How to Operate a Jet Ski

Jet Skis can be a great recreational activity during the summer months. In the state of Florida, anyone wishing to operate a Jet Ski must be above 14 years old and must have completed an approved boater education course. Boater education courses ensure that operators of Personal Watercraft (PWCs) are knowledgeable about the process of operating a PWC such as a Jet Ski without accident or injury. There are several specific considerations when operating to a Jet Ski of which drivers should be aware.

Basic Operating Mechanisms

Almost all Jet Skis will only start if a key is in the ignition. The key is then strapped to a lanyard attached to the operator’s life jacket. In the event of a fall, the engine will automatically cut. A typical Jet Ski operates much like a motorcycle. The throttle is typically on the handles and is used to accelerate. The steering panel is similar to the steering handlebars of a bicycle.

Jet Skis can accelerate quickly and it is important to ensure that everyone is ready and aware before accelerating quickly.  Jet Skis can also flip over fairly easily. It is important to know how to swim and properly remount the Jet Ski after a flip. Boarding from the rear typically provides greater stability than trying to mount from the side.

Off-Throttle Steering

The most basic consideration to be aware of while operating a Jet Ski is the concept of off-throttle steering. Contrary to many peoples’ instincts, a Jet Ski must have propulsion to steer. Without the throttle engaged, the Jet Ski will simply float in the direction of the current or of its own momentum. This can cause problems with many new or inexperienced operators as their instincts may lead them to release the throttle in order to avoid a collision. When this occurs, the steering mechanism is useless and brakes are not typically a part of commercial Jet Skis.

Emergency Stopping

Related to off-throttle steering, performing an emergency stop can be an extremely difficult maneuver with which Jet Ski operators should familiarize themselves. When a driver needs to make an emergency stop, simply cutting off power will cause the Jet Ski to continue coasting. Rather than following the instinct to cut power, it is important to account for the momentum of the Jet Ski and the current of the water to compensate for the motion and make an accurate emergency stop.

Reckless Driving

An important consideration of how to operate a Jet Ski is the avoidance of reckless driving and reckless drivers. Many Jet Ski enthusiasts enjoy maneuvers such as wake jumping or spraying. While these can be enjoyable activities, they can also increase the likelihood of a Jet Ski accident or injury. Responsible drivers also avoid alcohol when operating a Jet Ski.

Following these guidelines can greatly reduce the risk of a Jet Ski injury. If you or a loved one has been involved in a Jet Ski accident, contact an experienced Jet Ski attorney as soon as possible. He or she will help you understand the intricacies of your case and discuss what types of compensation may be available to you.



“Safety Study – Personal Watercraft Safety.” News and Events. National Transportation Safety Board, 19 May 1998. Web. 12 May 2015. .

Good, Craig A., et al. Off-throttle turning performance of personal watercraft for accident reconstruction. No. 2005-01-1198. SAE Technical Paper, 2005.

Good, Craig A., et al. Stopping distance and acceleration performance of personal watercraft. No. 2005-01-1176. SAE Technical Paper, 2005.