Video: Big Surf PWC Rescue Operators a Breed Apart

Members of the extensive PWC world fit in a variety of categories – racers and recreational riders being the two main divisions, with plenty of crossover riders.  

One sector that is often overlooked include those who utilize a PWC as part of their work life – either on a day-to-day or seasonal basis.  

In this category, one of the uses that puts the most demand not only on the PWC operators, but the machine itself, is surfer rescue work. Yamaha has even worked specifically with rescue teams to modify and outfit a WaveRunner XL700 to be used as a rescue PWC. explained the practice of using PWC and rescue sleds to retrieve surfers in danger, saying “Jet ski drivers may use their knowledge of surfing and wave patterns to anticipate the movement of incoming waves and position the PWC  in a way that allows them to effectively rescue the surfer without being hit by the waves.”


Countless YouTube videos show daring rescues accomplished by the rescuers on PWC – and the dangers to the rescuers. states, “PWC pilots must have the necessary training and experience to operate the jet ski safely and be aware of their own abilities and the potential risks of the rescue situation.”

An article on OZPWC about Big Wave Rescue Teams talked about the work and skill necessary to be a rescue ski operator and quoted Maverick’s Rescue Team member Drake Stanley – a familiar name and face to many in the PWC race world as a long-time course marshal – as saying “As I tell people, a pro surfer doesn’t make a first responder and a first responder doesn’t know the ocean like a pro surfer, so it really takes somebody that has both that background of understanding ocean dynamics, and then having the medical licenses on top of that to be able to do the job the right way.”

Companies such as Intrepid, in California, offer rescue-specific PWC courses, where “During the course, students learn the fundamentals of hydrology and how it relates to PWC operation, design, and construction of the vessel.  Other skills covered are pre-trip, post trip operation and maintenance of PWC, SAR theory and techniques utilizing the PWC, self-rescue and victim recovery strategy and techniques.” Similar international courses are offered by organizations such as the UK’s Marine Education

Be sure to check out WCJ’s article on Stanley’s 2019 rescue of surfers after a shark sighting

Watch one of the most daring PWC surf rescue operations:

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Jessica Waters

Editor – Currently the News Director at WNEG Radio in Northeast Georgia, Jessica Waters is a photojournalist and reporter who has covered competition stock car racing, downhill skiing, motocross, horse racing and hydroplane races for more than 30 years, and added jet ski races and freestyle competitions in 2010, covering many competitions for local and national media outlets.

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