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“How to ride a jet ski?” – that’s the question asked by many beginners in the world of jet skiing. If you are a beginner and looking for the best guide with the top jet ski riding tips, you are at the right place!

Personal watercrafts became bigger and bigger, but are still the smallest water vessels, much like motorcycles or scooters for land vehicles. As a result, some do not really think that they would require any skills or practice to get going with a craft.

We can all agree, though, that safety is equally important while having fun as it is at any other time. Every vessel requires some level of practice, be it small or large. Although a PWC may be smaller and easier to drive than other larger vessels, it requires solid riding skills, and remains subject to boating rules.

If you are planning to purchase your first jet ski, don’t miss our first-time buyer’s guide to avoid the worst mistakes made by jet ski buyers.

Before you make your final decision, there are some other factors to consider:

Whether you have been riding jet skis for a while or you are totally new to the game, you must always keep your safety first. There are a few essential and important tips to keep in mind, in order to ensure that your riding is professional and safe.

We at JetDrift have collected 25 best jet ski riding tips and tricks. Let’s go through them!

Jet ski beginner tips – Be prepared

Follow the rules

Every state has its own set of watercraft riding rules and regulations. While there may be some similarities in the rules, each state’s rule and regulation is unique.

Likewise, owner manuals clearly apply certain restrictions to each model, from weight limits to passenger rates, and more. Be sure to learn every rule associated with your jet ski and your state, and to comply with these for your safety and those of others.

Take a Boater’s Safety Course

Although not all states require a jet ski license (boating safety course), it is very important that you take one.

These courses acquaint you with the rules and regulations guiding personal watercraft operation in your state. Apart from this, these courses help you learn unique operating features of different vessels.

Upon completion of an approved course, you may even qualify for a discount on your jet ski insurance.

Check rental’ policies and FAQs

If you are yet to get your own jet ski, or you don’t have one around yet, you may consider renting one.

Before you do that, be sure to check the rental policy and FAQs of the rental you are planning to book. Talk to their staff members and confirm any hidden costs or other information not disclosed on their website.

Use this as an opportunity to judge the professionalism and friendliness of the staff as well.

Always wear life jackets

It is highly important to have USCG approved life jackets around when engaging in any water-based activity. Apart from being a safety requirement, it is also a legal requirement.

If you are riding a jet ski, you need to have it on before hitting the water. Should you fall off your craft, it will keep you afloat, even if you don’t know how to swim. Everyone on your watercraft should have one on.

Use a safety lanyard at all times

A safety lanyard (or shut-off clip) is a cord that connects you to the jet ski. The cord is designed to force your jet ski’s engine to shut down in the event that you lose balance and fall off the craft.

This will ensure that it stops right next to you. Before you start riding, make sure the safety lanyard is attached to you. You could attach it securely to your life jacket (preferably) or to your wrist.

Get the right watercraft accessories

Having a good jet ski for your ride is awesome, but do you want more than just that.

A few extra accessories can make your jet ski ride even safer and better. Some of these – such as a safety lanyard, coast guard-approved life jackets and fire extinguishers, among others – are also legally required. Be sure to check with your state for a list of legally required accessories.

Other safety accessories include a GPS, first aid kit, sunscreen, anchor, skier-down flag, etc. You might also want to bring along a number of accessories that improve your jet ski ride.

These could be a re-boarding step, cooler, sound system, a good clothing gear, an action camera, sunglasses, and more.

How to ride a jet ski – safety guide

Pay attention to your environment and to others

Riding is fun, but it could also be very dangerous for you and for others.

To avoid any dangers, it is important that you watch out closely for any happenings around you. When in crowded areas, watch out for people in the water, and other vessels around you.

Be particularly wary of larger vessels and fast jet skis that may have problems stopping or turning. Also, pay special attention to your jet ski and the noise it makes. Avoid high-speed rides when in front of waterfront properties and when close to the shoreline.

Start slow; take it slow

Do not try to take off at top speed. Start your engine in the water and warm it up before you take off. With your hands on the handle of the watercraft for takeoff, slowly increase your speed.

Now, maintain a low-level speed of about 10 mph, gradually increasing it as you get a better hang of the fun and adventure.

Watch out for “no wake zones”

No wake zones are areas that require an operational speed of no more than (typically) 6 mph, and are usually found around beaches and marinas.

This slow speed is also required whenever you are within 150 feet of swimmers, shorelines, boat launches, docked boats and moors, and other watercrafts. Likewise, operating a watercraft within 150 feet of a bathing beach is illegal.

Be sure that U.S.C.G. keep close watch around these areas, and could hit you with bad tickets when you run afoul of the rules.

Learn to swim

Yes, you can ride a watercraft quite well, but can you swim? Even though you can ride a jet ski without swimming skills, learning to swim is highly recommended. Find a local organization that offers training for different groups of people, and learn to swim with them.

Stay sober

Operating a jet ski in an intoxicated state is both dangerous and highly illegal. Studies reveal that the wind and the sun worsen a state of intoxication.

This means that it is much more possible to experience or cause an accident when you are under the influence. Make sure you do not take any drugs or alcohol before jumping your PWC for a ride.

Avoid riding at night

The design of the personal watercraft, as well as its limited lighting system combine to ensure that night driving is dangerous. It is also prohibited.

To avoid dealing with poor eyesight and low visibility problems, head back to your base before sunset. Make sure to check with state laws to acquaint yourself with your state’s time restrictions.

Watch the weather

Check local weather conditions before your ride. You must keep in mind that shoreline weather is often tricky and isolated.

This makes it really difficult to get accurate forecasts. When riding, if you begin to notice rough winds, dark clouds, or rapidly dropping temperatures, play it safe and head back to the marina.

How to ride a jet ski: Wave jumping is dangerous

How to ride a jet ski: Wave jumping is dangerous

Jet ski riding tips

Starting checklist

We know that you just want to hit the waters and enjoy the ride. Before you get started, here are a few items to pay attention to:

  • Take your time to read through the owner’s manual and learn all about the machine
  • Master the engine controls, steering, brakes – and how to use them, etc.
  • Check the engine lights and gauges to ensure everything is in order
  • For newbie riders, stay away from the performance keys or “sport” mode until you feel more confident
  • Make sure your gas tank is full, perhaps with reserve stowed away
  • Check to ensure every required accessory is available
  • Put on the life jacket and safety lanyard
  • Do not turn on the watercraft in less than waist deep waters


Jet skis have a fairly different steering control system from other vehicles.

Unlike most vehicles, a jet ski needs to maintain speed when taking a turn. It means the most of the jet ski models require acceleration to turn which requires practice.

If you take your hands off the throttle while turning, the craft loses steering power and floats straight ahead. This can be really dangerous when there is an oncoming vessel.

Be sure to watch your back before making any sharp turns, too!

Cruise control

Most craft models offer cruise control options.

This is ideal for calm waters, or when the water is only a little choppy. The best way to enjoy this feature is by sitting with your feet placed forward on the footrest, and your back bent slightly.

This way you can absorb the shock from any waves better.

Stand-up riding technique

One way to gain full control over your jet ski and ride smoothly through the shock of larger waves is to use the stand-up riding technique.

This technique works by placing your feet just slightly behind the handlebars of the craft, and behind your shoulders. Keep your knees bent slightly as well.

This semi-standing position gives you more control, allowing you better ride through rough waters. It also allows you to jump when you want to and helps you lean while turning.

Riding with passengers

Most jet ski models can accommodate more than just the driver of the craft.

If you have one such craft, you would have to learn to deal with the added weight that comes from carrying an extra person(s). This is important as turning and maneuvering may now be more difficult with extra weight.

When carrying others, make sure they are firmly seated before take-off. Also, instruct them to avoid sudden movements so the jet ski is not thrown off course. Furthermore, ask them to lean with you during turns, to make the maneuver easier for you.

Do not carry more passengers than the manual permits. Even then, you should keep the overall weight within the permitted weight limits. Remember that your gear also counts in your total weight, so factor that in when deciding how many passengers to carry at a time.

Stopping your craft

Although some modern PWCs come fitted with brakes and reverse systems, this has not always been the case.

With older jet skis, you’d have to let the craft decelerate by itself after taking your hands off the throttle. Be sure to leave plenty of distance between you and your preferred stopping point so you do not ram into any human or vessel.

If your model has a brake system, learn to use it at lower speeds before moving on to higher speed levels.

Dealing with a fall

There’s always a chance that you’d fall off, even as a pro. What do you do when that happens? Follow these four steps:

  • Step 1: If the jet ski rolls over after you fall off, immediately roll it back to normal by following the rollover instructions provided at the rear. Do not leave the watercraft upside down and only roll it over in the prescribed manner.
  • Step 2: Do not re-board from the side to avoid getting flipped over by the craft. Use the stern for re-boarding. For easier re-boarding, always drive with a re-boarding step onboard. (if it’s not built in)
  • Step 3: Using the handle on the back of the seat, hoist yourself onto the rear platform. This will require some upper body strength, especially without a step. You need to remember that the craft is on water. This means that it will always keep moving from side to side, with the nose potentially lifting up as your weight bears down the rear end. This is worse with smaller crafts. But you want to remain as steady as possible.
  • Step 4: Once on board, move forward to the seat and check to fix the safety lanyard back on.

Keep in mind that getting back on your jet ski may be more daunting than you’d expect. But it can be done with a little care and effort. It is just like trying to get out of a pool using only the top rung of the ladder – it is possible, only harder.


Just like stopping your craft, you need to take care when docking it as well. You do not want to run into the dock or any other vessel or human.

Again, coming to a stop before docking will depend on your craft and the kind of dock available. Be sure to reduce your speed from a safe distance before approaching the dock.

If you find that your forward momentum is still too much for the distance between you and the dock, make a hard 360 degree turn without engaging the throttle. This will force the momentum down and allow you to approach the dock or landing area at a safe speed.

Exit the watercraft when the water is shallow enough for you. Exert a firm grip on the craft while doing that to prevent it from running ashore. Shut off the engine just before you make contact with the dock. Grab hold of the dock to completely bring it to a halt, and position it as you should.

Remember, you can no longer steer the craft when you turn off the engine.

How to ride a jet ski II – The fun factor

Enjoying tow sports

One way to really enhance the fun and excitement of a watercraft is to engage in tow sports.

There are many different types of towable toys, including wakeboards, tubes, kneeboards, water skis, etc. Of course, there are rules guiding the towing of these materials. So, you must check with your state board to be sure you are on the right side of the law.

Before you start, take the time to inspect the equipment, and make sure that everyone has their life jacket on. Decide on hand signals to use while towing, as verbal communication may be difficult from that distance, while in deep waters.

Typically, an extended arm (right or left) indicates a turn, a thumbs up or down indicates speed controls, and a raised palm signals stop. Once you fall, let go of the tow rope and keep your head above water.

Keep in mind that not every jet ski is suitable for towing. Most tow-approved watercrafts must be able to carry three persons – the driver, observer and skier/tuber at once.

Watch and learn from the right online videos

One of the best ways to learn proper operational practices is through online videos.

Watch online videos that show you how to launch, ride, and other things like trailer storage, etc. Videos may also provide great reviews for latest jet ski models, helping you discover the newest and latest innovations.

However, you do not want to go practicing everything you see in stunt videos. Things like jumping over docks, or carrying out tricks while facing backwards are deemed highly dangerous.

Wave jumping

Few things ramp up the thrill of riding a jet ski like the experience of jumping through waves. (But you need to know that it can be really dangerous.) However, you do not want to go right into this as a beginner rider; take your time and plan your first jump.

Do not practice in crowded areas with humans or vessels. To reduce the impact of your jumps when settling, rise a few inches above your seat while jumping and gently lower yourself back down as the craft settles.

Note that a wave is not always as small as it may seem from a distance. Watch out for the waves, and be prepared for them – you really don’t want to be caught by surprise. Do not have them hit you from the side.

You want to cross over the smaller waves, or ride through the bigger ones at 90° angle to preserve your stability.

Jet ski fishing

Who said fishing is only for boats? Fishing on a jet ski has some amazing perks.

You can access difficult spots better and you get to navigate through narrow channels pretty easily. Watercrafts are also more stable than canoes and kayaks. You can equip them with fairly useful tools like a fishing rack, fishfinder, GPS, canvas canopies, extra fuel tanks, coolers, and live bait tanks. What’s more, there are unique PWCs on the marked specifically designed for fishing.

Create a fun video

Having an action camera like the GoPro is a beautiful way to create lasting memories from your time on the water.

Document the fun and review it later on with friends and family. Fix the camera to the watercraft or your body using the provided mounts. This camera is easy to use, and its videos can be edited through your phone, only revealing your most appealing moments.

Note that some rentals do not allow you to create videos using their crafts, so it’s better to check with them first.

This was our short compilation of the 25 best jet ski riding tips. We hope you found it useful!

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