Anyone who has time around stand up jets skis has at least an inkling as to how difficult it can be to simply get moving in a straight line. Stand ups do not float with a rider in the tray, but the speed needed to plane and stand can be daunting. That dichotomy between sinking and speed, paired with necessary balance and coordination limits the sport to only the most tenacious (and maybe masochistic) people.
But did you know – learning to ride a stand up can actually help make you smarter? The best part is, I’m not kidding in the slightest. Yes, by making mistakes and having the patience to stick out the learning process you too can have your cake, the stand up jet ski, and eat it too, the building skills and intellect through exciting fun.
Myelination: Practice Builds Skill
Life is hard. We are not born with any of the skills required to simply read this article, much less ride a jet ski of any sort. We are born into the world helpless, having to learn first to roll, then crawl, and finally shakily walk after failing over and over again. A true testament to balancing patience and pain alongside balancing your physical body. How do we go from effectively a slightly more sentient sack of potatoes to the unbridled masters of our destiny? Skills on the cellular level are attributed to a massive highway of nerve fibers wrapped in a fatty substance called myelin. Through myelination, the wrapping of nerves in myelin to insulate and strengthen the nerve signal, every human skill is created.
Imagine your brain is filled with electrical wiring, the inner wires being nerve signals and the sheath being myelin. More myelin equals more skills. When we begin learning a new skill our movements are usually clumsy and disorganized because we have to consciously use the frontal cortex of our brain. We have to think and thinking is slow. The improved insulation around nerves strengthens the signal triggering your muscles to perform a task with less waste and more precise control without conscious intervention. As you practice a movement, say playing the piano and striking the keys with your fingers, your finger strokes become less sloppy because the strong, insulated nerve signal fires the right muscle at the right time.
You’ve heard the term muscle memory, but I bet you’ve never thought about it in terms of the thickening of myelin around your nerves. Practice riding your jet ski or literally anything that requires a learned skill, you’ll improve by strengthening nerve impulses that send signals to squeeze the throttle lever, brace against the acceleration, and lean into a turn with the ski. Myelin development takes time, which is why it can take days, weeks, or even months to learn a skill.
Now let’s bring this information out of the neurological realm and into the glorious world of jet skis. Think back to the first time you rode a stand up, did you even know how to start it? Now not only can you get it started, but you get it to move with you attached in some form or another – standing, on your knees, on your belly, dragging beside it –these are all acceptable forms at some point in your riding career. Improvement in your reaction time, balance, and overall ability to pilot the ski are attributed to a stronger myelin network through deliberate practice.
How does all this equate to you potentially being smarter? The cognitive benefits of building a beefy myelin network include improved ability to process a greater amount of information over a given time period, and new skills help create a more elastic mind primed for learning.
When your significant other, non-riding friends, and coworkers jab and tease you for spending so much time and money on these mini holes in the water, you can confidently let them know you are increasing your intelligence by building an impressive myelin network one ride at a time. A much better way to pass the time than boring brain games – make more myelin, get out there and ride!