How to Master the Art of Jet Skiing: A Beginner’s Guide

How to Master the Art of Jet Skiing: A Beginner’s Guide

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Video how to drive a jet ski

With the wind in your hair and the rush of adrenaline as you punch the throttle, nothing screams “summer’s here” like a wild jet ski ride. My first encounter with a jet ski was an unforgettable experience that opened my eyes to a world of water adventures.

Jet skis offer the freedom to explore any lake or bay without the hassle of a lengthy preparation checklist or the burden of hefty boat equipment. But if you’re a newbie to this exhilarating sport or have a few lingering questions, fear not! This guide will provide you with essential tips and tricks on how to master the art of jet skiing.

Unveiling the Magic of Jet Skis

While you’ve probably seen them zipping around, let’s take a minute to understand what makes these marvelous machines tick. In the world of watercraft, jet skis are the motorcycles, paralleling cars in the world of recreational boats. These watercraft go by many names, such as “personal watercraft” or “PWC,” but you may also hear them referred to as Jet Ski, Wave Runner, or Sea-Doo—all trademarked brand names associated with various manufacturers.

Stand-Ups vs. Sit Downs: The Jet Ski Styles

Before diving into the art of jet skiing, let’s explore the two main styles: stand-ups and sit-downs. Stand-up jet skis, resembling water scooters, require a remarkable sense of balance to ride. As a first-timer, I highly recommend starting with a sit-down jet ski instead. Sit-downs offer greater control, comfort, and the possibility to stay dry while maneuvering through the water.

Preparing for Your Jet Ski Ride

Jet Ski

To ensure a safe and enjoyable riding experience, it’s crucial to acquaint yourself with the specific jet ski you’ll be riding and prioritize safety. Familiarize yourself with the controls, emergency shut-off switch, and any additional features your watercraft may have. Conduct a thorough inspection of the jet ski’s maintenance and make sure everything is in working order before setting out on your adventure.

Essential Gear: What to Bring for Your First Jet Ski Ride

Jet skis fall under the Class A vessel category set by the U.S. Coast Guard, meaning that all the rules and regulations for boats under 16 feet apply. Before embarking on your maiden jet ski voyage, make sure you have the necessary safety equipment for both certification compliance and personal safety. Here’s a checklist to follow:

  • Wear Coast Guard-approved life jackets/PFDs at all times.
  • Dress appropriately with a wetsuit, suitable footwear, and eye protection.
  • Check if your state requires a license for operating a PWC and consider taking a jet ski safety course.
  • Ensure proper vessel registration and display the required decals.
  • Have a Coast Guard-approved fire extinguisher onboard.
  • Carry a functioning backfire flame arrestor, ventilation system, and signaling device like a whistle or air horn. Consider bringing a GPS device or map as well.
  • Keep dock lines, anchor lines, boat fenders, and a sand anchor spike in the storage compartment for added convenience.
  • Check your fuel gauge to avoid getting stranded and carry a mini telescoping paddle as a safety measure.

Remember to always wear the kill switch cord around your wrist when operating the jet ski, detaching it only when safely docking the watercraft to prevent unauthorized use or theft.

Mastering the Art of Jet Skiing

Driving a Jet Ski

Now comes the exciting part—learning how to drive a jet ski like a pro. Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you started:

  1. Find a comfortable sitting position on the jet ski and firmly place your hands on the handlebars and feet in the footrests.
  2. Attach the key, which is connected to a lanyard around your wrist, to the jet ski ignition switch.
  3. Gradually push the throttle to start moving.
  4. Cruise slowly at around 5 to 10 mph until you’re a safe distance away from the shoreline, getting accustomed to the throttle’s sensitivity.
  5. Once you’re away from potential hazards and familiar with the controls, gradually increase your speed within your comfort zone.
  6. To turn, lean toward the direction you want to go, and make sure your passengers do the same if you have any.
  7. Keep in mind that some jet skis require acceleration to turn, so maintain a balanced and centered load to avoid capsizing.

Always prioritize safety and defensive driving while enjoying the thrill of jet skiing. When crossing wakes or encountering large waves, maintain lateral stability by crossing at a 90° angle. Avoid speeding through waves and instead jump over them smoothly to prevent watercraft instability.

Falling Off? No Problem!

Falling off a jet ski is an inevitable part of the experience, but fear not—getting back on is a breeze. Simply follow these four steps:

  1. If your jet ski has capsized, turn it upwards in one direction.
  2. Swim to the back of the jet ski (stern) for re-boarding, avoiding the sides to prevent the watercraft from flipping over.
  3. Grab the handle(s) on the back of the seat and hoist yourself onto the boarding platform.
  4. Move to the seat and reattach the safety lanyard to continue your thrilling adventure.

Riding with Passengers: Extra Steps to Consider

It’s no surprise that family and friends may want to join the fun. If you plan to ride with passengers, here are some additional steps to follow:

  • Adhere to the maximum passenger limit specified by your jet ski’s capacity, ensuring you do not exceed the weight limit.
  • Position all passengers behind the driver.
  • Instruct your passengers on the basics of operating a jet ski, which can come in handy in case the driver becomes injured.
  • Maintain proper lookout and be mindful of blind spots while turning.

Embrace the Adventure!

Jet skiing is one of the greatest pastimes during the summer months. Mastering this thrilling sport takes practice, so don’t be discouraged if it takes a few rides to get the hang of it. With the tips and techniques shared in this guide, you’ll be fully prepared for your next jet ski adventure.

So, remember to stay safe, have fun, and get out there to ride the waves like a true jet ski pro!

Jet Ski Care

Featured Jet Ski Care Product:

Maintain your jet ski’s crisp and clean appearance with Better Boat’s premium boat soap. This 100% biodegradable soap is safe for the marine environment, ensuring both your watercraft and the fish will thank you. Get your bottle on Amazon.

Use Better Boat’s boat soap to quickly and effectively clean dirt, grease, grime, and algae off your jet ski’s hull and vinyl seat. Achieve residue-free cleaning by pairing it with microfiber sponges and a boat hose nozzle. You won’t be disappointed with the results!


Now that you possess the knowledge to become a jet ski aficionado, it’s time to hit the water! Embrace the exhilaration and seek unforgettable adventures on your jet ski. Remember, safety first, and always approach the water with respect. So, grab your gear, buckle up, and let the waves take you on a thrilling ride you won’t soon forget!

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