The idea was simple enough: create a panel of enthusiasts made up of celebrities and industry professionals with differing levels of experience. The goal being to create the most unbiased panel to evaluate the six top PWCs; with two models from each manufacturer.
Titled the Skyway Ski Show, 2014 marked its third year. Launched and hosted by Watercraft Superstore and SBT, Greg Pickering and Jon Salvatore and their awesome staff put together a great event. The third annual Skyway Show welcomed all three PWC manufacturers.
Each brand representative were given time to walk through their two models for display to a panel of judges. This year though, the judges were asked to not compare one machine against another – either based on class or MSRP – but rather to put themselves in the shoes of the individual consumer considering purchasing each ski and weigh it on its individual merits. Personally, I love this new platform as it lends more detail to each watercraft and what each brings to the table verses just simply comparing one to another.
Although I was a judge two years ago, I was invited to represent the Jetski Junkies and ride herd, corralling the less experienced riders on the hour long demo ride. The panel of judges for this year included Steven Moll, creator and expedition leader of the TV series, Dangerous Waters on MavTV; Keith Thurman, a local Floridian and ninth highest ranked welterweight boxer in the world; award winning watercraft and watersports journalist Jeff Hemmel; and another Florida native, the very beautiful Shawn Dillon, Playboy Magazine‘s Miss February 2013!
Up for evaluation were six watercraft: Kawasaki‘s Ultra 310LX and 310R, Yamaha WaveRunner‘s FX SVHO and FZS SVHO and lastly Sea-Doo‘s RXP-X 260 and GTX Limited iS (although a pair of Sparks did manage to find their way into the crowd somehow). Each judge was given a survey to fill out, make notes and statements over the course of the day.
The judges first spent 30 minutes going over each ski with the manufacturers representative to learn all the in’s and out’s of each unit. They were encouraged to sit on it, open and play with all the compartments, buttons, and features while being given full access to the rep to better understand the functionality of each component and the ideology behind it. This is something no consumer can get at any demo or sales floor.
After the manufacturer rep experience, the group of judges were split into two groups of three. Each group would remain on the selected watercraft for the entire morning. One group stayed close to shore and familiarized themselves on the watercraft for on-water action photoshoot while the other group sought out on an hour long, 40-mile tour.
During this time, the judges switched up skis, allowing equal time and experience on each unit for both playing and touring. After the first hour was up, the two groups switched again, allowing everyone a chance in front of the camera was well as out in the open water.
After lunch, the judges were given plenty of free time to ride the skis while interviews and the Playboy watercraft photoshoot took place. Again, the judges switch machines and the process was repeated, with all the fun wrapping up by 4pm.
Steven Moll hardly contained his excitement, “What a great day. I rode seven different watercraft!” After addressing the judges and SBT staff before the judging commenced, Moll said, “What an honor. I absolutely love working with these folks!”
I have to say, this was a very well laid out experience and allowing the judges to actually ride the skis beyond just playing around close to shore gives everyone a true experience allowing them to better judge each watercraft. As I sat there, I couldn’t help but see a community of industry professionals coming together for the common good of the sport.
Many thanks to Jon Salvatore and the awesome staff Watercraft Superstore; all the judges; Jon Rall and Minoru Kanamori from Kawasaki Motors USA, Tim McKercher from Sea-Doo and Jay from Yamaha WaveRunners; and Noel, Marty and Dan from Cycle Springs Powersports for supplying and bringing the Yamaha and Kawasaki skis.
We look forward to the results to be published in the yearly Watercraft Superstore giant-sized catalog (what they call a “magalog”). If you are not registered for the catalog, then please go to this link and register.
Original content and photography provided by Kev Hemingway of Jetski Junkies.