What’s a jet ski?

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Jet Ski is a type of personal watercraft (PWC) made by Kawasaki, but the term is now used generically. It has a motorcycle-like operation, with a jet stream engine and hand throttle. Regulations and safety precautions should be followed, but it can provide excitement and is used by lifeguards and rescue teams. Other popular PWC models include Sea-Doo and WaveRunner.

Strictly speaking, Jet Ski® is the trade name for a personal watercraft (PWC) manufactured by Kawasaki Motor Company, but the term has become a generic name for all types of personal watercraft. It’s part waterskiing device and part motorboat, with a definite hint of a motorcycle in operation. Instead of the traditional propeller or screw motor, this PWC uses an enclosed gas engine to literally push water out in a jet stream.

The jet ski operator straddles a central platform and assumes a cushioning posture with knees slightly bent. The engine is started electronically with a toggle switch located in a column in front of the driver. All models should also have a deadman switch, a connection between the driver and the ignition system that should instantly shut the engine off if the driver falls.

Just like a motorcycle, acceleration is provided by a hand throttle located on the right handlebar. By twisting the throttle, the driver can increase engine power. Steering requires a combination of front handle aiming and body maneuvering. Unlike a street bike, this watercraft often requires significant acceleration to make sharp turns in the water.

The use of a jet ski or any other watercraft is often restricted by regional or local laws. There may also be helmet, age and flotation device regulations, so owners should always check before placing their PWCs in unfamiliar waters. Speedboats and other large pleasure craft often cannot avoid collisions with smaller vessels, so drivers should be aware of their surroundings. Irresponsible actions on a jet ski can also lead to dangerous encounters with traditional swimmers and water skiers. There is also a temptation for some drivers to deliberately drive in the slipstream of larger boats, which can be dangerous.

In the hands of an experienced pilot, a jet ski can provide hours of excitement. Some PWCs seat two or more riders and have enough pulling power for inner tubes or water skis. They are also popular with ocean lifeguards and rescue teams.

While Kawasaki first marketed a Jet Ski® in 1973, a smaller company called Bombadier actually created a working watercraft in the late 1960s. Years after the Kawasaki model became a household name, Bombadier is back with the Sea-Doo® and has managed to make a dent in the jet ski market. Another popular model from PWC is called the WaveRunner®.

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