Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a boat to engage in the thrills of wakeboarding. Tales of people using their jet skis to wakeboard have become increasingly common, and based on their accounts, they have been having plenty of fun. So, can you really wakeboard behind a jet ski?
You can wakeboard behind a jet ski. It’s legal in most states, offers plenty of fun, and has some handy advantages over wakeboarding behind a boat. Wakeboarding behind a jet ski works best if the jet ski has enough power and weight to pull the rider along.
This article will look at the crucial steps you need to observe before wakeboarding using a jet ski. It’ll also explore the advantages and drawbacks of wakeboarding behind a jet ski.
How To Wakeboard Behind a Jet Ski
It’s possible to wakeboard behind a jet ski, but there are several things to consider before hitting the water. It isn’t just as simple as tying a rope behind a jet ski and tugging a gleeful rider along. Conversely, it isn’t as hard as you might expect.
Follow these steps to wakeboard behind a jet ski.
1. Check the Law
Wakeboarding behind a jet ski is legal. However, different states have different laws regulating the activity.
For example, some states require an observer present when pulling a rider, while others don’t need an observer present. Other laws that differ include mirror laws and restrictions on wakeboarding time.
You might land in trouble for failing to meet the requirements for wakeboarding behind a jet ski in your state.
For example, the District of Columbia requires an observer and mirrors on the jet ski to increase a rider’s safety during wakeboarding.
Failure to meet the above requirements might attract a criminal conviction from the government.
Double-check the laws to make sure that you’ve not missed any detail. In some states, wakeboarding rules apply across all vessels, but some states have specific regulations for boats and different ones for jet skis.
2. Find the Right Jet Ski
First, your jet ski has to adhere to wakeboarding laws. For instance, if the law requires that the jet ski have mirrors, a jet ski without mirrors is illegal.
While it may not be illegal, I don’t recommend using stand-up or 2-stroke jet skis for safety reasons.
Once you ascertain that you have a legal jet ski, it’s time to scrutinize its power and weight.
That said, the optimum range is between 130 to 250 horsepower. A professional or heavy wakeboarder will need a more powerful jet ski to ensure their safety and the best possible wakeboarding performance.
However, amateur wakeboarders won’t mind lower power as they probably can’t execute advanced wakeboarding maneuvers. Therefore, for a fun afternoon of amateur wakeboarding, a 130 horsepower jet ski will do.
Pick the biggest jet ski you can find to negate the weight problem that affects jet skis that function as wakeboard pullers. An experienced wakeboarder might pull a light jet ski out of its planned direction while performing a maneuver.
Therefore, aim for three-seater jet skis. They’re heavy, and as an added advantage, they have enough space to accommodate the driver, observer, and rider.
Some jet skis come modified for wakeboarding. Jet skis modified for tow sports usually have accessories such as a wakeboard rack and a ski pole.
They also have a tow sport mode that allows the driver to maintain a constant speed while pulling a wakeboarder.
Modified jet skis for wakeboarding cost more, but they’re worth every extra penny.
3. Prepare for Wakeboarding
Once you’ve double-checked the laws and acquired the right jet ski, it’s time to prepare for the fun.
Note: Nobody participating in wakeboarding (driver, observer, and rider) should be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. It’s not only illegal, it’s also a severe impediment to safety.
First, ensure that you have all the necessary equipment for wakeboarding. Some things, like a life jacket and tow rope, are required by law, while other extras like helmets make the wakeboarding experience safer.
If you are an amateur, use a shorter rope to make it easier to maintain balance. A tow rope between 30-50 feet (9.1-15.2 meters) will work well.
Ensure that the wakeboard bindings are tightly strapped on to avoid accidents in the water.
An instructor is ideal, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t wakeboard without one.
Start by making sure that you know which foot you’re comfortable with being at the front. If it’s your first time wakeboarding, practice getting up on the wakeboard before you hit the open waters.
Remember that the jet ski’s velocity will pull you out of the water. Practice relaxing your hands, and keep in mind that you will probably topple over if you stand too soon.
Additionally, ensure that you have a focused jet ski driver. The driver must maintain a constant speed while towing a rider.
It’s also essential that your driver takes off at a low speed and accelerates slowly. If the driver takes off too fast, the chances are the speed will yank the tow rope handle from the rider, which can cause an accident.
4. Hit the Water
If you’re at an unfamiliar location, it’s safer to familiarize yourself with it before you start wakeboarding. It’ll help you determine the best spots to wakeboard safely.
While in the crouched position, grab the tow rope handle and, with your hands relaxed, give your driver the signal that you’re ready to go. Remember that the jet ski’s velocity will pull you up and resist the temptation to get up too soon.
Hold the handle at hip level and keep your eyes forward. Your knees should be slightly bent with your toes and heels steering the wakeboard.
If it’s your first rodeo, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll fall. Heck, even professional wakeboarders fall into the water sometimes.
After you fall, let go of the tow handle and signal the driver to come back to get you. If you need a moment to relax, get on the jet ski for several minutes (hence the need for a 3-seater jet ski).
The observer/spotter should relay signals from the rider to the driver, including when to slow down or increase speed.
The skier-down flag is an essential accessory as it notifies other vessels to be careful as there’s a rider in the water.
The above steps will help ensure you have a ton of fun while safely wakeboarding behind a jet ski. Before you hit the water, make sure that doing so is legal.
Additionally, ensure you have the right accessories and that you observe all the relevant safety procedures. Do all of this, and you’re sure to have a wakeboarding day to remember!
Advantages and Drawbacks of Wakeboarding Behind a Jet Ski
Now that you know that you can wakeboard behind a jet ski, you might be wondering whether doing so is a good idea or not. Wakeboarding behind a jet ski has numerous benefits and drawbacks.
Advantages of Wakeboarding Behind a Jet Ski
There are numerous advantages to wakeboarding behind a jet ski. Let’s look at some of them.
It’s Cheap and Convenient
It’s way cheaper to use a jet ski for wakeboarding than to use a wake boat. Jet skis range anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000. Additional costs such as insurance and maintenance are also relatively low.
Wake boats, on the other hand, rarely cost below $85,000. You might have to shell out more than $175,000 to get your hands on a premium machine.
Therefore, a jet ski is your best option if you simply want to have fun with amateur wakeboarding.
Jet skis are also easier to store and maintain compared to boats. However, it can wear due to natural elements, especially if you’ve used it in salty water.
Before storing your jet ski, you’ll need to wash it, drain excess water from the engine, and disconnect the battery.
It’s More Fun Due to Greater Maneuverability
Jet skis weigh less compared to boats, which can weigh over 1000 pounds (453.6 kg). A jet ski’s lightness makes it fast and easily maneuverable.
They can change direction on a dime, which makes wakeboarding more fun.
Some might argue that you don’t need excessive speed while wakeboarding. However, you need a fast jet ski to create enough wake for advanced maneuvers.
A jet ski’s superior maneuverability and speed also allow for faster retrieval of a fallen rider.
It’s Safer Than Using a Boat
Life-threatening wakeboarding accidents are rare, but using a boat for wakeboarding is significantly riskier than using a jet ski.
The reason being that exposed boat propellers might injure a wakeboarder who falls under the water when the engines are running. Jet skis don’t have any such safety issues.
A jet ski’s engine powers the water pump that runs the water jet, moving the machine forward. Therefore, it has no exposed moving parts that can harm a rider.
The ski’s superior maneuverability also allows for swift action if an accident happens.
Modified Jet Skis Are Good For Professional Use
Given the increasing popularity of wakeboarding behind jet skis, manufacturers have upped their game when manufacturing jet skis for tow sports. Such jet skis cost more, but they provide a better experience for professionals.
These skis come with a host of extras, including ski pylons and wakeboard racks that facilitate the skiing experience. They also have advanced throttle and braking systems that offer the driver greater control over the machine.
Drawbacks of Wakeboarding Behind a Jet Ski
It’s not all rosy, however, and there are several drawbacks to wakeboarding behind jet skis.
Jet Skis Can Be Too Light
A jet ski’s lightness allows it to be fast and maneuverable, but that can be a problem for experienced wakeboarders.
Some of the stunts pulled by wakeboarders require strong support, which a light jet ski can fail to provide. Therefore, it can be dangerous for an experienced wakeboarder to perform an advanced maneuver.
Furthermore, jet skis don’t work well in heavy traffic. They’re poor at smoothing out water, leaving the rider vulnerable to unstable water.
Jet Skis Have Limited Space
A jet ski is a small machine, which can prove to be disadvantageous for groups.
Using a jet ski limits the people that can cheer you on as you wakeboard. The only person watching you is the observer, and their work is to relay information to the driver.
Therefore, boats work best for large groups.
Underpowered Jet Skis Can’t Tow a Wakeboarder
Underpowered jet skis can prove to be useless for wakeboarding. Most jet skis will lift you on the water, but underpowered ones won’t produce enough wake for advanced maneuvers.
Amateur wakeboarders are rarely affected by this, but a professional wakeboarder is unlikely to appreciate the smaller wake.
The solution is to get a jet ski with more horsepower, which means digging deeper into your pocket. That said, the additional cost is relatively low, so you shouldn’t need to worry too much about it.
Jet Skis Have Low Connection Points
The low connection points on jet skis limit the stunts a wakeboarder can perform. Instead of wakeboard towers present on boats, jet skis have two hooks to facilitate two sports.
They work well for sports like tubing, but they’re too low for wakeboarding. Due to the low connection points, you have to align the tow handle to your hip, which is far too low.
It severely limits a wakeboarder’s jumping ability. Again, it’s not an issue that will matter much to an amateur wakeboarder.
To overcome this problem, modified jet skis come with towing pylons that allow for higher rope connection.
You can also install a towing pylon on the jet ski’s rear. Towing pylons are about 17 inches (43.2 cm) long, but they offer a noticeable difference.
You can wakeboard behind a jet ski and have plenty of fun. You only need to observe the law and safety procedures to have a great day of fun.
However, a professional wakeboarder might suffer due to the weak wake and the tow rope’s mounting.