As record temperatures make their way across the United States, jet-ski riders are flocking to lakes in search of the wind in their hair and the water at their toes. However, while jet skis offer a unique way to explore the water, they also carry a hefty risk.
It seems for every hot day you hear of, there’s a report of a jet ski accident to go along with it, and the consequences range from bumps and bruises to the loss of life. In Northern California a teenage girl ran the personal watercraft she was riding on ground, narrowly missing a group of picnickers on shore after failing to negotiate a turn. On Lake Lanier in Georgia, music superstar Usher’s step son lost his life after being put into a coma when a man operating a jet ski ran over the child and his friend who were riding an innertube behind a boat. While the incidents and locations change, the recipe for disaster often does not: mix too much power with too little experience and you’re left with too much danger.
Over the years, the personal watercraft has evolved significantly. From single person models boasting a 450 cc, two-stroke motor and stand-up water craft designed for lake cruising, today the industry boasts behemoth skis; some capable of carrying up to three people and reaching 0 to 30 in under 3 seconds. And those that aren’t huge are even faster, with some of today’s stand up skis, like the Kawasaki 800 SX-R with a 781cc two stroke motor designed for fast get-up-and-go.
While increased speed and size can be fun, they can also be inherently dangerous for inexperienced individuals; and even experienced individuals with a little too much confidence. When power, speed and water combine with human error, miscalculation can be the difference between life and death. Thus, we give you 5 jet ski safety tips that can save not only your life, but that of everyone else out on the water with you.
1. Lifejackets: You need to wear one. Long gone are the days of orange flotation devices flung around your neck. Spend the $30-$100 bucks and get a nice life vest. They’re light, comfortable, easy to maneuver in and you can even buy one to match your ski. Not to mention, they make you float; which is ideal should you become unconscious in the water.
2. Drinking: Now’s not a good time. If you plan to operate a personal water craft, you’ll need quick reaction times for stopping, turning and maneuvering to avoid collisions. A few beers won’t help you with that, so save the brews for when you’re back on the beach for good.
3. Distractions: Stop looking at the babes on the beach. You’ll look like a complete jerk when you cut somebody off, or worse, hit a down water skier because you weren’t paying attention. Safe jet ski operation requires your full attention.
4. Ego: You’re awesome. Prove it later. Getting cocky at the helms of a jet ski is when you’ll end up giving too much throttle, too little stopping distance, or too quick of a turn and end up in an position you’d rather not be. Ego is a danger when it comes to any motorized sport, but when the risk of drowning is nearby, you best check your big britches at the beach.
5. Be safe. Like, really safe. Jet skis come with safety precautions, like a kill switch, to help avoid accidents. Take the proper precautions to always attach your safety lanyard to the kill switch, know how to bail if need be, and never put more people on a watercraft than it is approved for.
Personal watercraft are meant to be a fun, relaxing pastime. With the proper safety precautions, and knowing your own limits, you can avoid associating them with a horrific accident instead of a day you’re stoked to be out on the wakes.