Riding a jet ski is a thrilling experience in its own right. It is exciting to glide along the surface of the water at such high speeds, even if all you are doing is gliding. But what if you want to add a little more thrill to your ride?
Performing tricks while on a jet ski looks impressive to anybody, and feels amazing. When you watch high-level pros do 4 or even 5 backflips in a row, it can be easy to think that you will never be able to get to that level. But, everybody starts somewhere.
These are some simple tricks that you can get down, even if you have not been riding for years like the pros have been.
First Things Come First
Before you ever get onto a jet ski, there are a few things that you should know about them. It is always a good idea to take a boating class of some sort before getting onto the water. In some places, this is even required in order to obtain a boating license, which is like a driving license but for watercraft.
Safe operation of a jet ski is the most important thing and should be your priority anytime you get on the water. Classes will help you learn the basics of riding and how jet skis work.
Another subject to become familiar with is the laws in the area you will be riding. Different countries and states may have different laws when it comes to things like riding speeds and where exactly you are allowed to ride. Always look into them and make sure you follow them. They are in place for a reason.
The next thing to consider is what type of jet ski you will be riding. The tricks you are able to perform will partially depend upon whether you decide to use a stand-up or a sit-down model of jet ski. There are certain tricks that can be performed on either type, but some require one over the other.
Lastly and very importantly, you should learn what to do in the event of a wipeout. Just like when learning any sport, mistakes are bound to happen when performing tricks on a jet ski. The idea of being thrown off of the machine might seem scary, but there are proper techniques to mitigate the consequences of such an experience.
If the jet ski lands right side up, remounting is very simple. You just have to swim to the back of the vehicle and pull yourself up onto the back deck. There is no risk involved with this since all jet skis come equipped with safety lanyards.
These lanyards are attached to your body so that in the event you are thrown off, the jet ski will automatically shut off. It’s just like the safety stop lanyard on a treadmill.
If the jet ski lands upside down, it is important to flip it back over as soon as possible. The engine and storage compartments have watertight seals equipped, but if left upside down for too long they can begin to take on water and damage will be caused.
Flipping a jet ski is relatively simple, but you should practice the technique and make sure you have it down before you find yourself in a real situation in which you have to flip it.
Generally, what you will want to do is step onto the side of the jet ski, lay your body over top of it to reach the other side, and while holding onto the opposite side of the deck, simultaneously push down with your legs and pull towards you with your upper body.
Be sure you don’t get caught underneath it!
This technique can be more difficult to apply in deeper water where you are unable to touch the bottom, so be sure you know what you are doing. Also, most jet skis have a direction in which the manufacturer specifically recommends flipping it. Make sure you only go in that direction.
This video is a great demonstration of how to properly flip your jet ski:
Accelerating and Stopping
After you have become familiar with the jet ski itself, it is time to start building a foundation for tricks.
Accelerating and stopping may sound like the basics of all basics when it comes to jet skis, and that is because they are. It is crucial to master these principles, because all tricks have their base in accelerating and decelerating.
It may sound easy, but it definitely takes practice. Jet skis have very powerful engines, so learning how they feel takes some time. With some of the higher performing jet skis accelerating from 0 to 30 miles per hour in less than 2 seconds, it is easy to lose control.
Your first few hours of riding should be spent becoming comfortable with the powerful kicks accelerating suddenly causes. You need to maintain hand position, body posture, and overall balance throughout the quick changes in speed.
You also need to become familiar with throttle positions. After you have been riding for a while, you won’t need to look at the speedometer to know how fast you are riding. You will know about how fast you are going based on how engaged you have the throttle.
This is helpful because it means that you can focus more on your riding technique instead of constantly checking to make sure you are going the right speed.
When it comes to stopping, that usually just means letting go of the throttle. There are very few jet ski models that have an actual brake feature equipped. For the most part, when you want to slow down you either ease of the throttle or let it go completely.
It is just as important to practice this because suddenly losing speed comes with the same possibilities of losing balance.
Some tricks require slight decreases in speed before or while performing them, so be aware of how this feels and how to maintain control.
Riding While Standing
Riding while standing up seems simple as well, but just like accelerating and decelerating, it is important to master. If you opted to use a stand-up jet ski then congrats! You have been doing this since your first ride. But if you are using a sit-down model, it requires some practice.
Most tricks on a sit-down jet ski require you to be out of the seat, so this is a step that you definitely cannot skip.
Riding standing up is very different from sitting down. Whereas sitting requires mostly just your core and upper body in order to balance, when you stand up you now have to use your feet, ankles, knees, legs, core, and upper body to maintain stability. That’s a lot of muscles working at once.
To master riding while standing, you will need to go through all the same things that you did when learning to ride while seated. You will need to become familiar with how accelerating and decelerating feel. You will need to know how it feels to ride in both smooth and rough water conditions.
You will need to know where to best position your feet and how to bend your knees in response to different situations. You will need to know how to lean your body while turning.
Once you are comfortable riding at high speeds and turning while on your feet, you will be able to move on.
Carving can basically be described as making sharp turns. It is used in many sports like skiing and snowboarding. In these sports, carving is essential to help maintain control.
While riding a jet ski, carving is also important. It can help a rider avoid obstacles and can also be applied to some tricks.
Carving on a jet ski is much more than just quickly turning the handlebars in one direction or the other. Just doing that is a good way to get thrown off.
In order to carve, you should turn the handlebars in the direction you wish to go while leaning your whole body in that direction. Don’t lean so much that you fall off or tip the jet ski over, but just enough to naturally follow the curve of the jet ski. Leaning is probably the most important factor in ensuring you are not thrown off of the jet ski.
While you are in the turn, ease off of the throttle a bit. Don’t let it go completely, because if the jet thruster is not engaged you will not be pushed in the direction you are trying to go.
After turning the desired amount, ease the handlebars back into their neutral forward position and reengage the throttle.
When practicing carving, progress gradually. Don’t try to flip all the way around on your first attempt. There will be time for that later.
Find a large, open area to practice in. Make sure that you have enough space to go forward and perform your turns.
Also, it is ideal if there are not a lot of other people around. This will keep both you and others as safe as possible.
Going in circles usually means that you are getting nowhere, but on a jet ski, it can actually be quite helpful.
Many tricks require waves or wake to jump. Depending on where you ride, waves may not be naturally available. For those riding on lakes or rivers, making their own waves helps make up for that deficiency.
Riding in a circle is just continuously making one relatively wide turn. You probably will not need to turn as sharply as when carving, but it will depend on how big you want the circle to be.
To go in a circle, just turn your handlebars slightly and lean in that direction.
To practice circles, start wide. Don’t feel rushed to make the circle smaller. Just keep going in your circle until you are comfortable with how it feels. When you have a good feel for it, you can start turning more sharply after you have started. This is how you will be able to go back and use the wake you have created.
Donuts are a dizzying and fun trick to learn. Just like in cars, you won’t be going anywhere. You will just stay in place and rotate.
The technique for performing donuts is simple. The main thing to practice will be maintaining balance.
To start, have your handlebars turned all the way in either direction. You will need to lean very heavily in the same direction, and take most if not all of your weight off of the opposite foot.
Feet placement is crucial when performing this trick if you do not want the front of your jet ski dipping into the water. You will need to stand more towards the back or else the bow of the jet ski will be going under the surface. That makes performing the trick more difficult.
At best, if the jet ski starts dipping you will receive face full of water. At worst, you could fall off forwards, so be careful.
If you are on a sit-down model, when you start to get the hang of it you can bring your opposite leg over the seat to the side of the direction that you are turning. Putting all of your weight on one side will help you get a sharper donut with a smaller radius. But don’t try this until you have a good handle on the donut with your feet on both sides of the seat.
Driving Over Wake
The wake created by your jet ski or other boats is key to performing tricks in the air. Riding over the wake is different than riding on a smooth or slightly choppy surface. You have to know how it feels to go up and down a few feet. Before you try jumping, I recommend just driving over the wake.
If you are out with others and have more than one jet ski or boat, this is a simple task. Just have them drive one direction, and you ride perpendicular towards the wake they create. Remember not to pass to closely as collisions are very dangerous.
If you are by yourself, you can use your own wake that you learned how to create with circles. Just make a circle, and then cut back through towards the wake.
When riding over wake there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Lean back slightly in order to help keep the bow of the jet ski up above the surface of the water. You want to practice going over the wake, not through it.
Secondly, make sure your legs are firmly supporting your body but are loose and ready to adjust for the height differences. The last thing you want is stiff knees when trying to jump a wake.
Jumping the Wake
When you have a good feel for going over the wake, you can start trying to jump it.
To do this, you will want to ride towards the wake in the same way. Give it more juice though. You will need speed in order to get air. Lean back a little more aggressively so that the momentum takes the jet ski upward.
When landing, it is important that you are loose and responsive. If you are too stiff, the impact of landing can cause leg or even spinal injuries. Just make sure you bend your knees appropriately like you would when jumping down from anywhere.
This video demonstrates some simple jumps. The rider is in the ocean using natural waves, but the same principles apply:
A surface 180 takes carving to the next level. It is a relatively simple but fun trick.
To begin, maintain a medium speed. Have the handlebars turned slightly toward one direction. When you are ready, quickly turn the handlebars all the way in the opposite direction and fully engage the throttle at the same time.
When you make the direction change, make sure to put most of your weight on the side to which you are turning and towards the back.
This technique allows you to turn completely around on a dime.
Here is a video demonstrating the technique:
Keep it Slow and Steady
Remember, you will not be able to get all of these tricks and techniques down on your first try. Even the best jet skiers in the world had to put in the time and a lot of practice to get to the level where they are now.
If you do not feel comfortable attempting a certain trick, don’t do it! You set your own pace and know what you are ready for.
Something that may help you progress is seeing how each of the tricks tie into one another. Realizing that you have to be pretty solid on the carving before you can start doing 180s will help you stay focused on what you are working on and not skip any steps.
Most importantly, just remember to have fun and be safe! Learning tricks is cool, but if you get injured you won’t even be able to ride, much less move on to doing backflips. Take it slow and just enjoy yourself and be proud of what progress you can make.