Kevin Shaw: Bad Behavior

“So, who have you pissed off lately?”are the first words I hear on the other end of the phone. The joke has more bite than is communicated only because I know I’ve left quite the trail of ruffled feathers in my wake. Over my career as a powersports journalist, I chaffed with nearly every editor, publisher and art director I worked with. Yet, despite the occasional friction, I always managed to churn out work I was proud of, and ultimately, work people liked to read.

This time around though, I had done more than step on the proverbial toe. At September’s 2014 Kawasaki Dealer Meeting, I had managed to weasel my way aboard a ’14 Ultra 310LX. Mind you, the media wasn’t invited to ride any of the demo units, nor were any invited to do so. Nevertheless, I found myself ripping up the briny waters of San Diego’s Mission Bay atop a metallic green-and-black supercharged Kawi. It’s amazing what asking nicely can get you.

Surprisingly, I kept from crashing, sinking or setting the new ’14 FZR SVHO on fire. For me, that’s a really good day.

With the Zac Brown Band pumping out over the Jetsound speakers trying to drown out the whine of the Eaton blower, I greedily chewed up the short buoy course. While the performance of the new 310-horsepower Ultra left me swirling with glee, my goofy antics, particularly the wild get-off of mine near the beach, left many at Kawasaki ready to wring my neck. I had indeed, pissed the wrong people off.

Unfortunately, this was only one instance in a long résumé of bad behavior. Years earlier, I famously irked the good folks at Sea-Doo during the launch of the then-new RXT and GTX iS 255 runabouts. Racing alongside’s Jerry Gaddis, I managed to come up on the handlebars and completely tear the whole adjustable gauge cluster and bars free from the ski.

BRP’s engineers ballyhooed the feat and assured me that as pre-production units, the plastic used was not up to the grade that later production models would use (sure to their word, I’ve never torn another steering system free from a Sea-Doo since). Although not nearly as dramatic, I even managed to beach a RXP-X with Sea-Doo racer Cody Hawkins during a fun run up the St. Johns River where terra firma is literally nowhere to be found, just this past July.

Jerry struggled to isolate a leak that appeared after giving me a chance to run his turbo’ed VXR. The leak came from a series of cracks in the pump tunnel that I caused by running WOT for over half a mile.

Most recently, I had the opportunity to spend the better part of a week with Jerry Gaddis. Arriving to his home office in Morgan City, Louisiana, Jerry was eager to have me try out his newest creation, a near-insane turbo-powered Yamaha VXR. While I’ll be delving into the project ski a little further in a feature article to be published in the next few weeks, the turbo VXR had reached speeds in excess of 91 miles per hour with a previous setup.

This week though, Jerry was testing a new setup and trying to push the little ski-with-a-big motor back up to 90mph. Handing me the lanyard I topped Jerry’s top speed of 88.6 with 89.6, but I did so to the cost of shattering the Yamaha’s pump tunnel. At no fault of the Yamaha’s NanoXcel design, the entry level craft was never intended to cope with pressures of this magnitude, and for as long as I held into it.

Over the next few days, I was teased mercilessly that my ability to judge the difference in distance between a quarter mile and a mile needed work, as I had held into the throttle nearly four times longer during my speed run than was normal. The result was splintering the pump tunnel and cracking the reinforced thrust plate – effectively killing the ski completely.

As the new year dawns, I’ve already made vows to all three manufacturers to be on my best behavior, and to cut down dramatically on the shenanigans. It’s probably a promise I’ll fail to keep, but not for a lack of trying. I never intentionally try to spoil the fun, it just seems to end up that way. It’s got to be something hardwired in my psyche.

Go Get Wet,

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Kevin Shaw

Kevin Shaw

Editor-in-Chief – 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.

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