Of all of the manufacturers producing riding gear for the personal watercraft industry, there is no company more dedicated to the art of PWC racing than Jettribe. Whether its their almost omnipresence at nearly every single event across the continental United States or their borderline-ridiculous presence at every Asian race event, Jettribe takes jet ski racing deadly serious. Marching to the frenetic drumbeat of its owner and president Tony Vo, Jettribe is hellbent on eclipsing all other riding gear and apparel brands who’ve ever ventured into this segment of the industry.
Branded as a “Core Watercraft Company,” Jettribe doesn’t dabble in wakeboarding, surfing or other watersports, choosing to focus solely and squarely on jet skiers. In spirit with this methodology, Jettribe’s series of race-centered gear has been a subject of several reviews as of late with some mixed reviews. Of course, we at The Watercraft Journal are weighing most all of our evaluations on key attributes that are more geared toward the recreational rider than racer, but find a great deal cross over. Nevertheless, those remain the same as always: ease of use (ie. comfort), features and effectiveness.
As we’ve said time and again, Jettribe never skimps on the features. In fact, their products are so rife with added bits and pieces it almost makes their designs overloaded or busy to the unfocused eye. Yet, upon closer inspection, we find that a great deal of thought and consideration has been poured into much of their catalog. In review of their 2016 RS-17 “Race Course Armor” Side-Entry Vest, we find much of the same. With racers at its focus, the RS-17 features not one but three heavy duty nylon handles for rescue teams to grab a downed or injured racer, replete with bright yellow “Rescue Here” hand grips (one on each shoulder and at the base of the neck).
A bright yellow Velco-attached lanyard loop wraps around the bottom of two adjustable dual-release 38mm chest straps and buckles, which is removable and able to be transferred to a vest that doesn’t have a lanyard loop (as so many companies fail to include this one very simple feature). And again, with the racer in mind, a Velcro-backed flag of origin is attached to the right shoulder for the racer competing internationally. To the layman, the vest will feel clunky and rigid, as the thick 25mm Eva foam envelops the front chest compression-molded Eva panel and ABS plate chest insert.
The heavy duty front and back panels were designed with “protection first” in mind. Within its design are attachment points for Jettribe’s own Race Collar and is purposefully compatible with Jettribe’s Chest & Back Protectors, which have become mandatory for IJSBA standup classes. Over time, we found that the heavy duty Eva foam did allow for some give, but that was after a considerable break-in time. Although an unrated vest, Jettribe scribes “This vest is intended to meet USCG Type III PDF flotation aid for watercraft use” in large, bold letters on the inside. Unfortunately, that does mean if you live somewhere who like to check those sorts of things, you will be ticketed.
Worn by Jettribe USA International Team including Rick Sherker, Craig Warner, Jeremy Schandelmeyer, Tyler Hill, Brock Austin and more, Jettribe has done a fine job accruing a list of top tier riders who represent their brand; but again, that might not mean much to the weekend warrior. There’s a major delineation between these two groups and how they evaluate a piece of riding equipment. For the racer, the vest provides ample protection, a wide range of motion (large arm/shoulder and neck openings), and a sense of safety due in large part to the added features. As this is who this vest is designed for we weigh it as such, and even with its $94.99 asking price, find Jettribe’s RS-17 “Race Course Armor” Side-Entry Vest to be a solid purchase that many have come to praise.