By Anna Glennon
Helmets are not only required by all sanctioning PWC (Personal Water Craft) racing associations – they will save your head. Personal watercraft racing is full of thrills and spills, and occasionally a little fiberglass rubbing on the track. To make sure that your head is safe, I recommend getting a helmet prior to your first race. It can feel a little odd to start with, but you’ll get the hang of it after a ride. Sanctioning bodies require a DOT/SNELL approved helmet – and I personally recommend the Fly Racing line of moto helmets. Fly Racing F2 Carbon helmets are my go-to, their multi-directional impact system is sure to keep your noggin safe – and they are extremely light. If that’s a little out of your budget, Riva Racing has a great line up of Fly Racing helmets that will do the job.
You may have been riding without them before, but when you’re racing alongside other riders – goggles are a must. They will make it easier for you to see when you’re hunting for the next pass through the crazy spray of the rider in front of you. Goggles aren’t required, but you’re going to want them.
In case of a mid-race ejection, I recommend zip-tying a keychain floaty to the back of your goggles – this will keep them floating for you to recover them.
A life vest is required to race – so buckle up! Your life vest must be U.S. Coast Guard approved in order for you to line up. As for the fit, a good rule of thumb is to strap up, and have a buddy try and pull it over your head. If they can’t – and you’re snug – your vest should be ready to race.
Most wetsuit manufacturers sell slick wetsuit and vest combos in colors of your choice. While wetsuits, shoes and gloves aren’t required, I highly recommend them. A wetsuit will protect your legs from the bumps and bruises that come with racing. Riding boots will protect your feet from rocks, and a pair of riding gloves will help fight blisters and improve steering grip. I myself am a huge fan of Works H20 Designs race boots – I can’t race without them!
A back brace is required for stand-up athletes to race and is highly recommended for runabout racers. A strap-on back brace from your local motorcycle dealer will do the trick. Make sure that it fits either under your life vest or can be worn securely over it. You don’t want it falling off mid race.
Now that you’re geared up, make sure that your ski is ready to roll. Most PWC races will offer a “Beginner Open” class – be sure to ask. This class will allow you to race a ski or runabout of any make/model, that way you can get a feel for racing without worrying about what you’re running under the hood.
With that being said, you still have to obey some basic safety rules. Every ski (or runabout) must have a tow loop. A tow loop is in place for the safety marshal to bring your ski off the track if necessary.
A PWC wrist lanyard must be used on the race track in case you come off the ski – the lanyard will disengage from your ignition and kill the engine. I personally recommend a lanyard that will clip to your life vest, wrist lanyards are race legal, but can sometimes get tangled up in your handlebars and be distracting.
You will also need a race number. Your race number can be any number – but it needs to be big enough and bold enough for the race director to see from the tower. I have seen first-time racers use anything from duct tape to car dealer numbers. Just make sure they’re visible!
PWC racing is happening all over the world. Find a race close to you, double check your check list and head out. Check the event websites and Facebook pages for pre-registration, this often allows you to sign up at a lower cost. Be sure to evaluate the race site and the surrounding area – make sure there’s fuel nearby, or plan accordingly! Follow race event social media pages for updates on schedules and get involved with the race community by getting engaged online.
One of the most incredible things about the PWC racing community is the compassion toward new racers. If you’re missing a race day must-have, there is almost always someone on the beach willing to lend a hand. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get to know other racers – you never know who might be helping you out in the future.
This is just a short check list. I have been racing for five years and have travelled all over the country, and my check list keeps growing after every race. Once you get the first race out of the way, you’ll have a better understanding of what you need for a successful and fun weekend at the races.
Be aware that once you go to your first race, you’ll be hooked. You’ll want to max-out your race ski with performance goodies, and will want that color-combo wetsuit and vest to match the graphics kit you’re about to order. Take it from me, Jet Ski racing is the most addictive sport on the planet. It’ll get into your bones and have you shopping for the newest, coolest parts on the regular.