Gulf Coastal Goodness: Jetski Junkies’ Annual New Year’s Day Ride


Every New Year’s Day, a few brave souls tempt fate and take to the water to prove they are as mighty as the gods by beating back Mother Nature and rising above the elements. Some might say that is a bunch of B.S. because you live in Florida and Florida is a rider’s paradise. That may be true for eleven months out of the year, excluding of course, tropical storms, hurricanes, sink holes, and other natural disasters that just are a way of life here in the South. [Editor’s Note: Sorry, but Florida – particularly Central Florida down – is not “The South”] Each year on New Year’s Day, it’s a crapshoot but we ride nonetheless, and this year rung in some of the worst New Year’s Day weather we’ve had in years.

While many in the North might laugh at 59′, that’s pretty cold temperatures for Florida, and made for a daring day on the water.

As morning dawned, 59 degree temps, light rain, cold misty fog and 100-percent overcast skies combined with 15 mph NE winds created a less-than-ideal setting to jump in the water and ride our personal watercraft nearly 70 miles round trip.

Some folks had already thrown in the towel and rightfully so; who in their right mind looks at that recipe and embraces joy? Well, for the eight riders that went out that day, it was all joy and smiles, a bit of shivering but not one complained.

Leaving the ramp, we started with six Jetski Junkies, Michael and Leslee Baute with their newly upgraded Kawasaki Ultra LX 160’s, Mike Gast mounting his Sea-Doo RXP 255 along with Kelly Belval riding his Kawasaki STX-15F and Yasmany Caballero with some old school flavor on his Yamaha GPR1300.

We rode out the Manatee River from Parrish, FL out into Tampa Bay where the shallow of the Bay, combined with low tidal influence and 15 mph NE winds gave us 2–to-3 foot chop with a 2–to-4 foot wave rise. It wasn’t the nicest conditions to ride 10 miles across but everyone did it like a champ.

The Bridge Tender Inn proved to be a worthwhile stop on our ride, with a nice private beach, outdoor patio and plenty of good food on the menu.

From the mouth of Tampa Bay we turned into the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) heading south by Anna Maria Island, Bradenton Beach and Long Boat Key until entering Sarasota Bay at the end of Two Sisters Island. Here we decided to hit a tiki bar and warmup. Mike and Kelly lead us to a spot called The Bridge Tender Inn.

They had a small beach with a cafe outside/inside patio, good eats, nice folks, and we’ll definitely will be back. While at lunch we got word from Mike Williams and Brad Clark that they were just around the corner at Coquina Beach. So after lunch, we rode to Coquina to meet up. Mike and Brad are a bit more on the adventurous side as they were looking for waves to jump. So the whole crew left the ICW and headed out into the Gulf of Mexico.

We headed back towards Tampa Bay to find some rough stuff for the boys to practice their best tricks.

Normally this cut is a wave jumper paradise but today the Gulf was calm with a mild rise and fall so we made the decision to head back north to Tampa Bay to see if the soup was still being stirred out there. Once reaching the Bay, a few of us hit the waves. It wasn’t great for Mike and Brad to do any real tricks but they still pulled of some sweet air.

From there we hit the small island that guards the mouth of the ICW from Tampa Bay; a good spot to stop and camp without any cares of the real world. The tide was up enough to skate around the mouth of Tampa Bay and run the edge of Ft. DeSoto memorial back into the Manatee River. This is a cool short cut Vince Cobelo showed me a year back – only passable with high tide – but saves 7 or 8 miles off the trip and avoids the pounding of the Bay.

It wasn’t the best of days to ride but it was a day on the water with friends, and to me it would seem no better way to ring in the New Year then riding on New Year’s Day.

Lead image courtesy of Mark T. Kracker.

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Kev Hemingway

A distributor for SBT Inc., founding member of Jetski Junkies (JJUSA) and its lifestyle retail outlet Jet Life, Kev fell in love with the sport at age 8 terrorizing the fresh water lake he grew up on with a Kawasaki 300 stand-up, and over the years has forged a Pro-Rec Rider resume that spans the East Coast from Canada to Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.

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