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The Best Jet Skis for Lakes Compared [Video]

The Best Jet Skis for Lakes Compared [Video]

As a rule of thumb, the larger the lake the bigger the jet ski you need to deal with the waves and wakes created by boat traffic. Our recommendations for the best “lake jet skis” are as follows:

·         Small lakes and ponds: Rec-Lite, Stand-Up, Vintage 2-Stroke (if not prohibited)

·         Medium-size lakes: Rec-Lite, Recreation, Touring, Stand-Up

·         Large lakes: Touring, Performance, Stand-Up

(You can discover and compare the different jet ski categories here.)

However, many other factors must also be taken into account from the restrictions to the purpose of use. If you want to find out more about these, you’ve come to the right place.

We at JetDrift have compiled all you need to know under one roof!

Size of the Lake

Small Lakes and Ponds

If you are looking for a jet ski to ride on a small lake or pond, best practice is to choose a Stand-Up ski or a Rec-Lite runabout like a Yamaha EX or the playful Sea-Doo Spark.  

If there are no environmental restrictions on the lake, you can even consider a vintage 2-stroke model.

These machines are affordable, nimble, and can be used on relatively small water surfaces like a 2–3-acre pond.

Unlike offshore jet skis, these have tiny hulls and moderate engine power, which falls into the ballpark of 60-110 hp.

You can expect the top speed of these machines to be anywhere from 42 to 54 mph.

Believe it or not, these tiny jet skis are so small that they can even be ridden in a large swimming pool (by professional freestyle riders, of course):

The key is to avoid riding full-size supercharged jet skis on small lakes since these beasts need a very large riding area.

Medium-Size Lakes

On medium-sized lakes, your options expand to mid-range skis like the Yamaha VX, Sea-Goo GTI, and the Kawasaki STX-160 series.

Classed as Recreation models, these watercrafts are significantly larger than Rec-Lites but still house non-supercharged engines.

If the lake offers a sufficient riding area and there is also no speed limit, you may consider a full-sized Touring/Luxury jet ski.

But if you are a beginner it’s especially recommended that you buy a non-supercharged model.

Large Lakes

Unlike their smaller siblings, large lakes may offer completely different riding conditions.

They can be windy, which converts into medium or even high chop conditions, not to mention heavy boat traffic, which generates a lot of wakes. Note that the wake of a wakeboard boat with ballast tanks can be as high as 3-4 feet!

To handle this rough environment, it’s wise to buy a full-sized jet ski.

There are many great skis in the Touring/Luxury class like the Yamaha FX, the Sea-Doo GTX, and the Kawasaki Ultra 310 series.

If you are looking for an aggressive attitude and comfort, you should take a close look at the Performance category. This breed includes the most powerful supercharged jet skis available.

They are built on the largest 3-seater platforms which ensures plenty of room, comfort, and stability.

You never know when you will have to reboard in the middle of the lake, so steer clear of nimble Rec-Lite models!

If you can find a jet ski rental shop at your lake, it might be a good idea to rent one for a test ride.

Purpose of Use

Besides pleasure riding, today’s boat-like jet skis can be used for many other purposes like touring, wakeboarding, PWC fishing, and even to reach camping spots.

These activities typically require a full-sized, 3-seater runabout with some special features.

If you are looking for a ski for a specific purpose, you may find these reviews useful:

Best Jet Skis for Fishing

Best Jet Skis for Wakeboarding

Best Jet Skis for Touring

Best Family Jet Skis

Best Jet Skis for Tricks


To the greatest regret of many riders, jet skis face many restrictions.

Believe it or not, there are lakes where jet skiing is completely prohibited, while others only ban 2-stroke models.

Therefore, if you are looking for a jet ski for lake riding, best practice is to invest in a 4-stroke jet ski, which is permitted on more lakes.

Speed restrictions may also apply on certain lakes, which limits the top speed of jet skis and boats. The exact speed limit may vary from one lake to the next, but it will likely fall into the ballpark of 40-55 mph.

Let’s face it, obeying speed limits of 30-40 mph with a supercharged jet ski is hard to impossible.

Consequently, if there is a speed limit on your lake, you should choose a less powerful ski with a smaller, naturally-aspirated 60-130hp engine.

Note that even if there’s no speed limit, you still have to pay attention to others on the water like swimmers, anchored boats, and fishing vessels. There is already enough conflict between jet skis and fishermen!

Besides moderating your speed, always keep a fair distance from others.

If you get too close, you risk your pump sucking up fishing lines and wrap them around the drive shaft and impeller.

Other Things to Consider

If you want to purchase a jet ski for lake riding, there are some other key factors you should consider, including:

Water Depth

The propulsion system of jet skis requires at least 3 feet of water depth for a safe operation.

If you run a ski in shallower water, the pump can easily suck up debris from the bottom while stumps can pose an even greater danger.

Therefore, make sure your riding area has sufficient water depth and isn’t littered with underwater obstacles.

Vegetation and Debris

Another drawback of lake riding is the presence of weeds, which can clog the jet ski’s pump.

If you want to ride on a weedy lake, you can’t go wrong with an iDF-equipped Sea-Doo.

As the name suggests, Sea-Doo’s Intelligent Debris Free system is designed to remove debris from the pump by pressing a button.

While it’s a great feature to flush out weeds, it can’t remove ropes, fishing lines, and other more serious blockages.

If the lake’s surface is typically covered with debris it’s also unwise to ride a jet ski on it.  Smaller sticks and leaves can clog the pump while larger branches can damage the hull.


If you want to store your jet ski near the lake you have many different opportunities.

The most popular of them are arguably floating “ride-on” docks. But jet ski lifts and the more affordable shore roller ramps are also commonly used by lake house owners.

The most important thing is to never store the jet ski in the water for the long run. Underwater fittings and pump components are prone to leaking, which may cause the jet ski to sink.

Conclusion – Which are The Best Jet Skis for Lakes?

Which are the best jet skis for lakes? – This is a common question of many buyers, and the answer is that it depends.

For smaller lakes and ponds, our recommendations would be Stand-Ups and Rec-Lite runabouts, which offer plenty of fun even in a tiny riding area.

If there is more space, mid-sized “Recreation” jet skis can come into play. They can carry three people and have more stability and capacities.

For large busy lakes with significant boat traffic, best practice is to choose a full-sized jet ski.

These large runabouts feature heavy deep-V hulls that can even handle rough water conditions. In return, they need a much larger space to ride in.

If there’s no speed limit on your lake and you are a performance-minded rider, you should consider the fastest jet skis with supercharged engines.

Otherwise, you should go with a non-supercharged model, which still offers enjoyable rides along with much lower maintenance costs and higher durability.

When it comes to the lake, don’t forget to make sure of the following:

·         There are no restrictions that apply to jet skis

·         There’s no horsepower or speed limit

·         Water depth is at least 3 feet deep in your riding area

·         There are no underwater stumps and a significant amount of weed or floating debris

Also, don’t forget to check local laws for additional information!