The P1 AquaX season finals in St. Cloud, Florida would be the last race event of my first year racing a personal watercraft. As a rookie racer, looking at the 38-ski roster for St. Cloud was a bit intimidating. The sheer volume of racers that would be going into that first turn was enough to generate some nerves. A second glance at the names on that roster revealed a who’s who of professional racers along with the already strong presence of fellow rookie racers. So with the massive line-up and the season title on the line, I was just focused on getting a decent start and making it through the first couple of turns without going swimming.
Prior to this summer, I had never competed in any sanctioned watercraft racing events, but I had always hoped an endurance race series would some day come to Florida. This past spring, I received a message from AquaX USA’s race promoter, Michelle Petro, telling me about a new race series and asked if I’d be interested in participating. It felt like I had already pushed the long distance adventure trips as far as they could go, and it seemed like it might be time to try something new.
It’s always a bit intimidating to participate in a new sport for the first time, but as a rookie racer, AquaX is probably the easiest race series to get into. All first-time AquaX racers have to complete a mandatory safety and race training session, regardless of prior experience in other racing series. A few pieces of basic safety gear (most of which are already owned by the average rec-rider) and a stock watercraft are all that you need to get started.
The AquaX Stock class rules only allow for basic handling mods, so you can literally show up to your first race and be on a level playing field with guys who have been racing professionally for many years. In my opinion, this is the single most attractive thing about the AquaX series: being able to win based on endurance and riding ability, and not the amount of money you’re able to pour into your boat.
Preparing to race in this series really requires two things; good physical conditioning and a mechanically sound boat. Each AquaX event consists of three races, two of which are 30 minutes each, and run back-to-back on the same day. To be able to stay competitive throughout an entire event, you’ve got to be paying attention to your conditioning and diet leading up to race day.
As a long time hockey player, I had previously thought that I was in pretty decent shape, but once the start flag dropped at our first race in Daytona, I quickly realized that I had underestimated just how tough it would be to run WOT in the surf for 30 minutes. Nonetheless, I was instantly hooked…
After taking a few spills and getting lapped in each of those first three races at Daytona, I was determined to improve before the next event. Throughout the rest of the summer I was fortunate enough to receive a lot of help and advice from more experienced racers like Cody Hawkins, Jeremy Schandelmayer, and Brent Venderley, and I’m very thankful for that.
Even if you’re not quite at the skill level or physical shape to earn a first place podium spot, the races are still a lot of fun. For me personally, I challenged myself with goals and kept my focus narrow in order to continue learning and improving with each race. By the end of the season, I found myself headed into the final round just a few points behind the season’s overall points leader.
At St. Cloud, the final round proved to be every bit as fun and intense as everyone had expected. There was a lot of great racing, and although I was unable to podium for that weekend’s race, I managed to gain enough points to capture the season title. Capturing the AquaX’s inaugural season title during my first year as a racer is something I will always be proud of. It also proves just how easy it is for a new racer to get started and be successful in this series.
Based on what I’ve seen so far, I fully expect the series to continue growing and make watercraft racing a popular sport for fans and spectators, and I would highly recommend it to the average watercraft owner.
This series seems to have the perfect formula for bringing in new riders without requiring a pro-racer budget. The large course setups also greatly reduce the chances of damaging your watercraft in a collision and make Aqua X a safe series for riders of all skill levels to participate.
Lastly, aside from the fun of the challenge, one of the best parts of this series was the camaraderie of the racers involved. Though you compete against these people at each race, they quickly become some of your best friends. We all want to win, but when you realize what it takes to finish a 30 minute race in rough waters you end up feeling a strong sense of respect and gratefulness towards the other competitors who push you to perform to your limits.
Lead image: Charlie Lai