Compare Specs Discover '24 PWCs Browse Reviews
Do Jet Skis Have Reverse? [Explained]

Do Jet Skis Have Reverse? [Explained]

Except for some of the cheapest sit-down and stand-up models, almost all modern jet skis come with reverse as standard. In the past, jet skis featured a simple manual reverse, but since the 2010s electronically controlled reverse and brake systems like iBR and RiDE have become more prevalent.

If you want to find out more about these systems and how they work, you’ve come to the right place.

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

Do Jet Skis Have Reverse?

Surprisingly, the earliest jet skis were manufactured without a reverse system.

The first jet ski with a manual reverse was the Yamaha Marine Jet III, introduced in 1990 as the world’s first 3-passenger jet ski. This simple reverse system was carried over to other Yamaha models, and the competition also implemented the design.

Throughout the following decades, this manual reverse became a standard feature on sit-down jet skis across the entire industry.

Unlike their vintage predecessors, today’s jet skis typically come with an advanced electronically-controlled reverse system, which acts as the brakes as well. This system can also help during slow-speed maneuvers and provides a “neutral.”The first combined jet ski brake and reverse system was the iBR, introduced by Sea-Doo in late 2008.

Yamaha followed its Canadian competitor in 2015 with its RiDE system, while Kawasaki revealed its KSRD brake and reverse in 2021.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about these systems in detail!

How Does Reverse Work on Jet Ski?

Just like their aged predecessors, some of today’s budget jet skis are still being manufactured with a manual reverse system.

How does a manual reverse system work on a jet ski?

The key feature of a jet ski’s reverse system is the reverse bucket, which is often referred to as the reverse gate. As the name suggests, this foldable gate is intended to reverse the direction of the thrust coming from the jet pump. Eventually, this reversed water flow will move the jet ski backward.

You can see how the reverse bucket works in this video:

When a jet ski’s engine is running, its pump generates thrust, which causes water to flow from the intake toward the jet nozzle. The flow of water speeds up and squirts out from the nozzle, moving the jet ski forward.

When it comes to reversing the jet ski, folding down the reverse bucket redirects this water flow under the hull. Eventually, this forward-moving water will cause the entire machine to move backward.

How does the reverse work on a jet ski?On jet skis with a manual reverse, the bucket is operated by a hand lever that’s typically mounted on the side of the handlebar column or on top of the deck.

The reverse bucket and this lever are connected with a simple cable.

How does an electric-controlled jet ski reverse work?

Modern electric-controlled jet ski reverse systems work on the same principle as their predecessors. They feature a reverse bucket that redirects water flowing from the pump. The main difference between manual and electric reverse systems is that the latter uses an electric motor to move the bucket. Also, modern brake and reverse systems offer precise handling at slow speeds and can be used as a brake system as well.

As a rule of thumb, the brake and reverse lever on modern Sea-Doo and Yamaha jet skis is mounted on the left handlebar. In contrast, the KSRD reverse system of Kawasaki jet skis is controlled by a thumb lever located on the right handlebar.

Depressing this lever causes the reverse gate to fold down, routing the water flow toward the front. This reversed thrust is used to slow down the machine when it’s in motion, and for reversing it when it’s still.

Another key advantage of these innovative systems is that they allow you to switch between forward and reverse without manual shifting.

You may be wondering, why doesn’t a jet ski reverse the direction of its impeller to move it backward?

Since a jet ski lacks a transmission, its driveshaft is directly connected to the engine. Therefore, unlike boat propellers, the rotational direction of a jet ski’s impeller can’t be reversed.

This is the reason why jet skis have these tricky reverse systems!

Takeaways – FAQs About Jet Ski Reverse

As a takeaway, we’ve answered the most common questions about jet ski reverse systems.

Do all Jet Skis Have Reverse?

Contrary to popular belief, not all jet skis have a reverse system.

As a rule of thumb, stand-up and the cheapest sit-down jet skis still lack this feature, but the majority of production jet skis come with a reverse system as standard.

When did Jet Skis Get Reverse?

The first jet ski with a manual (mechanical) reverse was the 1990 WaveRunner III 650 (Marine Jet 650TL).

Almost two decades later, in late 2018 BRP introduced the industry-first brake and reverse system (iBR) on their Sea-Doos.

Yamaha came out with its advanced RiDE brake and reverse in 2014, which was available on the 2015 models.

Better late than never, Kawasaki also released its KSDR braking system in late 2021 on its flagship Ultra 310 jet skis.

How do You Use a Reverse on a Jet Ski?

If the jet ski features a mechanical reverse you can activate it with a hand lever, mounted on the top deck or the handlebar column. On modern skis, the electric reverse can be controlled with a handlebar lever.

The general rule is that on Sea-Doos and WaveRunners the brake and reverse are controlled by the left handlebar lever, while on high-end Kawasaki Ultra 310 models you can use a thumb lever on the right handlebar.

Pulling this lever lowers the reverse bucket down, which redirects the thrust and reverses the machine.

Can You Use Reverse as a Brake on a Jet Ski?

When it comes to jet skis, the general rule is that electric brake and reverse systems can be used for both braking and reversing. These systems include Yamaha’s RiDE, Sea-Doo’s iBR, and Kawasaki’s KSDR systems.

But if a jet ski features a manual reverse system, it can’t be used for braking! Since these systems are designed for reversing the jet ski, using them as a brake can easily result in severe damage, especially at higher speeds.

Best practice is to activate a manual lever on a jet ski when it is completely stopped or moving very slowly (e.g. near the dock).

Can You Add Reverse to a Jet Ski?

Surprisingly, you can fairly easily add manual reverse to a jet ski. Certain models like the Sea-Doo Spark and Yamaha EX are marketed in a “budget” package without brake and reverse systems.

These models can be equipped with a mechanical reverse, even by yourself if you are mechanically inclined. Jet ski manual reverse kits come with the reverse bucket and all the cables and mounting hardware you need.

Here’s a great tutorial on how to install a reverse kit on a jet ski:

Which Kawasaki Jet Skis Have Reverse?

You can find reverse on some Kawasaki jet ski models:

  • Kawasaki SX-R 1500: No reverse
  • Kawasaki STX 160 series: Mechanical reverse
  • Kawasaki Ultra LX: Mechanical reverse
  • Kawasaki Ultra 310 series: KSDR brake and reverse system

Which Sea-Doos Have Reverse?

You can find reverse on some Sea-Doo models:

  • Sea-Doo Sparks without iBR: No reverse
  • Other Sea-Doo models: iBR brake and reverse system

Which Yamaha WaveRunners have reverse?

You can find reverse on some WaveRunner models:

  • Yamaha SuperJet: No reverse
  • Yamaha VX-C: No reverse
  • Base Yamaha EX: No reverse
  • Yamaha EX Sport: Mechanical reverse
  • Other Yamaha WaveRunners: RiDE brake and reverse system

Does the Yamaha VX-C have reverse?

Interestingly, the Yamaha VX-C is offered without a reverse system. It’s a special model marketed for rental companies looking for the simplest jet skis available.

The fewer features a jet ski has, the less chance that something will break!

What is mechanical reverse on a WaveRunner?

The mechanical reverse on a WaveRunner means that the reverse bucket is controlled by a manual lever. Unlike the more advanced RiDE, the mechanical WaveRunner reverse system can’t be used as a brake at higher speeds and it does not help during slow-speed maneuvers either.

Does the Yamaha EX have reverse?

The popular Yamaha EX is available with and without reverse depending on the model. The base EX comes without reverse, while the EX Sport is designed with a mechanical reverse system. More advanced models including the EX Deluxe and Limited come with the RiDE brake and reverse system as standard.

Can you add reverse to a Yamaha WaveRunner?

Yes, you can install a reverse kit on certain WaveRunner models like the base EX.

Here’s a great tutorial on how to install a reverse system on a WaveRunner:

Can you add reverse to a Sea-Doo?

Just like for the Yamaha EX a manual reverse kit is also available for the Sea-Doo Spark family. This Sea-Doo mechanical reverse kit can be a great addition to any non-reverse Sea-Doo Spark.

What year did Sea-Doo introduce iBR?

Sea-Doo introduced its innovative iBR system in late 2008 and offered it on 2009 models.