Flatwater Freestyle is the basic starting point for most “average” guys, but covers a wide range of skill sets. This area of Freestyle consists of riding in a lake or river, with no available waves. Tricks can be performed on smooth water, or off of a small wake (called a setup wake) made by the rider. In the beginning, you can start off with your basic standup ski, some of which can be found as cheap as $1,500 in a ready to ride state.
As your riding improves, you will be able to learn new tricks, such as riding backwards, small wave jumping, diving under water (the submarine), and many others. From this point, if you’re hooked, (and you will be), its time for some equipment upgrades. Handling modifications usually come first, and not long after, the engine upgrades. These can go from mild to wild, and can run upwards of $40,000 for a pro level, high powered, lightweight carbon fiber hull.
Boat chasing is another common form of Freestyle jetskiing, and is similar to Flatwater, except that the riders go to areas frequented by large boats. Some serious riders build skis with this specific purpose in mind. These riders can be found in lakes, rivers, and the Oceans and bays, chasing large boats for that big air opportunity. Because of the large waves that some boats put out, riders can get great air time with a more economical powerplant. These skis run from stock to modified, but usually don’t get built to the level of the pro flatwater boats, because less power is needed, making them very economical.
Lastly, there are the surf riders (sometimes referred to as Freeriders). These guys live for the large waves that can be found in the ocean. Some have even been know to call in sick on a clean surf day. These riders can do sick things on mostly stock skis, but lately, the trend has been for these guys to build some very big and powerful skis for this type riding.
Reliability is key in the surf, and riders should never ride alone. Small issues can become very large ones in the surf. Bilge pumps, hood straps, foot holds, and handling mods are the starting points for these skis. These can also run from stock to pro level, and the prices can mimic those of the Flatwater skis, although surf skis are typically not built quite as light, and usually not with the top of the line power Flatwater requires.
The common denominator in all of these areas is the support of the fellow riders. Freestyle riders, in almost all cases, ride for the pure excitement and enjoyment of riding. There are no secrets to keep, no team loyalties (at most levels), and no money to be won (except in some pro level events).
This leads to a very helpful and supportive community. The popularity of social media has helped riders create larger groups, and stay in touch better. Internet forums are full of information on ski setup, engine tuning, what parts to buy, where to buy them, etc. There has never been a better time to enter in to the realm of Freestyle jet skiing.