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European Jet Ski Championship in Crikvenica
Jet Ski in Japan
Jet Ski in Akashi, Hyōgo, Japan

Jet Ski is the brand name of personal watercraft (PWC) manufactured by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. The name, however, has become a genericized trademark for any type of personal watercraft. Jet Ski (or JetSki, often shortened to "Ski"[1]) can also refer to versions of PWCs with pivoting handlepoles known as "stand-ups." Sit Down PWCs are also called "Jet Skis." Also, "WaveRunners" and "Jet Skis" are essentially the same thing; but "WaveRunner" is the trademark name for Yamaha's line of water craft. Whereas "Jet Ski" is the trademark for Kawasaki's line.[2]



"Jet Ski" became foremost the colloquial term for stand-up personal watercraft, because in 1973 Kawasaki was responsible for a limited production of stand-up models as designed by the recognized inventor of Jet Skis, Clayton Jacobson II.[3] In 1976, Kawasaki began mass production of the JS400-A. JS400s came with 400 cc two-stroke engines and hulls based upon the previous limited release models. It became the harbinger of the success Jet Skis would see in the Jetters market up through the 1990s. In 1986 Kawasaki broadened the world of Jet Skis by introducing a two person model with lean-in "sport" style handling and a 650 cc engine, dubbed the X-2. Then in 1989, they introduced their first two passenger "sit-down" model, the Tandem Sport/Dual-Jetters (TS/DJ) with a step-through seating area.

The four-stroke engines have come on since 2003; with the help of superchargers and the like the engines can produce up to 260 horsepower (190 kW) as seen in the newly released Kawasaki Ultra 250Xand Sea-doo RXP, RXT and RXP-X.

As the riding of personal watercraft evolved through the 1990s, other companies like Yamaha, Bombardier and Polaris joined the sport to make it into a worldwide sport in both racing and freestyle.


Freestyle riding of personal watercraft is done stand up PWC, with the exception of a few other PWCs including the Yamaha Waveblaster Sea-Doo 3d, RXP and XP. Modern freestyle utilizes primarily the Yamaha Superjet, as it is lighter and smaller than the Kawasaki SX-R. Jetski freestyle consists of many different tricks, including big air, hood tricks and technical tricks which, just like in BMX and Motocross, are judged on the quality and skill shown in routines.

Freestyle pete performing backflip one hand one foot

Professional Freestyle competition started in the late 1970's with the formation of the USJSBA, (later changed to the IJSBA). In the early 1980's, 2-time World Freestyle Champion, Larry "The Ripper" Rippenkroeger and 1983 World Freestyle Champion, "Flyin" Brian Bendix, became industry recognized names. During the mid 1980's, freestyle competition was dominated by 5-time consecutive World Freestyle Champion, David "The Flash" Gordon, who had a style characterized by finesse, poise, and technique. Gordon held the title of World Freestyle Champion from 1984 through 1988. The 1990's ushered in a new era of freestyle competition. New factory hull designs, (wider & longer hull configurations), customized hull/tray modifications, and more powerful engines, were contributing factors that influenced a shift from "finesse" or "gymnastics" style maneuvers to aerial based stunts. Names like Scott "Hollywood" Watkins and Jeff Kantz, helped pave the way into the new "style" of freestyle competition. Stunts like the aerial "back flip" and the "barrel roll", which Jeff Kantz invented and Rick Roy perfected, became staples in freestyle competition events. The mid 1990's also saw a fundamental shift from multi-discipline competitors like Brian Bendix, David Gordon, and Larry Rippenkroeger, who competed in Freestyle as well as Slalom and Closed Course events, to single-discipline competitors like Marc Sickerling, Rick Roy, and Eric Malone, who specialized in Freestyle exclusively. Eric Malone went on to become an 8-time freestyle champion, while perfecting the back flip on flat water. Quincy Anderson is a renowned freestyle Jetter artist that specializes in lake painting using a customized system of levers and dyes.

The sport of Jet Ski freestyle has also seen many other additions over the years, including female freestylers and freestyle on runabout PWCs.


This is the most extreme form of jetskiing, where the rider surfs waves like a surfer would and uses the waves as a jump ramp for aerial manoeuvres. Pioneered in the early days by Scott "Hollywood" Watkins, the re-entry would become the move that defines freeriding. The re-entry is how a rider jumps off a breaking wave and lands back on the wave, continuing to ride the wave.

Watkins, who worked for Yamaha Motors, was the most influential freerider, and his style is often citeed as the most pure expression of the sport. Simply put, he rode it the way it was supposed to be ridden. Later riders such as Pierre Maixent, Peter Mcloughlin, Nick Barton, Pete M Randy Laine, Chris MacCluggage, Jeff Jacobs, Rick Roy, Clay Cullen, Joe Kenney, Daniel Hounslow, Jay Aslamatzis, Mark Tearle and Fuzzy Boyd further innovated freeriding as more riders began emulating the moves done by surfers and fmx riders.

Closed Course Racing

Closed Course racing is a form of jet skiing with up to 20 riders competing to finish first. The course is defined by red buoys (indicating left turns), yellow buoys (for right turns), a start line and a finish line. The start line is typically right at the shore with three poles and a rubber cord. Usually an event has two motos making up the day's event.

The IJSBA, (formerly the USJSBA), closed course racing began in the mid 1970s with Doug Silverstein, Brian Bendix, Larry Rippenkroeger, who primarily rode modified 440cc and 550cc stand-up models. Doug Silverstein was the first competitor in the history of sanctioned professional Jet Ski competition to capture the USJSBA national points championship. Larry Rippenkroeger was the first competitor to capture the IJSBA national points championship twice, (1982 and 1984). David Gordon, (originally from Massachusetts), began racing professionally in 1977. David Gordon became a competitive force in 1983. David Gordon was the first competitor to capture the IJSBA national points championship two years in a row, (1985 and 1986). In 1987, Jeff Jacobs, (of El Cajon, CA), captured the national points championship by narrowly defeating David Gordon at the 1987 World Jet Ski Finals. Jacobs went on to dominate the professional ski stand-up class from 1987 through 2001.

During 1980's, professional Jet Ski competition had a grassroots following of race fans and enthusiasts throughout the United States. During these early days of Jet Ski racing, the national points tour was a fifteen (15), event tour that started on Memorial Day weekend and ran through Labor Day weekend, culminating with the popular five event Florida World Cup series, promoted by the Lauber brothers.

From 1992 to 1996 the sport reached its peak of popularity. Some of the most successful riders of that period included Jeff Jacobs, Chris Fischetti, Minoru Kanamori, Victor Sheldon, Tom Bonacci, Chris MacClugage, Frank Romero, Bill Pointer, Dustin Farthing, Mike Yellich and Derek Punchard. Many strong factory teams equipped their athletes with the biggest and baddest equipment available, and Budweiser sponsored the IJSBA Bud Jet Sports Tour with stops in ten US cities (Dallas, Chicago, Virginia Beach, etc.)

Today the APBA holds several events throughout the race season that allows riders to qualify for the IJSBA World Finals (held in Lake Havasu, AZ) which is considered to be the Super Bowl of Jet Skiing. Although the US athletes are still dominate the sport, racers come from all over the world, including France, Japan, Kuwait, Thailand, Argentina and Brazil. For 2009, the reigning world champion is Craig Warner, sponsored by Kawasaki, Monster Energy, Bomber Eyewear and Hydro-Turf.

There are four classes: beginner, novice, expert and pro. Usually the racers are divided into two engine sizes: one at 700cc max and another up to 1200cc max. There is a men's race and a women's race.

Popular culture

Kawasaki has lent their Jet Ski name and designs to the video game Wave Race 64, developed and published by Nintendo. The Rastafarian Pirates in Mercenaries 2: World in Flames use Jet skis as cargo raiding vehicle.

See also


  1. ^ Step Into Liquid, Lions Gate Studios, ASIN B0001FGBUC, April 20, 2004
  2. ^ JBeez Watercraft - Frequently Asked Questions
  3. ^ Action, Johnny; Adams, Tania; Packer, Matt (2006). Origin of Everyday Things. Sterling Publishing. pp. 124. ISBN 1402743025. 

External links

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