What is a Jet Ski (with Pictures!)


Before I took a lot of trips to the lake, I did not know a thing about jet skis. Over time I became super interested, and here is what I’ve learned!

A jet ski is a small watercraft propelled by water taken into the engine and forcefully expelled to move the vehicle forward. A jet ski skims across the water and is ridden like a motorcycle.

There are many types of jetskis so if you still have more questions, continue reading!

Where did Jet Skis Come From?

Jet skis used to be called water scooters when they were being invented in the mid-1950s. Motorcycle builders in Europe were trying to expand their market and came up with this idea. The original motor that operated a jet ski was called an outboard motor.

It was not until 1973 when Australian Clayton Jacobson brought his latest internal pump-jet model (hence the name Jet Ski) to Kawasaki. The internal pump model excluded the bulky motor hanging off the back. They called his model the Jet Ski and it was awarded a loyal audience title as a way to ski on the water without a boat.

A fun fact about the jet ski name is that it is actually a brand name. Just how people call Jell-O by the Jell-O brand name, people call Jet Skis by the brand name.

As they became more popular, people began to create newer models that let people sit down while riding and made space for more than one person ride at a time. This created the social aspect of jet skis.

Today there are three main brands of Jet Skis: Sea-Doo, Yamaha, and Kawasaki. Most people buy jet skis for recreational use. People use Jet Skis by themselves, or to tow water skiers and/or wakeboards behind them. Today, jet skis are one of the most used watercraft by families.

Basic Jet Ski Operation

Once you have a jet ski in front of you take all necessary precautions.

Before you even start the Jet Ski make sure you:

1. Put on you life jacket (it is the law)

2. Wear appropriate clothing such as a wet suit, waterproof shoes, and eye protection gear

3. Have a boating license that is valid

4.Have the title of the Jet Ski on board and any other documents needed

5. Have an approved fire extinguisher, a signaling device (whistle or horn), GPS, and extra fuel.

Once you are safe and ready to go, follow the steps below.

How to Drive a Jet Ski

  • Attach the lanyard that the key is on to your wrist tightly and turn the ignition switch
  • Slowly put pressure on the throttle
  • Head away from the shoreline at a slow smooth speed of 5 to 10 MPH
  • Once a safe distance from other boats, increase your speed at a gradual pace comfortably
  • When turning, accelerate slowly and lean into the direction you are turning
  • Once you feel comfortable with your speed, jump some wakes and have a blast!

Jet Skis for First-Timers

Here are 6 common brands and models of jet skis that are perfect for first timers who are ready to dive right in!

Kawasaki Ultra 310X

This jet ski is known for having a low RPM (revolutions per minute) and lots of ecological power options. This jet ski can get up to high speeds of around 100 mph, and will feel steady while you do so.

Yamaha Waverunner FX Cruiser SVHO

The Yamaha Waverunner is a well-known family-friendly cruiser that can fit up to 3 people. There is cruise control on this vehicle which can help your family focus more on having fun.

Sea-Doo RXP-X 260

Great for inexperienced riders due to more control of the power output. Splash guard included that keeps your jet ski looking sharp.

Kawasaki STX-15F

They have mastered the improvements on this baby and it has 160 horsepower and a four-stroke, four-cylinder engine.

Yamaha Waverunner SuperJet

If you want to stand-up during your ride this is for you. It has ergonomic and very comfortable handlebars.

Sea-Doo Spark

This Spark is affordable and light and great for personal use. You can do a lot of tricks but cannot get above 50 mph.

People have different hobbies that they like to do with jet skis and if your family likes to tow a tube, wakeboard, or water ski behind you, you will be looking for a completely different jet ski than the family who wants one for single person use.

Jet Ski Pros and Cons

You may be wondering if this watercraft is for you or not. There are a few things I would take into consideration before purchasing a jet ski.

  • Do you have a large family or a small family?

Those who have smaller families usually enjoy jet skis more because they can fit all of their family on their jet ski in one to two rounds rather than four or more. Boats are great for larger families because they can spend time together the whole time.

  • Do you have younger children or older children?

Young children should not ride on a jet ski because the fast speeds and turns can easily blow them off. Older children have the strength to hold on and will have more fun than terror on a jet ski.

  • Do you live in a location where you have access to a lake or ocean close by?

Chances are you will not travel to the lake or ocean if you live more than an hour or two away. Before making the decision to buy a jet ski I would think about how often you could realistically travel to the lake or ocean. If you do not see yourself making it out to the lake often, I would think of investing in something you will use more with your family.

  • How will you pay for it?

The average cost of a jet ski is around $10,000. Are you at a place financially where you can afford to pay this much money on top of your bills?

When deciding to purchase a jet ski it is important to remember it is not something everyone enjoys. You have to be a bit of an adrenaline junkie to truly love jet skiing at super speed.

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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