Riding a PWC is one of the most exhilarating and fun activities you can engage in, zipping along at 60 mph, pulling tight turns and throwing sheets of water. The activity comes with a fair amount of responsibility, too. To keep you safe while you’re breaking the fun barrier, we’ve compiled a list of tips for you to consider.
Wear your life jacket. If you think it detracts from your cool factor, tough. And you’re wrong. If the professional riders — the baddest-ass riders there are — don’t have a problem wearing a vest, you shouldn’t either. It wouldn’t hurt to don protective footwear, too.
Attach the kill switch to you. Clip it, loop it, hook it. However you attach it, make sure the kill switch’s lanyard is attached to your vest, your wrist, your trunks or something else on your person. It’s for your own safety and that of riders around you.
Know your PWC. Do you squeeze the throttle, or do you push it with your thumb? How quickly does it take off? (Note: extremely.) How long does it take to stop? Starting slow and working your way up is the best way to discover the answers to such questions. Trust us: Don’t underestimate the takeoff power of modern PWCs. Certain Sea-Doo and Yamaha models equipped with Intelligent Brake and Reverse and RiDE, respectively, can stop much faster than similar PWCs, but even that isn’t the quick stopping people are used to in automobiles, so maintain awareness.
Keep your distance. This item piggybacks on the previous one, at least in terms of stopping. As we’ve written before, when you get out there, determine in your mind what you think a safe following distance is, and then add to it. As your speed increases, so should your following distance. PWCs don’t have brake lights, because … well … because they don’t have brakes (iBR and RiDE notwithstanding), so you won’t get a visual warning when the person in front of you lets off the throttle.
Disengage the throttle, disengage the steering. One thing that gets PWC riders in trouble is the loss of steering when the throttle is disengaged. It’s counterintuitive to think you should keep the throttle engaged when an “avoidance” situation arises, but you need to maintain steering to avoid a collision with another vessel or something in the water. Practice lessening the throttle without disengaging it, with no one around, especially if you’re in a busy waterway. While this tidbit is no longer a given — Yamaha and Sea-Doo have systems that maintain steering during stopping — it is still the rule rather than the exception.
Protect your eyes. Whether you wear goggles or sunglasses doesn’t matter, as long as you wear them. Your peepers are bound to get teary at 60-plus mph, which impedes your vision, and you really don’t want to get a bug in the eye at that speed. Polarized lenses are best for seeing what’s in the water. Based on experience, you might not want to wear your favorite pair — unless they float.
Practice riding standing up. “But there’s a nice, comfy seat,” you say. True. And that seat is great for cruising flat water and for getting through interminably long no-wake zones, but if you really want to enjoy your time at top speed and on choppy water, you’re going to want to stand. Your legs absorb most of the shock, so choppy water feels less like ski-slope moguls and more like highway safety strips. If your machine is equipped with a “learners” key, it might be wise to use it as you get familiar with standing.