If you have the funds and free time, jet skiing might seem like a fun pastime to pick up. But before you make an investment, it’s important to know a few fundamental facts, safety tips and guidelines associated with the activity.
Check out this beginner’s guide to discover 12 things you need to know about your next hobby. After you learn these easy tips, you’ll be ready to jet ski at practically any lake or vacation spot. So what do you need to know?
1. Check Your State’s Laws
Jet skis are often available at most vacation spots and boating rental facilities, but that doesn’t mean everyone can ride one. Some states are strict about who cruises the waves and require everyone to earn a license for jet skiing.
Check your state’s laws to see if you need to acquire a license. People take lessons online, in a classroom or in-person with a trainer, depending on the state’s standards. Each has different hourly requirements and costs.
2. Always Wear a Life Jacket
You might think life jackets are for little kids or people who don’t know how to swim, but everyone has to wear one when you’re on a jet ski.
No matter how long you’ve been a swimmer or how much you like your water suit, wear your life jacket and be sure to fasten it securely. If you get knocked off your jet ski, it will help you find the surface and float after the shock of a fall.
3. Consider the Waves
Many people dream about taking an adventurous getaway where they jet ski on the ocean waves. However, it’s easiest for beginners to start on a lake or river setting since there are fewer waves to consider. The ocean is more for intermediate or advanced jet skiers.
The bigger waves will launch you off the water’s surface, which can cause a bumpy landing and knock beginners off their jet ski. Think about your experience with jet skiing over waves to determine if you’re ready to take on the ocean.
If you don’t have much experience but still want to try, look for a jet ski class at your destination before you arrive so you can sign up for time with an instructor.
4. Zip up Your Necessities
You may dream of being alone out on the water with nothing but the wind in your hair, but you’ll need to bring a dry bag that has your necessities.
Your identification, license and phone are all smart to have on you. If you get lost, your phone’s GPS will guide you back to shore and your license will prove you have the legal right to operate your jet ski.
5. Take a Boater’s Safety Course
A safety course may be required if you haven’t renewed your boating license recently. County recreation programs or license offices may offer courses with varying difficulty levels. You could also find them at places that rent jet skis, since they may teach as a side business.
Call around your city or where you plan to vacation to see which places offer courses and how much they are. You’ll find something that fits your budget and your schedule with a bit of investigation.
A class will provide crucial information you may not learn from a brief overview with whoever rents or sells you your jet ski. For example, it may teach you how personal watercraft (PWCs) will perform optimally for nearly 300 hours on average, a key fact as you determine your future investments.
6. Remove Your Accessories
You might have a certain waterside outfit planned for your trip, but you’ll need to remove your accessories before you get on the jet ski. The high speed and winds make them dangerous, and you’re likely to lose them if you soar over the waves or hit a fast turn.
Many vacationers know the struggle of bringing their favorite pair of sunglasses on vacation only to lose them to the ocean because they flew off their faces while jet skiing.
Before you head out on the water, take off your sunglasses, watches, shoes and hat. You’ll need water sport replacements for your footwear, but the rest can stay onshore. Store them in a locker or keep them in your car. Just make sure they’re safe and away from your jet ski.
7. Wear Your Safety Lanyard
Most jet skis come with a safety lanyard, especially if beginners use them. The end has a key that stays attached to the jet ski at all times.
If you happen to fall off while the craft is moving, the lanyard key detaches and it turns off. It’s similar to a safety key in modern treadmills, except you need to wear the end of the lanyard while the jet ski is in motion.
8. Review Controls Before Starting
Depending on where you get or rent your jet ski, a professional will walk you through the controls before it’s on the water or after you get on.
You should know the forward, brake and neutral controls, as well as where the throttle is. This is also required learning for safety courses, so you’ll already have these memorized if you take a class before you rent a jet ski.
Be careful when you test the throttle. Like the gas pedals in different cars, each throttle will react slightly differently when used. Press or turn it gently to determine how sensitive it is before speeding up to get out on the water.
9. Learn About No-Wake Zones
Depending on where you use your jet ski, you may come across no-wake zones. They’re the waterfront version of speedbumps in a school zone. The idea is for any watercraft to slow down in those areas so the wake created by high speeds doesn’t erode nearby seawalls or natural formations.
It’s standard for all PWCs to slow to at least 5-10 mph when approaching and boating in a no-wake zone. Jet skis might be able to go a little faster than 10 mph since they’re smaller, but anyone breaking the no-wake zone rules could receive fines or lose their license.
Check the regulations for the body of water you plan to ski so you know what the speed limits are before you’re out there.
10. Imagine Falling Off
Sometimes beginners fall off their jet skis. It happens, and you’ll be okay if you’re wearing your lifejacket. Still, it’s a scary thought that might cause some people to freeze while they’re on their jet ski, so imagine falling off before you ever get on.
You’ll end up floating in the water until you swim over to where your jet ski waits, thanks to the removal of your safety lanyard. If you’re really worried about falling off, get a jet ski with a step board so it’s easy to get back on while you’re in the water.
11. Avoid Drinking While Skiing
It should go without saying that no one should drink alcohol before they hop on their jet ski. You want to have full control over your senses and react quickly to things like incoming waves or changes in your speed. There’s also the influence of the sun and heat, which will make you sweat and dehydrate faster.
Avoid drinking alcohol for at least 12 hours before getting on your jet ski, so your body has plenty of time to burn off the alcohol and rehydrate. After you finish with your jet ski for the day, drink plenty of water so you nourish your body before heading out for a celebratory meal.
12. Dock Your Jet Ski Carefully
People who use their jet ski on a lake or river will need to dock it when they finish for the day. The trailer should be lowered into the water so the back of the truck is nearly at the water’s edge. When you approach it on your jet ski, tease the throttle so you inch forward slowly, stopping when needed.
You’ll have to align your PWC with the edges of the trailer and not approach it too quickly, or you’ll overshoot and hit the truck. Ask a friend to stand on the shore and help guide you onto the trailer if you need help.
Start With the Basics
You might aspire to the level of professional jet skiers, but you won’t advance just by reading instructions or taking a single safety course. It takes time and effort.
Start with the basics when you head out for your first jet skiing experience. Cruise over a lake on a windless day. Put on your lifejacket, and always wear the end of the safety lanyard.
Make sure you know if your state requires a license to operate a jet ski as well, which is something many people forget to do. Once you commit these tips to memory and complete a lesson from a professional, you can practice your jet skiing skills until you’re ready to head out onto the waves.