If you own a personal watercraft, by now you’ve likely realized that not every day is a bikini or board shorts occasion out on the water. Whether you are exclusively a recreational rider, or if you enjoy dabbling in a little bit of PWC racing, we’ve broken down some riding gear essentials.

FULL-PRO: a simple guide to race day gear

When racing, what’s most important is what’s required. A majority of the pwc-racing sanctioning bodies required a DOT/SNELL approved full-face helmet, a USCG-approved life vest, and – if you race stand ups – a back protector. While these items are required, there are still some additional pieces you might want to invest in.

Racing Wetsuit

A wetsuit is never required, but your legs will thank you later if you have one. A wetsuit is a protective layer between you and the bumps and bruises that come with racing. Most racers can’t even stand practicing without a wetsuit, wearing one gives them the comfort of knowing their knees are protected from the bumps of the handlebars and dash on their watercraft. A wetsuit is especially nice for cold water events to help keep riders warm.

Hydro Shoes

Shoes aren’t required, but any race event could expose a rider's feet to rocks or other sharp objects under the water – and a little extra grip while riding goes a long way. We would recommend the Works H20 Designs race boot. Our riders have raced with a lot of boots, and put in a lot of laps – the Works H20 Designs race boots have held up great over the years. When shopping for the perfect race boot, there are a few fundamental factors to keep in mind. Riders want a boot with plenty of arch support and a good base – feet take a lot of impact during the race, more-so than you would think. Also, a racer may want a boot with velcro, or doesn’t have shoe strings. The last thing that a racer wants is an untied shoe in the middle of a race.

Racing Gloves

Gloves are personal preference. Wearing gloves helps prevent blisters, and can give a rider additional grip on the handle bars while racing. Most moto and wetsuit companies produce gloves that will work for pwc racing – I typically use Fly Racing moto gloves.

Racing Goggles

Goggles are also personal preference. Once you ride with some however, you’ll never ride without them again. Goggles help shield rider's eyes from spray, and the sensation of water hitting your face – making it easier to keep your eyes open and on the hunt for the next pass. When the water gets rough, some riders recommend adding a little duct tape over the top of the straps to keep from losing them. As a safety precaution, some people also like to add keychain floats to their goggles, just in case of a water ejection – that way the goggles will float and can be picked up later.

Additional Gear

Other race day accessories that aren’t required but can be a game changer could be a back brace, knee braces or shin guards for added protection, an extra lanyard in case one breaks/gets lost mid-moto, and neck braces for folks racing runabouts.

RECREATIONAL RIDES

For rec riders, gear will mostly depend on what makes you feel the most comfortable. If it's going to be a long, leisurely cruise, you may wear something entirely different than when you are going to smash some buoys with your friends. My rec-ride/practice kit is a little goofy to look at, but it’s comfortable and quicker to get into than a full race kit.

WHAT’S REQUIRED:

When you’re out for a ride, don’t forget that a USCG-approved life jacket is still required. You’ll also want to make sure that you have a proper lanyard clipped to your vest, in case you go for an unintended swim.

Bring some Footwear

One thing you should never leave the dock without is a pair of race boots or sandals/shoes. Just in case you hop off for a swim at a beach, or maybe pull into a restaurant for a meal – then you don’t have to worry about stepping on anything unpleasant. Be aware though that it is much easier to lose a pair of sandals while riding than a pair of race boots.

Have Protective Eyewear/Goggles

You should also still grab a pair of goggles, it’s much easier to ride when you can see where you are going. A pair of floating sunglasses like Bomber Eyewear will suffice, but most people like the comfort of knowing our goggles are not going to fly off, and that they aren't going to lose an expensive pair of sunglasses.

Wear a Life Vest (or more)

It is important to always suit up in my required USCG-approved life vest. If it’s not 100 degrees, slipping into a wetsuit helps to keep the legs from getting beat up. If it’s a hot one, wearing some shorts and strapping up in some knee braces can help keep the knees from getting bruised. Just to be safe, it is important to wear a helmet when training vigorously or at high speeds – even though it’s not required, you never know what could happen. Wearing gloves in practice will also give you the same feel as you'd have during a race – this however is more of a habit than anything. As a standup rider, I dislike the tray rubbing against my bare ankles as my feet move, so a tall neoprene sock usually adds a little protection underneath my racing boots.

A gear kit is 100% up to the personal preference of a rider. It helps to try different things and even experiment with different brands. Things will fit differently or be more/less comfortable depending on your body and riding style.

Some people start Jet Skiing and racing in beat up shoes, a Walmart life vest and wetsuit, and some water skiing gloves. But over time, realizing how important having a proper kit can be on game day, and even in practice is important! Don’t settle – find what works best for you.

By Anna Glennon | 2018