Kevin Shaw: The Man Who Killed The JetSki


jetski

[Apparently, I need to preface this editorial by saying that this is meant to be a funny little glimpse of some “inside baseball” between two enthusiasts who happen to work within the PWC industry – one far more significantly than the other. Please don’t misconstrue this for more than it is. And please don’t write me or Mr. Watkins angry emails. – Ed.]

The condensation beading off the sides of my bottled water fell freely like raindrops, pooling into a wet spot in the table cloth. The shade of the large lakeside pavilion did little to shield from the oppressive humidity. Yamaha’s 2015 Media Introduction was an attractive affair, gathering members of the press from the boating and personal watercraft industries to the Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation perched on the edge of Lake Oconee. Nearly every possible factor was planned for, that is except for the sudden onset of mid-afternoon mugginess.

The sweltering atmosphere didn’t break Jerry Gaddis’ focus from the screen of his iPhone. Greenhulk.net’s founder was rarely without it. Nowadays, I am no different, much to the chagrin of my wife. By this time, the cat was out of the bag. Yamaha’s presentation of its 2015 lineup of WaveRunners was less of an unveiling, but a debriefing; a glimpse into the company’s brutal take-no-prisoners plan of attack for the new year. If 2014’s boost in overall sales (15-percent increase) meant anything it was people are excited again, and hungrily buying up new product.

Although presented as being succinctly different, the new RiDE system couldn’t help but ring echoes of Sea-Doo’s iBR in my ears. And that’s OK. I learned a while back that truly successful people don’t envy and despise others for their success; they congratulate them and try to emulate what worked and put their own spin on it. In its five years of existence, Sea-Doo’s Intelligent Brake & Reverse has been hailed an unmitigated success by the media, the boating industry and customers. Blamelessly, Yamaha wanted a slice of that pie.

The announcement of the JL Audio system the following week clearly was targeted towards those whose interest was piqued by the Jetsound system on the Kawasaki 310LX. And if Yamaha didn’t invent it, they were damned sure to improve upon it.

Then I realized that the actions of one, almost directly effect the other.

2015-Yamaha-SuperJet-EU-Eclipse-Black-Action-001

The next day, between rounds of flogging whichever new model I could get my hands on, I had a moment alone with Scott Watkins, the IJSBA World Champion and Yamaha Product Manager for the last 20 years.

“So, no SuperJet?” I asked, half joking.

“Oh, no. It’s still there. We just didn’t think we needed to wheel one out,” Watkins laughed.

“Yeah, I can see that. So when are we going to see a new one? Y’know something different?

His gaze shifted. “Never.”

“Really?”

“We can build the SuperJet only as long as we leave it ‘as-is’ – it’s an EPA thing,” he growled. “The minute we update it, it won’t be considered ‘old technology’, which gets grandfathered in. Once we mess with it, it’s gotta pass all the emission stuff, and you know it won’t. So we’ve gotta leave it alone.”

I prodded a little deeper, “Yikes. How about going 4-stroke? Maybe with the 1,100 in it?”

His normal default devil-may-care grin turned sour. “Not gonna happen.”

Reading my surprised expression, he continued, “We talked about going 4-stroke. We did. It was a few years back. I put an end to it. The minute we put a 4-stroke in the SuperJet is the minute it stops being a jet ski. Y’know what I mean?”

It was an emotional answer. And yes, I got it.

“We used to have these races where we swamped our skis on purpose and timed each other to see how fast we could drag it up the beach, pull the plugs, turn it over and get it running. I think I did it in like 3 minutes.” The smile immediately came back to his tanned face. His eyes danced. There was nostalgia there that refused to be replaced with with bigger, heavier standups.

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 11.57.49 AM

An insane thought suddenly came to mind. “Scott. When did this conversation happen?”

“Sheesh. I dunno. Maybe 2008. Why?”

Quickly arranging my thoughts, I stammered, “Alright, imagine if you OK’ed a four-stroke SuperJet. How quickly would it have hit the market? 2010?”

“Yeah, most likely,” he replied, raising a curious eyebrow.

“So let’s say Yamaha announces a 4-stroke SuperJet in late 2009 for the next year,” by this time, the train of thought running in my mind was nearly jumping its tracks. “When did Kawasaki kill the SX-R? 2011?”

“Yeah…”

“Here’s my question: Do you think had the SuperJet gone 4-stroke that Kawasaki would’ve killed the JetSki? We both know they’ve got working prototypes. Do you think they would’ve just followed Yamaha with a 4-stroke a year or two after you guys?”

“I dunno. Maybe.”

“So it’s your fault!” I announce a little too loudly, drawing the attention of a few people near us.

Scott’s eyes widen and brow furrows, confused and little angry. “What?”

“Had you approved a 4-stroke SuperJet, Kawasaki never would’ve killed the SX-R,” a deduce in my best Sherlock Holmes impression.

Laughing but a little uncomfortable with where I was going with this, “Yeah, I don’t know about that, Kevin,” he smirks.

“Yeah, I know. I know. But it’s a crazy idea, right?” I pause one or two beats before leaning in, almost threatening, “This going in the magazine.”

Scott laughs. “$#%&. Please don’t.”

Go Get Wet,
Kevin

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Kevin Shaw

Kevin Shaw

Editor-in-Chief – kevin.shaw@shawgroupmedia.com Kevin Shaw is a decade-long powersports and automotive journalist whose love for things that go too fast has led him to launching The Watercraft Journal. Almost always found with stained hands and dirt under his fingernails, Kevin has an eye for the technical while keeping a eye out for beautiful photography and a great story.

12 comments

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  1. Avatar
    Ryan 25 August, 2014 at 14:01 Reply

    This feature is funny but not funny. Being a stand-up owner, fan, and wanting to see that part of the market grow, both Kawasaki and Yamaha are making business decisions and the ROI does not make sense. Anyway, maybe if people keep prodding those individuals at Yamaha and Kawasaki about building and selling a 4-stroke stand-up, maybe they will do it, even if it doesn’t make sense…

  2. Avatar
    momar 25 August, 2014 at 15:50 Reply

    The entire blame for no new 4 stroke standups from any oem except belassi is the out of touch united states race promoters who have no clue where the new money is! The new money is in edm events such as electric daisy which brings 700 million to vegas for a 3 day event! This new money is kids in college and just getting out of college! There is a couple of hundred thousand very attractive girls barely dressed in neon at edc! This is what attracts new money! The only women at a american jet ski race is collateral damage of family and relationships! So no chicks, no new money, no new standup!!! On the other hand the uim which has there own race series and world championship is combining there racing with large scale edm events with a show stopper in ibiza the party island, the edm island, the island crawling with hundreds of thousands of hot chicks either dressed in neon or barley dressed at all dancing all over the island! The uim gets it, they understand where and how new money works! Thousands of hot chicks, which draws out brand new money which could cause growth and if the united states race promoters team up with the giant edm promoters we could have new four stroke standups from loads of oems! You asked what killed the standup, The american race promoters killed the standup with there anti growth campaign, there anti cool campaign, there borefest events and antiquated tracks and no hot chicks other then collateral damage girls, There aging announcers playing music from the 60’s, nice people but completely out of touch with the new money!!!! They would be more suited to announcing bingo at the church!

  3. Avatar
    Luke 26 August, 2014 at 09:42 Reply

    Great write up, Kevin. I think we would all love to see something new, even if it is a four stroke ski. With the ever-increasing aftermarket industry, building a new 2-stroke ski is easy to do. Having all of the aftermarkets allows a customer to build a ski the way they want, from scratch, for not much more than what OEM’s MSRP is these days. Side note, I very much enjoy the website and its great to see you back in action after PWI.

    Momar, I completely agree. Ride on!

  4. Avatar
    cameron 29 August, 2014 at 10:25 Reply

    good article, hope it wont get you in trouble, but the mind set of no new stand up is as bright as saying no new performance utv/sxs!………as polaris rakes in billions of dollars leading and selling the performance sxs’s for offroad, starting all kinds of new offroad racing with their products, major powersport companies sit by watching………..too afraid to take a risk and go play ball!…….bla bla bla……..is what I have to say!….If I could find a sxr800 hull I would be building my own four stroke stand up as we speak!……..I say build it Kawasaki and keep leading the market!!!…….thoughtfully, a disgruntled stand up rider from the nazi state of california!

    good article, hope it wont get you in trouble, but the mind set of no new stand up is as bright as saying no new performance utv/sxs!………as polaris rakes in billions of dollars leading and selling the performance sxs’s for offroad, starting all kinds of new offroad racing with their products, major powersport companies sit by watching………..too afraid to take a risk and go play ball!…….bla bla bla……..is what I have to say!….If I could find a sxr800 hull I would be building my own four stroke stand up as we speak!……..I say build it Kawasaki and keep leading the market!!!…….thoughtfully, a disgruntled stand up rider from the nazi state of california!

  5. Avatar
    Adam Demler 1 September, 2014 at 21:00 Reply

    A buddy of mine works on semi’s and he was telling me they make “gliders” basically a new rolling truck minus engine and trans. he said something like its a little loop hole to run your old motor and be grandfathered with emissions. Do you guys thinks something could be done like this with ski’s?

  6. Avatar
    Quinc 11 September, 2014 at 00:52 Reply

    Why not lead the pack like Sea-doo has done with Spark. How about a new Superjet with Direct Injection.

    From 2010:
    Yamaha builds two-stroke outboards with High-Pressure Direct Injection (HPDI). The 200 HPDI engine has twin, high-speed fuel pumps that pressurize the gas up to 1,000 psi, and then inject the fuel after the exhaust ports are closed. The system is similar to injection systems on diesel engines.
    http://www.snowgoer.com/snowmobiling-features/why-2-stroke-direct-injection-is-a-big-deal/1021/

  7. Avatar
    David Everhart 17 September, 2014 at 09:31 Reply

    Kevin sound like you are having a lot of fun.
    If you get a minute give me a call at.
    865-310-7513
    We are still building Hemi Engine perhaps we can build a hemi engine for a jet ski.

    Anyway give me a call.

    David

  8. Avatar
    Tooter Bean 21 March, 2015 at 11:03 Reply

    4 strokes suck unless you like porky weight from too many engine parts just to end up with less power although maybe smoother power. I cannot believe that a 2 stroke engine cannot be adapted to fuel or direct injection properly by the big manufacturers for sitdowns but especially superjets and sxr’s (real jet skis). The default reason is as usual money, but is that just because sitdowns out-sell stand-ups by so much? It does not matter if sit down weighs a ton, so just put low-emission pork-stroke engines in them and forget about stand-ups. I would switch to sitdowns, but they are so dangerous from getting so bored riding them that I could easily fall asleep while trying to have fun on one!

  9. Avatar
    Saylor 11 August, 2016 at 21:02 Reply

    Wow. What happened to the mad scientists I put a msd 6al with rev control box and msd distributor. And hillbern stile fuel injection on a Evan fire tripul cilender works grate

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