International travel restrictions have seen a spike in the number of people wanting to holiday at home, get into boating, or buy a personal watercraft. With that in mind, The Watercraft Journal has understandably had a lot of interest in new models for people who are new to the world of personal watercraft.
Rather than answer your questions individually, The Watercraft Journal and our mates at WatercraftZone.com.au in Australia have compiled a list of what we reckon are among the 10 best skis for first-timers.
A warning for all the bros out there wanting to flex on the boat ramp and on the water. We have deliberately not selected supercharged skis for this list. People who want the fast stuff know what’s up. This list is to help new arrivals navigate their way through a lot of options.
There are more than 50 models across all three brands of Sea-Doo, Yamaha and Kawasaki. And if you don’t see one you like here in this list, that’s cool. There are no wrong answers. This list is designed to help de-clutter what can seem like an over-crowded market.
Sea-Doo Spark & Spark Trixx
The Sea-Doo Spark and Spark Trixx are among the cheapest personal watercraft on the market today (check your country’s website for local pricing). Depending on the model they are powered by a 900cc three-cylinder engine, available with 60hp or 90hp.
Although all new versions of the Sea-Doo Spark and Spark Trixx are around the corner, they are still a lot of fun and a great way into the sport. They’re easy to handle, easy to ride, and will help you develop basic skills on the water. The Spark Trixx is the one that can ride on its tail, which is surprisingly easy to do after a few attempts.
Downsides? This is a wet ride, and although it’s fuel efficient, the fuel tank is small and there is next to no storage space for a phone, wallet or tube of sunscreen. Although they’re available as a two or three-seater, they really are best suited to riding solo.
Yamaha EX and EX Deluxe
The Yamaha EX series is powered by a 1050cc three-cylinder engine. Yamaha doesn’t quote power figures, but the EX is estimated to have a 90hp output. The EX is a more precise ski than the Sea-Doo Spark and is plenty of fun, although it can’t ride on its tail like the Sea-Doo Spark Trixx.
The Yamaha EX has a more durable SMC fiberglass hull, a larger rear deck for easier re-boarding, a larger seat, and more standard storage space than a Sea-Doo Spark. The economical engine and 13-gallon (50-litre) fuel tank deliver endless fun. If you can afford the step up to the EX Deluxe, it adds the convenience and safety of a reverse trigger, side mirrors, and rear boarding step.
Kawasaki STX 160
This is the cheapest ticket into the Kawasaki range. As a medium-size Jet Ski the Kawasaki STX 160 is bigger than the Sea-Doo Spark and Yamaha EX. All models in the STX 160 range are powered by the same 160hp 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine.
The top model comes with speakers. Both models have a massive 20-gallon (78-litre) fuel tank, the equal biggest in the business, so you’ll have enough juice to run all day. The durable SMC fiberglass hull is strong and easy to handle.
One setback: while Sea-Doo and Yamaha have intuitive reverse triggers, the Kawasaki STX 160 makes do with an old-school reverse lever that is awkward to use.
Sea-Doo GTI SE 170
This is one of the most under-rated personal watercraft in the industry. It’s powered by a perky 1630cc three-cylinder engine, has good storage, and features that are often optional extras at this price point.
Standard equipment includes trim adjustment, to bring the nose up or down according to conditions on the water, and fuel load. The other skis we’ve mentioned so far don’t have this feature. There’s also a fold-away rear boarding step and the option of a speaker system.
With a 15.8-gallon (60-litre) fuel tank, an economical 1630cc three-cylinder engine, and a lightweight plastic hull, you’re likely to be able to send a day on the water without needing to refuel. For 2022, the Sea-Doo GTI SE 170 is available with Sea-Doo’s proprietary debris removal technology.
Sea-Doo Fish Pro Scout 130
This is a new model for 2022. If it looks familiar that’s because it shares its deck and hull with the GTI SE 170 and is powered by the same 1630cc three-cylinder engine – but it has been detuned to 130hp for better fuel economy and riding range.
It’s the cheapest ticket into a fishing jet ski and comes ex-factory with a Garmin 6-inch fish finder and GPS unit (which replaces the right side-mirror), three fishing rod holders, a 13.4-gallon (51-litre) cooler box, trolling mode, and Sea-Doo’s IDF debris removal system. It’s a capable craft, but as with the rest of the GTI series, better suited to calm waters rather than ocean or choppy conditions.
Yamaha VX Cruiser 1050
This mid-size Yamaha model is powered by a 1050cc three-cylinder engine. It is also one of the most under-rated models in the market. For 2022, Yamaha has equipped this model just right, available with factory-fitted speakers, tiered seating, and docking cleats.
Storage in the center console and the nose are fair for this size craft. The hull is made from durable SMC fiberglass yet mounded to the same shape as Yamaha’s race-winning GP1800 hull. It’s a comfortable and very easy craft to operate, with precise handling. Downsides: there’s no adjustable trim on this model, otherwise it’s close to perfect. With an 18-gallon (70-litre) tank and a small engine, it too will run all day.
Kawasaki Ultra LX
This is Kawasaki’s entry point into the large Jet Ski class. It’s powered by a 160hp 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine. The Kawasaki Ultra platform has been around in this guise for 14 years. But, as the saying goes, if it aint broke don’t fix it.
It has a durable SMC fiberglass hull, and it’s a heavy beast. This makes it thirstier than many rivals but it also means it cuts through rough water better than most. It has a massive two-tier storage area in the nose.
The riding position is low, which is good for tight turns, but you do get wet. Unfortunately, there is no trim adjustment on this model. And although Kawasaki has added a reverse trigger to its supercharged Ultra range for 2022, the non-supercharged LX sticks with the awkward reverse lever.
Sea-Doo GTX 170
Sea-Doo’s entry point into the large watercraft class is powered by a 170hp version of its 1630cc three-cylinder engine. It’s the same platform that is the basis of the Sea-Doo Fish Pro Sport and Fish Pro Trophy editions – but without the fishing accessories (which can be added later). IDF debris-removal tech is also available on the GTX 170.
A triumph of industrial design, the ergonomics of the top deck make the Sea-Doo ST3 series the most user-friendly ski on the market today. But the shape of the hull is better suited to flat water or medium chop. In rough conditions the Sea-Doo tends to bow hunt and is not as predictable or as comfortable as the Yamaha FX when the going gets really tough.
Yamaha FX HO
Meet Yamaha’s entry point into the large watercraft class. It’s powered by a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine. The main differences between the two FX HO models: the Cruiser gains tiered seating. Both models are available with factory-fitted speakers and come with new five-inch digital displays with high-resolution glass screens.
The infotainment system can be configured with maps or to make or take calls and text messages. Welcome news for Yamaha fans, the 2022 FX now has a digital clock (which has long been missing on previous models). For 2022, the hull has been upgraded to heavy duty SMC fiberglass rather than lightweight NanoXcel.
The Yamaha FX has good storage in the nose, and there’s now a dedicated space and charging capability for smartphones in the centre console. The large rear deck can attach Yamaha’s optional range of RecDeck accessories. There is trim adjustment to better handle rough chop, a reverse trigger, and plenty of power from the 1.8. The 18.4-gallon (70-litre tank) usually leaves plenty of fuel in reserve, unless you’re towing kids in a tube all day.
Sea-Doo Fish Pro Sport 170
This is one of the most popular skis on the market today, thanks to its genius practicality and turn-key approach to fishing off a personal watercraft. It comes with a 13.4-gallon (51-litre) cooler box, fishing rod holders, a navigation unit, an extended rear deck to attach extra fuel bladders, and side steps to avoid scuffing the top deck.
The blue and white color scheme carries over for 2022 but now wears the name ‘Sport’. There is also a new orange and silver luxury model called the ‘Trophy’. Both models are powered by the same 1630cc three-cylinder 170-hp engine.
Downsides, as with other ST3 models, the Fish Pro Sport and Trophy editions are better suited to flat water or medium chip rather than rough ocean. And the large footwells can fill up with water. But a quick blast of the throttle empties them pretty quickly.