How-To: Jet Skiing
Recently, I took a trip to Pattaya, Thailand with some friends and on one of the days that we were there we rented a few jet skis and went for about an hour ride in the ocean. I got to thinking that this might be a bit odd to see someone go from their wheelchair onto a jet ski and spend an hour ripping around the waves. So, I thought it might be good to give some explanation, not only to those who would just wonder how I do it, but to those looking to try it themselves.
Once we had all gotten to the beach we hopped down a large step (I will explain how to do that later) and rolled a very short distance in the sand downhill to the water. This is where the Kenda Kobra (www.KendaTire.com) tires come in really handy. The wide tire sits on top of the sand so well and doesn’t sink in, and the knobby edges give good traction in the soft sand. Now at the water, the skis were brought up on shore a bit by the people renting them out, so they were easy to get to. We only had to dip our wheels a little in the water.
Out of the 4 guys going out for some fun 3 of us were in chairs, so we all had our different techniques for getting from our chairs to the seat of the jet skis. Some crawled in the sand and climbed up using the foot well as a step/seat and others went head first over the seat sideways sort of like a beached dolphin (Bon, you rock!). I simply pushed my chair up next to the side of the ski and with one hand on the handle bar and the other holding the front bar of my chair, I hoped from one seat to the other. This is definitely something that you need to practice to figure out just what position your feet should be in and also where your head goes mid-hop. There is a considerable amount of strength involved and a pretty good sense of balance.
Now that you are on the seat, you still need to pull one leg across to the other side. With one hand grab the leg you need to move and use the other hand to grab where ever you need to steady your body. This also may take some practicing to get just right, not to mention you may also be working against a spasm of any sort. Believe me a good spasm will throw you right in the water if you are not careful. If you have an able-bodied friend there, this is a good time to have them near, just in case..
Don’t forget to wear your life vest and cinch it up nice and tight. Plug in your kill switch and strap the lanyard to your wrist or clip it to your vest. This comes in very handy later when you end up tossing yourself off the ski doing something wild and crazy that you probably shouldn’t have. Take it from me.
One tip I can definitely give from experience is that you want to find a ski where the padding of the seat wraps around the sides of the hull where your knees will spend a majority of the time banging against the sides. If it is only the fiberglass of the shell then you will end up rubbing the inside of your knees raw and even though it may not hurt it takes a good long time to heal. We had Sea Doo 3-seaters that were good for this fact, but one guy had a Yamaha Wave Runner and the seat padding stops early. It is just something you really want to watch out for.
While you are out and riding all over the wild blue yonder, you will want to move around and make turns and find the right spots to position your body. Watch what your legs and feet do when you hit rough water or when you turn. Riding on one of these toys will take a good amount of strength and endurance. Spend some time going slower and in a place that is not crowded until you start getting the hang of it.
As you get more and more daring with your turns and start putting more and more speed into it, you are bound and determined to fall off. No matter what anyone says, even the best riders hit the water from time to time. When it happens, don’t panic. Once the kill switch is pulled out the ski will automatically go into an idle and most will turn full circle and come back to you. You remembered to connect that kill switch like I had said earlier, right? You will still have to do a bit of swimming to get to it, though. Once you get a hold of your boat again make your way to the very back. Now, again this is where people do things differently. Some of my friends climb up from the side using the foot well. This will only work if the ski is stable enough. Otherwise, you will tip it right back over and end up back in the water. I find climbing from the very back works the best for me. There are usually handles to grab a hold of on either side if the seat. From the water I use the back decking to push up on with my arms. Sort if the same way you get out of the water in a pool to sit on the deck. Once I get most of my body out of the water, I work to put my knees on the back deck and grab the handles on the seat. This is yet another spot that will take some practice, and some definite mistakes will happen.
The next part is the hardest and usually the silliest looking. Now, I straddle the seat pulling myself toward the front of the seat with the handlebars. I guide my legs to go on either side of the seat as I slide belly down heading to the front. This ends up looking like something out of a spy cartoon, but works very well. The closer I get to the handle bars I start to sit back up and once I get to where I want to be I situate my feet where they are most comfortable and re-insert the kill switch, start the engine and off I go to do it again.