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If you want to feel the rush of adrenaline from accelerating from zero to 60 mph in under five seconds without risking your safety on the asphalt, you have two options: purchase a ticket and blast off on the Space X, or climb onto a high-octane jet ski. 

And since you’re reading this article, you are likely someone that seriously wants to pursue their dream of riding a jet ski. That, and you’ve probably Googled “How to Ride a Jet Ski,” and wound up with us. No matter how you got here, though, you’ve come to the right place. We at Sea the City are happy to have you. Our team has always had a passion for introducing beginners to the thrilling world of navigating the NYC waters by water bike. 

In the spirit of it all, we’ve put together this simple beginner’s guide that will help transform you from a newbie to a seasoned wake jumper in no time! 

How to Ride a Jet Ski

Since you’re new to the sport, starting out with these 10 super helpful tips before throttling up will help. Here are the basics of how to ride a jet ski:

1. Know your Boat-Ed: In New York, you must pass a boating safety course before driving personal watercraft (PWC), including jet skis. 2. Climb on and find a sitting position that is comfortable for you. 3. Place your hands on the bars and plant your feet in the footrests.4. Before turning on your water bike, you must have a lanyard (or something similar) around your wrist that is attached to the key in the ignition. This setup is known as the kill switch cord. In a nutshell, if you fall off, it kills the engine.  5. Turn on the jet ski ignition switch.6. Slowly push the throttle in. Cruise around at about 5 -10 mph offshore until you’re comfortable with the sensitivity of the throttle.  7. After you’ve cruised to a safe distance from the shore…past obstacles and heavy boat traffic, you can accelerate and increase speed. However, stay at a speed you are comfortable with.8. Steadily maintain this slow and steady speed. Lean your water bike in toward the direction of any turns you make. 9. Be mindful that jet skis need acceleration to turn most of the time. To avoid capsizing yours, keep the load balanced and centered.10. Many beginners want to stand up on the ski, but resist the temptation until after you’ve become an intermediate or master rider. You could lose control of the PWC or fall otherwise.

Before we get into the next two tips about riding your water bike for the first time, let’s answer a couple of frequently asked questions we get about jet skiing.

Will I get wet?

Yes! Even if you do not fall in, you’ll likely get a good soaking in one way or another. That’s all part of the fun!

What Should I Wear on a Jet Ski?

Usually, a bathing suit and a coast-guard approved life vest or PFD are enough, but if the water or weather is on the colder side you may want to wear a wetsuit or drysuit. 

Are Jet Skis Dangerous?

Any activity Involves risk. Injuries do occur. However, if you listen to your guides and proceed with caution your risk of injury is greatly diminished. That’s why you have to pay attention to our first-time jet ski rider tips in this article.

What to Bring On Your PWC Outing:

Bring along the following for your first jet ski ride and any after:

  • Enough gasoline: If you don’t check your fuel gauge, you can get stranded!
  • A whistle, horn or other signaling device 
  • A GPS device or map in case you get lost
  • All the required safety equipment for the PWC’s Class A certification 
  • A Coast Guard-approved PFD or life jacket (it’s the law)  
  • The right water specific clothing and gear. Gloves, especially, will save your hands from painful blisters and help you grip the throttle and lines
  • Certification from your boating safety course, or whatever certification or license your state requires for operating a PWC
  • Proper documentation, including vessel registration with all the displayed decals
  • A fire extinguisher (Coast Guard approved). Also, familiarize yourself with handling it since they have their own safety requirements
  • A functional backfire flame arrestor & ventilation system
Other Tips for Beginning Jet Ski Riders

Before embarking on your adventure, here are some tips and advice for riding your PWC: 

  • Safety First – Know the safety rules and regulations that govern the waters. For instance, a PWC is considered a Class A vessel by the Coast Guard. Because of that, familiarize yourself with rules and regulations that apply to boats under 16 feet. Also, growing overconfident when you’re learning is a common mistake. 
  • Keep it Straight! – First time jet skiers often have difficulty keeping the jet ski straight. The good news is this is easy to correct. Riders often stare at the handlebars or the water just off the bow (front) of the ski. Instead, lift your head up and look off in the distance. 

This will allow you to drive straight and enjoy your trip. If you continue to struggle, simply pick a stationary target on land or water (buoy) and steer directly at it.

  • Remember, You Can’t Turn Away from Danger Without Throttle – The “jet” in jet ski refers to the water jet that shoots out the back and makes the ski go forward. That jet moves side to side to steer the machine. There is no rudder – so when you slow down or stop giving the machine thrust all together your ability to steer is diminished or you lose it completely. 

So, if an emergency arises and you need to avoid a collision don’t take your finger off the throttle. Doing that will make it impossible to steer away from danger. Rather, keep your speed up and steer away from the threat.

  • Splash Down…How to Re-Board Your jet ski – Sometimes people fall off their jet ski. This is typically no big deal and can even be a part of the thrill. However, there is a tried and true method to getting back on. You always reboard a ski from the stern (back). 

Simply reach up to the handle behind the seat and pull yourself out of the water onto the back deck of the ski. If you are riding tandem, only one person should board at a time. Attempting to reboard from the side will cause the ski to flip. 

Don’t rush. Take it slow. If you’re out of shape and have several failed attempts to reboard you can get very tired, very quickly. Relax in the water, think about how you’re going to get back on board and then slowly climb back aboard.

  • Relax! It’ll Hurt Less! – Many first time riders complain that their hands get tired or they feel slight soreness in their shoulders. This occurs because new riders often hold on for dear life. Instead, lean forward slightly and relax your grip. 

Keep your elbows slightly bent. This will allow you to ride without fatigue. Don’t lean too far forward and always be careful not to hit your chin or nose on the handlebar.

  • Hold Tightly…But Not Too Tight! – We’ve talked about driving, but there is a trick to being a good and comfortable passenger as well. Holding the drivers waist or the back of their life jacket is a good method for staying on. However, don’t hold on so tight that you make it difficult for your partner to drive the ski. 

As with driving, relax. Keep your body loose, not stiff. This will lower fatigue and increase your enjoyment. Also, when the driver leans into a turn, passengers should too.

  • The Best Way to Jump Wakes –  Jumping wakes is an amazing experience, but for beginners it can be somewhat intimidating. To maintain your jet ski’s lateral stability, remember to always cross them and large waves at a 90° angle. Also, jump waves instead of pushing through them with high speed.
  • Stick with It – Riding jet skis is a blast, but doing it safely and correctly takes time and practice. Follow this guide, and the next time you climb aboard yours, you should be fully prepared!