small to see).

I will make sure my passengers know how re-board a machine safely (always from the back; never from the side).

I will give them basic instructions for operating the machine if something happens to me.

The Takeaway

PWCs are amazing to ride. They can be bone-jarring solo adrenalin rushes; they can be great entertainment for kids towed on inflatables; they can be a waterskiing adventure; they can be a perfect way to go from the island to the store and back to grab necessities, or they can be a low key exploration of a waterway or lakeshore. Use your anchor and they make a good fishing platform!

Prices depend of features, of course. Expect a range between $5k to 20k. You want a stereo? They can do that. You want to go 70 mph? They can do that, too (for the higher end models).

And try to be nice to other water-users. Don’t go screaming by fisherman; don’t make big wakes that make boats scrub against their moorings; don’t zip around full-throttle at 7 AM or 9PM—stick to daylight and people will like you rather than hate you.

Photos doing flips

Weight limits

Slip rental

Lift systems

Tube and wake board

Engine horsepower

Shallow water

How to brake

Gas tank size

Texas waters