Wish Fulfillment: 2021 Yamaha SuperJet WaveRunner (Video)


The advent of the 2021 Yamaha SuperJet was a looong time coming. With growing environmental pressures coming down on the previous 2-stroke, Yamaha’s engineers – particularly Project Manager and multi-time IJSBA World Champion, Scott Watkins – knew that for the standup ski to survive, it would need to evolve.

Major considerations were given to maintaining the SuperJet’s light weight and nimble size; because in a world where competitor’s skis fought tooth-and-nail to win races, the SuperJet just wanted to have fun. Much of that playful spirit came from the SuperJet’s last update in 2008, wherein the running surface was resculpted.

Above: Don’t let that blunt nose fool you, there’s nothing brutish about the 2021 SuperJet. The ski is light, nimble and as agile as the outgoing 2-stroke. It’s impressive how many surprises such a compact design can hold.

Above left: Yamaha kept the graphics to a minimum, letting its angular surface a blank canvas for enthusiasts to adorn with their own personal flare. Above right: Although our standup skills are closer to Dustin Hoffman than Dustin Motzouris, we gave the SuperJet our all, spending the better half of our day with the 2021 lineup on the standup alone. Thankfully, the endeavor was immensely rewarding, making the all-new SuperJet a most welcome entry for 2021.

The 2008 hull gained a teardrop profile, flaring wide towards the front and slimming aft. Deep chines provided greater straightline tracking, while the pump was moved farther back, backed by an extended rideplate. This design produced more “wetted” or contact surface at the bow, giving the 2008 SuperJet an intuitive, inside-lean riders loved.

Powered by a 701cc 2-stroke, twin-cylinder fed by dual 38mm Mikuni carbs, the outgoing SuperJet remained untouched until last year. By 2019, the perennial standup had been restricted across much of the coastal United States; those who could sell it required buyers produce a official racing license issued by one of the many a sanctioning bodies.

Above: Sealing the 4-stroke’s engine compartment from water intrusion was as important as ensuring the TR-1 3-cylinder could breathe. The result is a featherweight 3-piece composite plastic hood that serves as a water baffling airbox.

Above: Ports in the baffled hood feed fresh outside air from the hood through crisscrossing tubes into the engine compartment. Fresh air then is inhaled through the TR-1’s own secondary air box before being pulled through the throttle body. Scott Watkins ensured that riders could quickly submarine the ski without fear of water ingestion.

Worse off, legislation outlawed the ski outright in Australia. A cleaner, quieter standup was needed, and the clock was ticking. Development on the all-new SuperJet began as early as 2006, yet it wouldn’t be until the 2016 model year that enthusiasts would get a glimpse of what Yamaha had in mind. Replacing the dated MR-1 4-cylinder in Yamaha’s VX line was the featherweight, 1,049cc triple-cylinder TR-1 4-stroke.

This all-new TR-1 engine was reconfigured the next year for the EX Series, receiving a lightened flywheel/coupler combination, and redesigned exhaust manifold and muffler. The EX’s jet pump was also unique, particularly when compared to the MY16 V1 pump; the EX 144mm pump weighed 1.8kg less (14kg vs. 15.8kg), and featured a redesigned shaft bearing, combined impeller housing and stator, and completely eliminates the pump bulkhead.

Above: Using the Yamaha TR-1 EX Marine Engine and two-piece 144mm jet pump gives the SuperJet a dynometer-proven 102-horsepower output. The 3-cylinder four-stroke is the workhorse powering the majority of the EX Series and has plenty of torque to propel many of the larger VX Series as well.

Above: The SuperJet’s new “L-Mode” reduces the engine’s total output by 15-percent, making it ideal for novice or beginner riders. Initializing L-Mode requires the lanyard to be engaged, the ECU woken with a bump of the starter button (which lights up the gas gauge), and pressing the Stop button two times. When engaged, the amber L-Mode LED with ignite on the gauge.

With the right powertrain in hand, the next step was developing the right hull and deck. A Vacuum Assisted Resin Transfer Molding (VARTM) fiberglass hull and deck was shaped to counter the added weight of the TR-1 and its 5-gallon fuel cell, all while retaining the ski’s soul.

The final result is a ski that is 69-pounds heavier, 7.5-inches longer, 3.2-inches wider, and 5.1-inches taller than the outgoing 2-stroke. But before those numbers begin to overwhelm you, understand that Yamaha’s 2021 SuperJet is 142-pounds lighter and 8.8-inches shorter than its competition – with a dry weight of 375-pounds and a total length of 6 feet, 9-inches.

Above: Throttle response is key to a successful 4-stroke standup, and the 2021 SuperJet has it in spades – but not in the way of the tear-your-arms-out-of-your-sockets SX-R. Rather, the SuperJet delivers a torquey measured response. Unlike its competition, the SuperJet strikes a perfect balance – that of power-to-weight, responsiveness to body English, and genuine all-around enjoyment – that is sure to inspire a whole new generation of standup riders.

Above left: It took all but five minutes aboard the 2021 SuperJet to get an overall feel for the ski. Once we became comfortable, we felt more encouraged to push our abilities further, inch by inch. We believe like Yamaha does that the SuperJet is the perfect platform to entice a whole new generation of standup riders. Above right: The TR-1 EX 3-cylinder was the right choice for this machine, giving the ski a power-to-weight ratio of 0.25:1 (horsepower:pounds).

The 2021 SuperJet fulfills all of the promises that a 50-state legal, emissions-friendly standup could make – and with an MSRP of $9,499. Producing just over 100-horsepower, the SuperJet’s TR-1 engine delivers immediate throttle response, with a linear torque curve that provide plenty of punch without violently pulling your shoulders out of socket.

And for the newcomers, engineers developed an optional “L-Mode” that de-tunes the TR-1 to 85-percent of its power output, dropping the top speed to 40mph. Otherwise, the more daring among you can push the SuperJet to a blistering sustained top speed of 54mph. Not a bad way to celebrate the 30th anniversary since the first SuperJet hit markets.

Above left: There’s no storage on the SuperJet, besides *maybe* cramming a key and some cash in a Ziploc bag and tucking it in the pocket for the fire extinguisher – but definitely leave the phone in the truck. Above right: When on the throttle hard, the SuperJet ain’t no slouch, pushing riders up to 54mph. We didn’t get anywhere near that today, but saw plenty of speeds in the 40s – and were comfortable with that.

Above: The angular shape of the SuperJet gives it a clean, futuristic look. Equally, the unadorned deck serves as a blank canvas for racers and customizers.

The duality of increased dynamic stability, intuitive cornering and even static stability is all found in the brilliance of the new SuperJet’s hull design. Building from the innovation first made with the 2008 redesign, the 81-inch long hull features a flattened keel flanked by pronounced edges. Beginning early, pronounced strakes increase into vertical runners providing major gains to straight line stability and predictive tracking.

Interestingly, the vertical strakes hollow into invert coves, giving the SuperJet added suction to the water’s surface. On the outboard, the same strakes are tiered, giving the standup a sharp outside chine from which to carve a tight corner upon. Its these angular through-lines that give the SuperJet its sporty ride, feeling like a ski half of its 409-pound size.

Above: The real genius of the SuperJet doesn’t come in its horsepower, but its hull design. The standup’s pivot point is squarely beneath the rider’s front foot, as the broad keel is flanked by vertical strakes and deep coves running 2/3rds the length of the hull. These strakes give the SuperJet confident tracking in chop while the coves produce suction, keeping the hull planted.

Above left: From the factory, the SuperJet comes with some pretty trick handling equipment. The top-loader intake grate has a wide chip and a semi-open scoop blade. The ride plate also features an extended and angled shelf. Above right: The 144mm two-piece pump provides plenty of thrust through a 3-blade swirl impeller.

The pump is fed by a semi-open top-loader intake grate and rides upon a very race-inspired ride plate that features an extended and angled shelf. It’s this pitch to the rideplate’s lip that raises the SuperJet’s bow, placing the ski’s pivot point squarely midships.

As a larger – albeit less talented – rider, we found that the SuperJet preferred my weight on my forward foot instead of back. The more forward I leaned, the more responsive it felt. The SuperJet strikes a solid balance of steering input and body English to execute turns confidently. In fact, the further back I stood, the more the nose bobbed – particularly under 25-to-30mph.

Above: We found that at slower speeds, the SuperJet tends to porpoise (particularly if the rider’s weight is placed over the tail of the tray). The difference in riding at 20mph and 30mph is significant as the standup comes to plane and the ingenuity put into its hull shape begins to work.

Above left: The tray’s mat kit is spartan to say the least. If customizing your SuperJet is in the cards, begin with an aftermarket traction kit for added padding on the gunwales and a kick pad at the tray’s end. Above right: Yamaha molded a “reboarding hold” into the tray, that simply didn’t work for a bigger rider like ourselves. Although, lighter riders will likely find it far more helpful than we did.

Being what we’d call an “experienced novice” rider, we had our share of get-offs. Thankfully, the SuperJet doesn’t coast a nautical mile like its contemporaries, and swimming back to the tray wasn’t such an arduous task. The redesigned tray is wide, padded and lined with Hydro-Turf. There’s a small relief in the center – what Yamaha calls an integrated reboarding holder – that is supposed to act as a hand grip for reboarding.

Instead, we found the best method for reboarding was placing our hands on the gunwales directly under our shoulders and pressing the SuperJet down far enough to tuck our knees into the tray. Then, with a quick blip of the throttle, we were back on our feet in seconds.

Above: Keeping the SuperJet’s overall dry weight down to 375-pounds was central to this ski’s success. The lightweight handlepole, honeycomb head unit and handlebar arrangement are evident of Yamaha’s commitment here.

Above left: The handlepole has a small stainless steel locking pin that flips out to hold the pole vertical. Above right: Stability when riding is signature to the new SuperJet; whether at speed or rest. Novice riders can comfortably hone their skills without fear of a violent wipeout.

The gunwales are slick when wet, so trying to pull yourself up on your elbows can be a chore. If we were to make any changes to the 2021 SuperJet, it would be the addition of some padded traction mat to these, and maybe even a 1-inch kick wedge from Hydro-Turf – just to give a little extra forward lean. Again, low and forward is where you want to be.

As expected, with an all-new machine comes new technology and features. A small digital gas gauge found at the base of the handlepole shows the fuel level and when L-mode when activated. An adjustable, lightweight aftermarket-inspired handle pole is capable of extending 50mm, or 2-inches in length. The race-inspired handlebars include an adjustable steering cable system that can be set at either 16- or 19-degrees to increase the ski’s turn angle too.

Above left: Adjusting the length of the handlepole requires an Allen key, providing as much as 2-inches of travel. Above right: A carryover from the previous 2-stroke, Yamaha’s adjustable cable bracket permits changing the turning angle from 16 to 19-degrees for more responsive steering response.

Above: We rode the SuperJet into the afternoon and found it easier and more enjoyable after each passing minute. Unlike the Kawasaki SX-R, which can feel every bit of its 551-pounds, the 2021 SuperJet is deceptively agile, feeling far smaller than its actual size.

Although the throttle response of the unbridled TR-1 is super crisp and the acceleration is face-stretching, we found L-Mode just as enjoyable. Romping the gas through turns was just as exhilarating, and wringing it out wide open just isn’t as violent as other 4-stroke skis we’ve ridden. Again, we’re no professional rider and we’re certain many of you will be perfectly at home with the SuperJet’s natural setting.

What is most important – and what we see as the most appealing aspect of the new SuperJet – is its commitment to deliver a true “physically-challenging, athletic riding experience” all while being fuel-efficient and environmentally superior to its predecessor. If there was one machine to invigorate a new generation of young, athletic personal watercraft enthusiasts it is going to be the 2021 Yamaha SuperJet.

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Kevin Shaw

Kevin Shaw

Editor-in-Chief – kevin.shaw@shawgroupmedia.com Kevin Shaw is a decade-long powersports and automotive journalist whose love for things that go too fast has led him to launching The Watercraft Journal. Almost always found with stained hands and dirt under his fingernails, Kevin has an eye for the technical while keeping a eye out for beautiful photography and a great story.

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    faxon bissett III 22 August, 2020 at 10:24 Reply

    Hey Kevin,

    Excellent video! Quick question. I’ve had a few of the previous generation Superjets and always preferred the SXR’s because the Superjets have pretty noticeable Chine walk. Has that gone away? Either way I’m getting one, just curious. Thanks!

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