Can You Jet Ski in the Winter? What Should You Wear? [Video]
Although it is possible to ride a jet ski in winter, there are many factors you have to consider before hitting the water. If you want to find out what to wear and how to ride a jet ski in the winter, you’ve come to the right place.
We at JetDrift have compiled all you need to know about winter jet ski riding all under one roof!
Can You Use Your Jet Ski in the Winter?
Let’s face it, jet skiing is not a typical winter sport.
Despite this fact, hardcore riders usually can’t wait until the next spring and take their skis out for a quick spin, sometimes in the coldest months of the year.
It’s awesome that you don’t have to deal with heavy boat traffic, so that you can expect a great riding environment. Also, you don’t have a long wait at the boat ramp watching “the show.”
However, as you will see, jet skiing in the winter carries some dangers and risks.
Although jet skis can be used through the winter months under certain circumstances, winter offers a completely different experience depending on your location. While many jet skis are used year-round in Florida, their Canadian counterparts are typically stored during the freezing winter months.
But contrary to popular belief, the air temperature is not the only factor that needs to be considered before a winter jet ski ride.
All the key factors you have to weigh are as follows:
- Air temperature
- Water temperature and conditions
- Other weather conditions: wind, rain, fog
- The type and features of your ski
- Storage conditions of your ski
Let’s drill into the details and talk about each in detail!
How Cold is Too Cold to Jet Ski?
As a rule of thumb, the jet skiing season typically lasts from spring until Labor Day.
Based on this, the weather is too cold for jet skiing for most riders once the early September cold wave has passed. On the other end of the spectrum, you can find hardcore riders who hit the water when the temperature is as low as 40-45°F. Although “too cold” means something different to everyone, general wisdom says it’s not recommended to ride a jet ski when the temperature is around or below 32°F or 0°C.
This is because if the temperature is around or below freezing, ice can build up in the intake of the cooling line. This build-up can restrict or even block the cooling water, which may end in overheating issues.
Ice can also accumulate on the front of the ski, creating a massive ice shell on its front, making the front storage unopenable.
Water Temperature and Conditions
In addition to the air temperature, water conditions are no less important. Regarding temperature, riding in cold water can be dangerous in many ways!
According to Boatingmag, the biggest risk of winter jet ski rides is falling into the water. Even if you have a high-quality wetsuit, such an accident can make you cold very quickly.
After being submerged in cold water, your internal body temperature significantly drops. If you are lucky, it returns to normal, but in the worst-case scenario, hypothermia can set in.
Due to this risk, riding a stand-up or a small nimble sit-down jet ski in cold weather is definitely not recommended.
If you have a larger sit-down ski, the chances are good that you won’t fall off of it – unless you are on rough waters! This is why you should only ride in calm weather.
On top of that, if you ride in really cold water, you also have to pay attention to ice flows! Bigger chunks can clog the intake or damage the hull of the jet ski.
Other Weather Conditions
Because of the risks mentioned above, if you want to ride your jet ski in winter, it’s recommended that you stick to calm and clear weather.
On rough waters, you always have to face much more water spray and flooded footwells. What’s more, there’s always a greater risk of falling into the water, not to mention strong winds that virtually blow through any type of clothing.
The fog and mist can also reduce the visibility to nearly zero, making jet ski rides very dangerous.
Consequently, keeping safety in mind, you should double-check the weather forecast upfront and keep your eyes on changing weather during your ride.
It’s also wise not to ride alone as you never know when you will need help.
The Features of Your Ski
Is cold water bad for a jet ski? – this is a typical question of many riders, and the answer is that it depends. Around or below freezing, ice can build up in the intake of the open-loop engine cooling systems, which can cause the engine to overheat. Thanks to their unique design, it wouldn’t be a problem on Sea-Doos as they utilize closed-loop cooling.
On the other hand, riders are also afraid that the external water could be “too cold,” which may lead to engine temperatures that are too low. Well, this concern is partly justified.
The cooling system of each modern 4-stroke jet ski is equipped with a thermostat intended to regulate the temperature of the cooling water.
Therefore, the system can maintain a healthy engine temperature regardless of the external water temperature. Interestingly, these skis typically run better in cold and dry weather than in a warm and moist environment.
In contrast, most older 2-stroke jet skis lack this thermostat, so cold external water may negatively impact their performance and engines (but not necessarily).
If you want to ride a 2-stroke jet ski in winter, here’s a simple trick to keep the engine warm:
To have some control over the cooling water, you can install a valve in the water bypass. Thanks to this simple valve, you can regulate the flow of cooling water, which allows you to adjust the engine temperature.
Just make sure that there is an adequate flow in the system to avoid overheating issues.
Also, make sure that the cooling systems of the ski works properly before you hit the water. Ice can build up in the system before your ride, blocking the cooling systems.
Even if you have a Sea-Doo, don’t forget that its exhaust system and intercooler are still cooled with external water!
Also, keep your eyes on the cooling temperature and “listen” to your ski. If you feel its controls starting freezing or you detect any malfunction, it’s time to head back to the dock.
Storage Conditions of Your Ski
Finally, don’t forget that jet skis have to be winterized after the season. If you want to take out your jet ski in the winter, winterization should virtually be done again after every ride to avoid damaging the ski.
Are you wondering how to use your jet ski all year round?
Your only option is probably by storing your ski in a heated garage in the winter months. In this case, you wouldn’t have to be afraid of the ice!
What Should You Wear on a Jet Ski in the Winter?
Without further ado, the best winter jet ski clothing is as follows:
- Wetsuit or drysuit with sweats
- Life jacket
- Neoprene jacket/spray jacket
- Boots/Shoes/Neoprene shocks
- Gloves with latex gloves underneath
- Hand warmers/guards
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about each in detail!
Wetsuit or Drysuit
When it comes to winter jet ski rides, a decent wetsuit or drysuit is barely the minimum. Each of them has its pros and cons, as we discussed in this post.
It’s a lesser-known fact that a thick wetsuit can be even warmer than a drysuit, especially on a windy day. However, wetsuits are harder to get in and out of.
The general rule is that the thicker the wetsuit, the more protection and less flexibility it provides.
But don’t forget that wetsuits aren’t designed to keep the body dry. Instead, it allows a thin coat of water between the body and the suit, which acts as a layer of thermal insulation.
If you choose a drysuit, make sure to wear underwear underneath to keep your body warm. The biggest drawback of drysuits is that they don’t breathe. If you start sweating in a drysuit, blowing wind can cool you down quickly.
A high-quality life jacket is not only mandatory safety equipment on a jet ski, but it can also keep you warm on chilly days.
Neoprene Jet Ski Jacket/Spray Jacket
A neoprene jet ski jacket or a regular spray jacket is also critical to staying warm and dry. Just make sure to wear it on top of the life jacket!
The footwells will be filled with ice-cold water, so you will need a pair of jet ski shoes or neoprene shocks.
Shoes typically do a better job as they provide a decent grip and more protection. High-end models come with removable neoprene shocks for easy drying and fixing.
Gloves with Latex Gloves Underneath
Even if you wear high-quality jet ski gloves, they can be wet in a short time. As you can imagine, riding in soaked gloves results in frozen hands.
This is where Jetskisafaris’ trick comes into play!
Just wear a pair of thin latex gloves underneath the normal gloves. This helps to keep your hands dry and slightly warmer.
Jet Ski Hand Warmer Ideas
Do you feel that gloves are not enough and you need more hand protection? You are not alone!
There are three different ways to keep your hands warmer on a jet ski, which are as follows:
- Jet Ski Wind Deflectors (Jet Ski Hand Guards)
- Heated Jet Ski Grips
- DIY Jet Ski Hand Warmers
The easiest trick is to install a pair of MX-style handguards on the end of the handlebars. These wind deflectors can effectively block water spray and wind, which lessens the cold in your hands.
If you are looking for more comfort, you may want to invest in heated jet ski grips, marketed for some high-end models.
For instance, BPR offers OEM Sea-Doo Heated Hand Grips and Wind Deflectors. With a little creativity, they can be installed on other brands of skis as well.
Here’s a great step-by-step guide at The Watercraft Journal on how to install heated Sea-Doo grips and wind deflectors.
If you can’t install heated grips on your jet ski for some reason, you can still build a DIY hand warmer by trapping outgoing cooling water.
Just route the warm water with a hose to the handlebar and fix sprinklers to the inside of the handguards. This setup will continuously spray warm water on your hands while riding!
You can route the warm water through the entire handlebar to keep the grips warmer. This trick works well on older jet skis with simpler “motorcycle-like” handlebars.
On top of that, with an extra hose, you can even spray water on your wetsuit. It seems like a crazy idea, but it works!
Here’s a useful tutorial on how to build DIY jet ski hand warmers:
And here’s another one on how this system works on a WetBike.
As you can see, you can even direct the water to your wetsuit to keep your body warm as well.
A pair of goggles can also help keep wind and water spray out of your eyes. The bigger the goggles, the more protection they provide.
This is why you should stick to the larger googles and avoid less protective sunglasses. Also, make sure that the goggles fit into your helmet if you wear one.
When it comes to head protection for winter jet skiing, you have plenty of choices, including:
- Enclosed street-motorcycle helmet with a visor
- Open helmet with goggles
- Boating mask
- Neoprene balaclava
- Neoprene hat (make sure it goes over the ears)
You can even combine these items based on your needs. It’s also good to know that helmets, goggles, and jet ski masks can reduce your vision, so make sure you try them on before making your purchase!
Finally, before your ride, make sure that your clothes are comfortable and not too restrictive.
If your setup acts like medieval knight armor, it could make climbing back into the saddle tricky!
Takeaway – How do You Jet Ski in the Winter?
As a takeaway, we’ve compiled the best tips on how to ride a jet ski in the winter:
- Wear proper suits and protection gear
- Check the weather forecast
- Don’t ride on rough water and in harsh weather
- Eat before your ride
- Check the ski carefully (pre-ride check)
- Carry a set of dry clothes/towel and food on you
- Top off the fuel tank
- Carry the required safety equipment
- Always ride with someone
- Tell someone where you are going to ride
- Stay close to the shore
- Ride responsible and try to avoid falling into the water
- Don’t ride at full speed
- Listen to your body and head back to the dock immediately if you are starting to get cold!
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