Years ago I was warned that having kids meant catching every cold, virus and ailment swirling around their classroom; and true to the warning the biggest gift I got over my daughter’s Christmas break from 2nd grade was the flu. With the heater cranked up to 75 degrees, and bundling up in flannel pajamas and a warm hoodie, I plopped down in front of the TV with a piping hot bowl of chicken-flavored ramen (it was the only thing that sounded appealing at the time) and cruised what was streaming.
On Amazon Prime I discovered the first six seasons of the (ill)famed PWC-centered adventure show, “Dangerous Waters.” Starting back in 2012, show host and concept creator, Steven Moll – joined by a long-time friend and watercraft novice Pat McGregor, and a ever-rotating support staff – sought to circumnavigate the globe aboard jet skis. Having failed to watch a single episode thus far, I thought I’d “give it a go” and see what all the fuss was about.
Companies such as Kawasaki, Otterbox and SBT, Inc. had played a major role in supporting the show’s run that has since wrapped an abbreviated final seventh season, which is expected to air shortly on MavTV before slipping into syndication on the aforementioned digital streaming service. The show was filmed mainly through the use of GoPros and the occasional DLSR, with the rare high resolution camera handled by professional cameramen, giving it an authentic, “reality” feel.
Here, I’ll break down each season, going off of several notes taken during my marathon session while curled up on the couch over several days’ time. I ran a pretty high temperature during a large portion of this, so take what you will for being the results of a debilitating fever or honest opinion. Oh yeah, and this is a SPOILER WARNING, so yeah, you’ve been warned.
Season 1 – Everything That Can Go Wrong Will
Host Steven Moll introduces himself as a “adventurist” from Folsom, CA. Originating from Southern California, Moll first met lifelong-yet-estranged buddy Patrick McGregor at a high school soccer camp before reuniting in college and then going their separate ways for years. After a one-time experience riding Sea-Doos in the San Francisco Bay, and a second journey up Chatham Strait and around the island chain edging British Columbia, Moll decided he was prepared to ride from Seattle, WA to the Bering Strait, separating Alaska from continental Russia.
Moll and McGregor were joined by Alaskans Charles Davis (who serves as team mechanic), Wesley Davis, and Andrew Mazzella (who is tasked as the expedition’s cameraman). The journey to the Bering Strait was plagued with failure: Moll’s almost non-existent navigational abilities persistently landed the team in shallow water, chewing up props, peeling off all gel coating and layers of fiberglass from the skis, etc. These massive errors sideline the team on wilderness shorelines or in remote fishing villages where food and supplies are scarce.
Ski preparation is almost nil: mismatched gas cans are held down by ratchet straps, navigation is by a single handheld Garmin and Moll’s cell phone, and the team ventures without spare replacement parts. Mazzella – the only team member with useful seafaring experience as an Alaskan crab fisherman – could be a resource to teach Moll how to read the water, but is so impetuous and brash, that his advice is little more than scolding, which is unacceptable to a brutally headstrong Moll. McGregor is positive and upbeat most of the time, but is so clumsy he borders on becoming a liability.
The season ends in dismal failure halfway through the Bering Sea as one ski is abandoned only days after a replacement Sea-Doo was sunk somewhere north of the Aleutian Islands (after the team punctured the rear battery access panels with an aluminum fuel rack). Strong editing helped mask a lot of the in-fighting, personality conflicts and outright misery that flashbacks during later seasons would reveal.
Season 2 – Worst Laid Plans of Mice and Moll
Robbed of his goal to reach Russian soil, Moll and team returned to the westernmost edge of Alaska to attempt crossing the Strait once again. With slightly more preparedness, the team was properly equipped to make the crossing, and do so successfully, reaching continental Asia. There, they are immediately detained by the Russian military and spend several episodes panicking that the rest of their days will be spent in a Stalin-era gulag (ain’t socialism grand?). After some political drama the team is sent back to Alaska packing, left to attempt the Northwest Passage instead of Moll’s previous less-than-half-cocked idea.
Venturing deeper into unknown space, the craft continue to be brutalized every time the team throttle their craft up a frozen, rocky shore, wearing down layer upon layer of precious fiberglass. Add to it additional beaching on sandbars, and the skis and Mazzella are at their breaking point. Moll, already sick from exposure and the cameraman’s constant bickering, decides to send Mazzella home. The expedition continues northward and eastbound, towards the last village in the United States, Kaktovik, Alaska, before entering into Canada.
Charles Davis proves invaluable during this season, as well as the heart of the expedition. His experience growing up in Alaska has taught him how to hunt, cook, camp and handle each and every situation with a levelheadedness rare in men these days. The show also begins to air Davis’ morning benedictions, something which clearly tested well with audiences as it became more and more regular throughout subsequent seasons. The team’s poor riding abilities has Davis perpetually working on the Sea-Doos, even having to reprogram a DESS key/lanyard when one is lost.
Most of the first two seasons is plagued by low funding, requiring the crew to even sell of one of its Sea-Doos to pay for the gas necessary to finish the leg of the expedition. While MavTV is supporting the expedition, it’s obvious that nobody is getting rich off of this. Hindsight could place some blame on Moll’s slapdash planning for a second route. Some of the show’s most dramatic imagery came from this season.
Season 3 – Yeah, Sure. Why Not? It’s Not Like We Could Die
This time, Kawasaki stepped in as a title sponsor, equipping the crew with a quartet of naturally-aspirated Ultra LX JetSkis. Smartly, Charles Davis has fabricated aluminum racks to hold six 6-gallon Tuff Jugs jerry cans, as well as racks for Pelican cases and – amazingly enough – the producers also sprang the extra cost for a fuel boat and crew. Manned by Jake Hammer and Casey Mays, the craft is so hunkered down with fuel it nearly sinks on two separate occasions requiring just as much service and care as the skis.
Speaking of which, Moll tears the hull of his JetSki completely open. Yeah, Charles continually patches it up again and again, but Moll keeps running the damned thing up every beach he can like a crazed Spanish conquistador. A professional cameraman joins the team and provides the show with some of its best footage from the back of the JetSkis and the fuel boat. The team journeys deep into the Arctic Circle and Moll’s complete and total navigational ineptitude nearly gets the team killed – and I legitimately mean that. The Canadian Coast Guard had to airlift the poor guys to safety.
Despite the absolute unwavering warnings given by a lifelong local fishing captain to turn back, Moll pushes his crew northward into an arctic squall that pins the team against a small atoll, icing them in. Huddled together on the support vessel, covered in snow and ice, the team has to convince Moll to issue the mayday. Help comes an agonizing day later. Amazingly, the Canadian Coast Guard concede to let the crew retrieve their equipment and even their skis before evacuating the area. Moll is scolded into humility by the captain like a child. It was great TV.
Season 3 proved to be probably the show’s high point. The footage of the landscape was phenomenal, the scenery was both bleak and beautiful, and the drama was actually on point and not solely personality-based. There were some legitimate stakes in this season, and like the seasons before it, the expedition fell short in spectacular fashion. In fact, their failure is almost a forgone conclusion; it’s now just witnessing the slow decent into madness that makes the show so appealing. Oh, and for whatever reason, nobody can figure out how to keep an auxiliary fuel pump or bilge working.
Season 4 – Remind Me Again What We’re Doing
Defeated by the thickening Arctic Circle (global warming! I mean cooling!), Moll inexplicably drives all the way from California to Maine to personally ship the four new JetSkis to Iceland. In another inexplicable move, Moll has jettisoned Charles Davis from the team, and replaced him with a human marshmallow Scott Somethingorother, who not only personally costs the expedition its one shot at crossing from Iceland to the Faroe Islands, but systematically drives the whole team down into a depression before finally packing up and going home, satisfied that being such a momentous drag has permanently wounded the show. (I suspect.)
With only one day of riding beneath their belts, the skis are boxed up again and shipped to Denmark. The rest of the riding is nearly catatonic; smooth water, plenty of places to stop for fuel, monotonous scenery broken up by the occasional bunker or cliff gun (remnant from Nazi-occupied WWII – yay, socialism!) before entering into Amsterdam and into Germany. Freed from last year’s support craft, Jake and Casey are welcomed additions to the team and earn their keep; although Casey does venture off to join some fraulines for a late night drink, which causes an episode’s worth of panic.
In fact, Casey’s single 3-hour infraction was later referenced as the causality for Moll’s dismissing of him from the team in a later season. The rest of the season is a 5-episode No Wake zone with some nice scenery and consistent bureaucratic haranguing by different EU nations – including a new law outlawing all PWC from the Rhine in Austria. A new new route is taken (by truck) into Croatia, which is just a political nightmare. Somehow nobody stops to think that jet skiing through former Soviet Eastern Block nations might prove to be problematic.
McGregor and Jake are easily the two most likeable people, and only because Casey is the cameraman, and mainly off-screen. Jake is immensely pleasant, effervescent and curious, soaking in local culture, food and people with aplomb. Moll is determined to reach Turkey, ’cause y’know, that’s where terrorists are, but the team remains stuck in Athens, Greece, which of course, is gorgeous and full of history, and that pisses Moll off to no end. It’s apparent that looking at the countries they’re traveling through drives him into fits of impatience.
Season 5 – Say Timmy, Y’ever Been In a Turkish Prison?
The fact that this season was aired on MavTV is all the evidence I need that cable television is a dying medium, and live streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon are the future. Season 5 of “Dangerous Waters” is a nightmare of monotony, and could easily be deemed as a hate letter to the country of India. Bypassing every inch of the Middle East, the team ships its skis to Mumbai, India, after journeying back to Kos, Greece to find out where the hell their stuff has been for the last year. Then, they wait for a whole month in India waiting for it to show up.
Either Moll suffered a stroke or some knucklehead at Kawasaki’s marketing department got it into the team’s collective skull that more than one JetSki should be pronounced in the singular, like moose and deer. So now, in addition to 5 episodes of Indian bureaucratic bullcrap, I have to listen to Moll drone, “We want to ride our four JetSki across the planet.” Dude, it’s JetSkis. Jet. Skeeez. Were I ever to be detained and tortured at Guantanamo Bay, I fully expect this season of “Dangerous Waters” to be played on a continual loop while I am strapped to a chair “Clockwork Orange” style.
The government of India apparently realizes that the crew is showing the world the fetid squalor that billions of people live in, and promptly kicks them out of the country. No really, they get kicked out. It’s actually pretty funny. So off they go (again by container ship) to Thailand. Jake and team go see the sights (as they did in India) while Moll dances with the Department of Immigration. Remembering that they’re a TV show about jet skiing, the decide to get back on the water before a monsoon chases them off the water. Without fuel or any idea where they are, a rescue is staged to save the team yet again.
By this time, the team has been reduced to Moll, McGregor, Jake and Casey. The later two quickly realize that Moll is chasing a fever dream like Quixote’s windmills. Even McGregor realizes that Moll is out of sorts. It’s a little entertaining to watch the whole thing collapse in on somebody so full of hubris. As a note, with Charles’ dismissal, Moll took it upon himself to hold the morning benedictions, which are always videoed and feel uncomfortably staged, as if prompted by MavTV’s marketing department. I’m not questioning anyone’s faith, but there’s an unsettling tone that just feels disingenuous and ultimately, inappropriate.
Season 6 – Please Lord, Let This End Already
The first episode of Season 6 let me know just who Steven Moll was: The first half of the episode was spent berating Jake Hammer, Casey Mays and pretty much everybody else who had ridden with the “Dangerous Waters” crew – that is, besides Patrick McGregor, who very clearly, is the only person to not outright challenge Moll’s ability to run this expedition. Anyone else who dared voice a protest was ousted in quick fashion. It was truly the most petty, distasteful thing I have ever seen…well, since this article.
Casey’s late-night tryst in Season 4 was enough to be tried for sedition; Jake’s constant adventuring to dive from a 30-foot cliff face, or stop to observe native monkeys at a remote shoreline was simply too detracting from the game at hand, and thusly needed to go. It was shocking, particularly as I had been binging this show over the week, and all of the efforts Jake and Casey had made to keep this s**tshow afloat were still very fresh in my mind. Hell, by this time, I’d rather watch a show with those two guys on a pair of JetSki(s).
Now with a completely new, untested crew consisting of yet another PWC novice, Australian Brett Carroll (serving as cameraman) and mechanic Karlin Nichols and “logistics manager” Troy Larson, the team left from Singapore with a support boat captained by a very clearly alcoholic Australian. Almost immediately, the crew gives up in moderately rough water, and chose to tow the skis overnight, as they enjoy the comforts of their support vessel. And true to “Dangerous Waters” fashion, one of the JetSkis sinks to the ocean’s floor.
A couple short episodes later, a second ski is broken, repaired, and sunk again, because of the ineptitude of its unproven mechanic. Karlin is sent home, and cameraman Brett is sent off to the islands ahead of the team to help prepare for their arrival. In the interim, Troy stupidly loses all of his vital paperwork and medication, ensuring that he’s a big ol’ liability, and needs to be sent home as well. Now, a team once consisting of four JetSkis, five crew members and a support craft, is now two Kawasakis and three dudes, led by a guy with an iPhone with the Google Maps app.
Season 7 – Jane! Get Me Off This Crazy Thing!
The final season of “Dangerous Waters” is soon to air on MavTV. The series ended with the team in the Philippines, venturing upwards into the South China Sea, some of the roughest, most unforgiving water in the world. It’s also chocked full of Muslim pirates who’d love to kill some Americans. The plan is to venture north to Japan, and back into Russian waters before returning across the Bering Strait and eventually return to Seattle, WA. For the sake of closure, I’m certain I’ll watch it once it is added to Amazon’s catalog of content, but not before that. The polish has faded and the veneer has begun to crack on a show that I wasn’t sold on to begin with.
“Dangerous Waters” has become a bit of a parody, and Moll himself has become the embodiment of The Dark Knights‘ caution: “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” And it’s worth noting that as the show has progressed, the focus has been purposely aimed towards Moll himself and therefore, the recipient of all praise, and target of all critiques. Much of the travel thus far, has been by container ship (much, not most), also detracting from the purity of Moll’s message. It’s also taken several years to complete, instead of say, one year after studious planning, sourcing the necessary funding and support, and a whole metric ton of other logistics.
Right now, as the show nears airing, Moll has leveraged his newfound fame into “Dangerous Waters Adventure Tours,” an all-inclusive guided PWC tour letting fans of the show recreate the first season’s journey up the Pacific Coast of British Columbia and into Alaska, nearing some glacial floes and spotting unusual wildlife. Hopefully, the venture is successful. For me, I’m certain I’ll watch the final episodes of Moll’s never-say-die adventure, but almost entirely out of morbid curiosity than anything. Whether this elongated review has deterred you or not, is entirely up to do – but if you so choose, it’s available on Amazon’s streaming service today.