Having owned a ski for less than a year, I had a lot to learn (and fast) about what it takes to really ride one of these machines, and taking the time to learn from some of the best has really paid off. Whether you prefer to ride at the lake or in the open ocean, here are some tips to help you get the most out of your performance watercraft.
Article by Amanda LeCheminant
1. Get to know your machine
Something that took me a while to realize - and which has made all the difference in the world once it finally clicked - is that you need to really know your ski before you can truly ride it. What does this mean? Well, for starters, know how your boat responds to your body. While some boats respond well to rider input, such as a relatively severe inside lean, others like my Yamaha VXR require less lean. Instead, using my body to create some outside pressure can help with keeping the back end hooked up to accelerate through a turn. Each boat is different, so I recommend taking some time to feel it out and determine what works best for you and your watercraft.
Next, think about your sponsons. If you’re using after-market sponsons, they’re usually adjustable and the positioning can make a major impact on your riding. For more severe handling - like you’re riding on rails - you will want to ride with them lowered. I would recommend this for flat-water and closed-course riding, as this positioning allows for quick, aggressive turning without deceleration or loss of control. If you’re riding in the ocean, however, I would raise the sponsons to a higher position to allow for a more forgiving ride. Riding in chop with lowered sponsons can take a great toll on your upper body, and if you’re small like me, you will be jerked around each time the stern of your boat comes off a wave. With raised sponsons, you are able to manipulate the ride to coast over the waves without tearing up your shoulders.
If you’re fortunate enough to have trim, use it to your advantage! Luckily, my 2016 VXR makes adjusting the trim as easy as pushing a button. Trimming down will help keep the bow low and in the water, allowing for quick acceleration from a dead start. If you’re riding on flat water, you may want to adjust the trim to raise the bow out of the water to help achieve a greater top-end speed. When you’re riding in rough conditions, I find that trimming up also works to help battle the waves.
2. Invest in the right parts
If you really want to enjoy your ski and improve your riding, I would recommend investing in a few basic performance parts right off the bat. Sponsons - which I already mentioned above - can make a huge impact on you riding, and if you’re going to be spending a decent amount of time in flat water, I would say after-market sponsons are a must. My sponsons were my first non-cosmetic investment and I have never looked back (except, of course, to adjust them depending on the conditions I am riding in.)
In addition to sponsons, I would say that a steering kit is well-worth your while, especially if your current handlebar situation is non-adjustable (as was the case with my VXR). Before purchasing my Riva Racing steering system, I found myself riding crouched over with my elbows in, and I never really felt like I was in full control of the ski. Now, with the after-market system installed, I feel strong and confident while riding, and am able to control the ski even in fastest and roughest conditions.
Although there are lots of parts that are worth purchasing to get the most out of your ride, two more items I would recommend purchasing sooner-than-later are an after-market intake grate and ride plate. While none of the parts I have mentioned are going to increase your speed any significant amount, these last two parts will greatly assist in creating what I would consider the ideal handling and stability set-up. After experimenting with various set-ups, I have determined that the more stable the ski is in the water, the more control you have over your watercraft and thus the more enjoyable your ride is.
Lastly, I would suggest looking into the various options for after-market seat covers. It may seem trivial, but although the stock seat cover that your watercraft comes with is pretty, it’s probably pretty slippery too. An after-market seat cover made of non-slip material can make a noticeable difference in helping you feel secure on your ski, whether sitting or standing – and let’s not forget that a custom seat cover can make you stand out from the crowd.
3. Wear the right gear
As a girl, I have always believed that less-is more in terms of swimwear. Well, ladies and gentlemen, sorry to break it to you, but riding your performance watercraft is neither the time nor the place for that itty bitty polka dot bikini. Jet skis are powerful machines and although you might be traveling on water, there is nothing soft about water when you take a spill. Always wear protective gear when riding. For me, that means wetsuit, PFD, gloves, goggles and shoes no matter what, and here’s my two cents on why I keep myself covered up.
The wetsuit. Nobody ever really wants to put one on, but if you’re going to be riding hard (especially in the ocean), you’ll thank me later. The wetsuit not only protects your body from the water pressure and abrasions that can happen, but it also protects your skin from that non-slip material on the after-market seat cover you just purchased. Trust me – I learned the hard way – when they say non-slip, they mean it, and riding bare-legged, even if you stand the entire time, will result in a nasty rash that will have you wishing you stuffed yourself into that wetsuit no matter what the temperature is outside. Although I prefer to wear a racer jane wetsuit (i.e. long pants, no sleeves), wetsuits come in all shapes, sizes and colors, so you can shop around for one that suits your needs.
When it comes to the personal flotation device (or PFD), not only is this required by the United States Coast Guard, but it provides the imperative protection you need in the event of a dismount. Although PFD’s come in as many styles and colors you can imagine, I highly recommend wearing a USCG approved PFD. Amongst the many USGC approved vests available, I prefer a side-entry vest because I find that in addition to its flotation benefits, it also provides chest protection from any unexpected blows that take place while riding.
The need for gloves, goggles and shoes is pretty self-explanatory. When traveling at speeds of 60+ mph, your ability to hold on and to see where you are going is pretty important. Gloves and shoes help you keep your grip on the handlebars and foot wells as you take on those big waves, and goggles serve the dual purpose of protecting your eyes from the sun as well as the splash.
Note: If you’re going to be doing any particularly aggressive riding, I suggest adding a helmet and back protector to your gear collection.
4. Hit the gym
Call me crazy, but the whole “no pain, no gain” concept applies here too. Yes, riding your super-fast pwc is a workout in and of itself; however, there is no replacement for some good old fashioned cardio and strength training when it comes to getting yourself in the best shape to ride. Think of it this way: The stronger you are, the more control you will have over the ski and the better suited you are to stay on when riding in rough conditions. Furthermore, the more stamina you have, the longer and harder you will be able to ride.
Although my training routine is no secret and I’m happy to share it with you, the details are more suited for another conversation or article. For now, just know that whatever you do at the gym, be sure to incorporate intense cardio and reasonably heavy weight training for the best results. Keeping your core strong is essential to being able to withstand the roughest and toughest conditions on the water and the bonus is that you’ll have some nice abs to show off when you take that wetsuit off to hang out at the sandbar.
5. Ride Like a pro
When all is said and done, the tips I’ve shared so far should have you well-prepared to feel confident and have fun out on the water. At the end of the day, riding your pwc should be comfortable and exciting. While everyone’s bodies and skis are different, there are some lessons to be learned by watching the body positioning of pro riders.
One thing you’ll notice from watching the pros is that they are constantly moving. And I don’t mean being moved around by the force of the ski, I mean intentionally moving and shifting their weight around to maintain control of the ski. In addition to shifting your weight, you’ll want get off the seat if you’re going to endure a rough ride. Your legs are stronger, and can help avoid back strain by absorbing the majority of the shock. I find that standing and leaning forward over the handlebars is the best way to keep the bow low when accelerating and can help you maintain speed and control, even in rough conditions.
The last riding tip is in regards to steering. Most watercraft respond best when you can plant the bow in anticipation of a turn. When approaching a turn, try letting off the throttle for a split-second to “plant” the bow, then get back on the throttle to power through. Don’t forget what you learned about your boat, and use your body positioning to gain an even further advantage.
By : Amanda LeCheminant | 2017