There are few things more mesmerizing on the water than a supercharged jet ski tearing up the surf.
Unlike boats, which are somewhat staid by comparison, jet skis are rebellious on the water, offering loads of potential fun if you develop the skills (and nerve) to ride freestyle.
While not every jet ski can perform tricks, many smaller, lightweight models (especially stand-up models) can.
This article will introduce you to a host of jet ski tricks and the necessary precautions you should take to perform them.
Sit-Down Jet Ski Tricks
Not all sit-down jet skis can perform tricks.
Many larger jet skis will struggle to even skid well.
So, if it’s tricks on the water you’re after, you’ll want to keep it in mind from the get-go and choose the right PWC for the job.
Choosing the Best Jet Ski (Sit-Down)
Performing optimal jet ski tricks requires speed and agility.
As a result, jet skis that are lightweight with a small hull are the best kind of jet skis for the job.
Smaller, lighter weight jet skis simply keep you more active on the water.
If tricks are a priority for you and you’re thinking about buying a sit-down jet ski, look first to the Rec-Lite category.
These smaller PWC have small, agile bodies that make them less work to maneuver and performing tricks easier.
Purchasing a vintage two-stroke jet ski is a viable alternative to purchasing a brand new jet ski.
Since these jet skis have smaller dimensions, they tend to be more flexible and lightweight.
Just remember to check the engine hours and laws in your area before you go the two-stroke route. (Two-stroke jet skis are environmental villains, and some states have enacted laws to keep them off their waterways.)
Servicing older models can also be a challenge.
How to Do Cool Tricks on a Sit-Down PWC
But enough shop talk. You’re here for the tricks. Here’s how to perform some cool tricks on your sit-down jet ski:
Let’s start with the basics.
What may sound somewhat unexciting actually requires a decent amount of skill to pull off. At least without falling off your jet ski.
However, with a little practice, you will be on your way to making wicked turns in no time.
The key to this trick is to gain the confidence and body control needed to steer the machine at high velocities.
Start by practicing straight-line acceleration across the water until you hit top speeds with a wide turn at the end.
Once you get a feel for the turn and how the jet ski moves with your body, make the turn tighter by turning the handlebars fully into the turn.
At top speeds, your PWC will whip around, dip into the turn, and you’ll probably pick up a bit of a skid halfway through.
By performing the above actions, the speed, the tight turn, you’re effectively performing a 180.
To get all the way around facing the other direction, you’re going to need some speed.
Not a lot. 25 miles per hour should do it.
To get more whip, turn the handlebars slightly in one direction before turning sharply to the other.
Let off the throttle and let the momentum carry you around.
Once you get the technique down, 180s will be a cinch.
The 360 is the difficult cousin of the 180. The technique is the same.
The difference is in the propulsion. That means speed.
Basically, to turn a 180 into a 360 and make it a full circle, you need enough thrust.
Try increasing your speed in increments of 5 to 10 mph on the way into the turn.
If the conditions are right, when you let off the throttle, the momentum will carry you further around.
Oh, the irony of popping a wheelie without wheels!
Yes, there are sit-down jet skis that make doing a wheel-less wheelie possible.
One model that comes to mind is the Sea-DooSpark Trixx.
Models like the Trixx can raise their noises high, giving you the same sensation as performing a wheelie on a motorcycle.
To do a wheelie on a jet ski, you must shift weight to the back of the craft.
Stand up (yes, on your sit-down PWC) and move back as far as you can while still reaching the handlebars.
Lean back as you give the jet ski throttle and you’ll get some lift in the nose.
The more weight on the backend, the more lift you’ll get.
Some riders put a rider on their backend to provide an anchoring weight and get serious lift.
They smile for the camera and it looks like this –
We cannot stress enough NOT to do this. This is extremely dangerous.
If your rider falls off, they could get severe injuries or even die.
If you’re going to do wheelies, keep them small and make sure all riders are well-secured to the craft.
Turning donuts is one of the most basic tricks you can do on a jet ski, because it’s literally just turning in circles.
It’s basically a hairpin turn on repeat.
Performing a donut is as simple as steering the jet ski and leaning in one direction continuously while giving the craft throttle.
Sounds like it’s going to dunk me into the water, you think?
There’s a high likelihood it will.
While a sharp, fast donut will look the most badass, a moderately-paced donut is the place to start.
When you get comfortable on the slow turn, you can give it more gas.
Have you ever been at the beach watching a person ride the waves so gracefully on a PWC it seems as if they are jumping between them?
This is a skill you can acquire.
However, it’s not something that happens by chance. There is a calculated approach to wave jumping on a jet ski.
First, let off the throttle as the wave is coming near.
As the front of the wave approaches, give your jet ski throttle. Lean back with bent elbows and knees tucked tight.
When you’re airborne, hold the power same throttle through the entire jumping action.
Keep tucked in and brace yourself as you’re about to land into the water tail first.
Rinse, wash, and repeat.
Doing a backflip on a sit-down PWC sounds improbable, and it’s not the brainiest thing you can do on the water, but it’s not impossible.
Unlike these other tricks, you cannot perform jet ski back flips on a still surface.
You must have fairly substantial waves to get your jet ski into the air.
This trick is also very dangerous. We don’t advise it.
That said, if you are insistent on doing a back flip on your sit-down PWC (don’t):
Perfect jumping waves first.
You’re going to need to know how to catch and fly off them.
As the wave approaches, give your jet ski throttle.
Lean back with bent elbows and knees tucked tight.
When you’re airborne, lean back hard and pull the handlebars with you, bringing the PWC up and over you.
If you have enough speed, you may be able to get the sit-down jet ski all the way around and land it right-side up back on the water.
Here’s a video showing what’s more likely to happen –
Flying (or Superman)
The thing about a jet ski is that you don’t need your feet to make it go.
That’s why you can do so many crazy tricks.
Your hands may be occupied, but your lower body is free to go wild.
Flying on a jet ski is about the most legs-free trick you can perform.
It’s also incredibly dangerous and ill-advised.
But here’s how you do it:
While your PWC is at rest, lean your chest onto the handlebars.
Give the PWC throttle.
Try not to fall off.
Alternatively, lay on the seat so you’re facing the handlebars.
Grip the handlebars VERY tightly.
Give the PWC throttle. (50 mph or more will give most riders good lift).
Try not to fall off.
Stand-Up Jet Ski Tricks
While you can perform jet ski tricks on sit-down models, the majority of sit-down jet skis really aren’t built for such maneuvering.
Stand-up jet skis, however, are ideal for freestyle jet ski tricks.
Stand-up jet skis are lighter weight and more agile, giving them a much better range to facilitate sensational trick-riding.
Here are some of the top tricks you can perform on a stand-up PWC:
If you’ve ever seen a freestyle jet ski competition, you know the backflip is arguably the most popular freestyle trick of them all.
Although the trick can be performed on still water, it’s much easier to pull off with waves or the help from a boat’s wake.
The method to perform a stand-up jet ski backflip is mostly the same as on a sit-down model.
Get comfortable jumping waves , so you know how to catch air.
When the wave approaches, give your jet ski a lot of throttle as you lean into the wave.
As you start to crest, lean backward, arching your back and pull the jet ski with you.
Think of it like an extension of your own body.
With enough speed, you should be able to make it all the way around.
You don’t need a lot of wake to do a backflip on a stand-up PWC, but it helps to have some rise.
In the absence of any other wake or waves, you can make your own wake with your jet ski and come back around to it.
Here’s a jet ski freestyle pro explaining how to do a backflip with a make-your-own-wake technique:
The monkey jump is such an eye-popping yet dangerous freestyle trick that using words to describe exactly how to do it won’t do it justice.
However, we can at least attempt to accurately describe what the trick looks like.
It begins with rapid acceleration and then a quick declaration into a sharp turn.
This is all performed while the rider is pulling back on the jet ski.
The jet ski stands up on its tail in the water, it sinks under the water while standing up, and as the jet ski returns to the surface, the rider catapults themself from the jet ski.
They end up doing a front flip over the handlebars.
One of the most difficult and dangerous tricks to perform is the monkey jump.
Here’s the same pro nailing it –
The barrel roll is another popular freestyle jet ski trick you’re sure to see while watching competitions.
The barrel roll is an airborne trick that rotates the PWC 360 degrees above the water.
Like the backflip, you’ll need some wake, and the more you make your body one with the jet ski, the easier it becomes.
To perform a barrel roll, approach a small wave or wake.
Accelerate into it.
As you hit the wave and take the air, start a slight turn and lean your upper body into the turn, distributing your weight to the side you’re turning toward.
The key is to bring the jet ski whipping with you so it turns a full rotation in the air before landing back in the water.
The submarine is one of the easier jet ski tricks to perform.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t look cool as hell.
This trick is performed by creating some wake, hitting that wake with power, and leaning forward to dip the jet ski nose first into the water.
Doing this will submerge both you and your jet ski before the buoyancy of the PWC springs you back up to the surface.
The fountain is unique in the world of freestyle tricks, because it looks cooler than its difficulty level.
It’s basically just a reverse wheelie.
You actually have to ride the jet ski backward to pull it off.
Instead of scooting to the back of your jet ski, you approach it from the front, laying on the nose and controlling the throttle and steering from there.
As you give it throttle, lean your weight back, pulling the jet ski up so the back of the jet ski breaches the waterline.
The water that normally shoots out the back of the PWC to propel you forward will shoot into the air, creating an effect like, you guessed it, a fountain.
Just keep in mind, the water that shoots out of a PWCs jets is powerful and can cause severe harm if it hits someone at too close a range.
Only perform this trick when you are far from anyone else in the water.
Freestyle Jet Skis for Tricks
When it comes to performing tricks on a jet ski, the best option is always a stand-up.
They’re lightweight, built for solo riding, and are way more maneuverable.
But that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to ride like the pros.
Many freestyle jet ski riders make modifications to their jet skis or even have custom PWCs built that change the dynamics and capabilities of the jet ski.
However, two of the big three PWC manufacturers do make jet skis that can be used to perform some tricks.
If you’re dead-set on a jet ski from one of the big three for your freestyle riding, the Yamaha SuperJet is the model you want.
At 375 pounds, the 2021 SuperJet under-weighs the only other big three stand-up model, the Kawasaki Jet Ski SX-R, by 176 pounds.
That is some serious difference in maneuverability.
The SuperJet tops out at a moderate speed – 45 mph – but that’s all you’ll need to get this light trickster in the air.
If you have a need for speed, the Kawasaki Jet Ski SX-R is your beast.
But it’s heavy.
Reaching speeds of 62 mph, the 2021 Kawasaki SX-R is, by far, the fastest stand-up on the market.
But also the least maneuverable.
Where the SX-R does shine is in big ocean waves, where other lightweight stand-ups can get tossed about.
Still, the worst stand-up for freestyle.
If your entire purpose for buying a PWC is freestyle riding, you might want a PWC designed with exactly that utility in mind.
Krash Industries might be new to the PWC market (and really new to the U.S. market), but their line of stand-up PWCs are designed expressly for freestyle riding.
Where the Yamaha SuperJet comes in at 375 pounds, the Krash Reaper barely breaks 350.
And it’s the heaviest model in the Krash fleet! Their pro model, the FR Pro, barely blips 300 pounds.
Every model in the Krash line reaches a top speed of 46 mph.
This svelte line is a delight for trick and freestyle jet skiers.
If you’re looking for some excitement in your jetskiing, you can find it on a stand-up or sit-down.
But, if you want to maximize your trick riding, a stand-up’s what you want.
Climb on any one of our stand-up recommendations and you’ll be well on your way to attempting gravity-defying feats in no time!