Welcome to my new article series designed to help people learn how to ride, progress, and enjoy stand up jet skis. Before we talk about setting up backflip wakes and mastering the power slide, let me touch on the shallow water start to get your stand up riding career moving.
Master the Start:
Find a clean, two to three foot deep spot on the shore or boat ramp. The less muddy the better so you do not track slippery mud into the tray. Make sure your lanyard is securely attached to your life vest or arm and place it under the start/stop button to engage the ignition connection. Place your dominant knee into the tray as far forward as possible, leaving space for your other leg once you get moving. Grip the handlebars with both hands, point the ski towards clear open water, and press the start button.
Moderate speed is your friend so give the throttle a little pull to get the ski to plane; more speed basically allows the water to support your weight in the tray. The slower you go the more the tray will want to dip into the water. As you leave your shallow starting spot let your non-tray leg trail behind you and the ski (careful to avoid the jet pump blast) as a balance lever. Lean forward and pull your trailing led into the tray. Depending on your experience you can either stay low on your knees and learn how the ski moves without worrying about standing, or you can rise with your dominant leg, bring the trailing leg naturally into the tray, and stand in a staggered stance with one foot at the front of the tray and one at the rear.
The belly start was common when stand up trays were too narrow to place knees in side by side. Now with the Yamaha Superjet and even larger Kawasaki SXR 1500 tray many people are able to kneel comfortably. If you prefer to belly start or can’t fit both knees in the tray comfortably, keep reading!
Same as the knee start, find a nice shallow spot near the shore and put your lanyard in place. With both hands on the bars, start the ski and get moving while in a Superman-like position – your arms outstretched, torso in the tray, and lower body trailing in the water. Gather your speed to a comfortable pace where the ski feels less tipsy and use your arms to pull your body forward and upward into the tray.
At this point your body will probably resemble the Yoga Cobra pose with your arms pushing down on the bars, head up over the pole, and back arched with your hips at the back of the tray. Performing a butterfly, also known as dolphin, kick with your core muscles engaged while climbing into the tray can ease the pressure off your arms from doing all the work. Kick and bring your dominant knee up out of the water and into the tray. Here you can let your other leg trail as you situate or push up into a standing position.
I recommend the knee start first over the belly start for two reasons. First, the belly start runs the risk of jet pump injury if you place your lower body around the jet pump blast. For obvious reasons you don’t want your sensitive parts in that area. Second, pulling yourself into the tray when adequate speed is reached requires some upper body and core strength. I’ve been accurately accused of looking like a fish out of water, flopping around trying to pop my body up and into the tray when belly starting.
Once you are able to stand your foot placement can make or break your experience. Think wobbly colt, knees knocking and all!
Place your dominant foot (we’ll call that your left for this example) in the front left corner of the tray. It can face forward or perpendicular to the motion of the ski, I prefer a little mixture of both at a 45 degree angle for best forward weight bearing and side-to-side balance. Place your right foot at the rear right edge of the tray pointing out. The rear foot provides the best balance and recovery options facing perpendicular to the motion of the ski as it rocks side to side. Staggered (surf) stance allows you to brace against acceleration with the back foot as well as brace against deceleration with the front leg. It can be surprising how much drag water crates when you let off the throttle so be ready!
As a side note, there is nothing wrong with riding with your feet together in the tray. There are times when riding with your feet side-by-side is advantageous such as bunny hops, initiating some tricks, and resting your back to name several. However, it is a bit more difficult to balance with a narrow stance. The surf stance will provide the widest ‘footprint’ in the tray to resist falling off the ski in some way or another.
Shallow water starts are a fundamental part of building a positive first stand up jet ski experience. Haphazard attempts could leave a rider injured or even sink the ski – don’t laugh I’ve seen it happen when a new rider refused to get off the ski after a failed, wobbly start. The ski and rolled over on it’s side and took on water through a bad hood seal. Don’t be that person with your friend’s beloved ski, or your own for that matter! Use these guidelines to work on starts in an organized manner and you’ll develop a strong base for the next skill. Stay tuned!