Writing Center
Fall 2004 Edition

Purest Water Sports

Ashlee Nelson
Expository 1010 winner

As the sun comes up on a warm summer morning, I peer out of my tent to see it glistening against the glassy water. It is calling to me. After finally mustering up my strength, I take that first monumental step out of the tent. With life jacket in hand I run to my personal watercraft, commonly know by its brand name, Jet Ski to bid it good morning and take it for a refreshing ride. The engine seems to purr as the exhaust fumes tickle my nose and off I go. The Jet Ski literally seems to glide beneath me; this is what I call heaven. Aside from a few tempting motorboats, Lake Powell is all mine for the taking. As the day progresses, more motorboats with skiers seem to appear, and the lake comes to life. As I reflect on this memory, I begin to contemplate the safety of jet skiing versus that of motor boating; I realize that boating was not only safer, it was much more fun and versatile.

It is a well-known fact that jet skiers enjoy what is called wake jumping. As a motorboat passes, the jet skier drives as fast as possible over the crest of the boat’s wake. The momentum of the Jet Ski hitting the wake causes it to bounce or jump the wake. This practice is especially popular with the thrill seeking teens. However, this game is the cause of some major tensions between jet skiers and boaters. Commonly, boat motorists are looking for perfectly glassy water for their ski and wakeboarding passengers; meanwhile jet skiers are trying to chop it up. Why? Choppy water is much more invigorating than smooth sleek water. Although it is possible to go much faster with glassy water, the thrill of riding over a huge wave is just more fulfilling.

Thus begins the endless battle of rights. Boat motorists feel that they have total right of passage. Their boats are bigger; therefore, they had better be respected. Jet skiers on the other hand feel they are entitled to the same rights as those allotted to boaters. They pay the admission fees and have passed the emission tests; they deserve the right to enjoy the lake. The boaters just need to understand that there are more ways to enjoy nature than skimming over the lake at an average speed of forty-five miles per hour. They feel like their sport is superior to that of all other water sports. Their purest attitude is snobby and appalling! At least it seemed that way until I looked in the mirror and found no other reflection than my own.

Although jet skiing has is benefits, boating provides a safe, clean, fun experience for a larger group of friends and family. Many boaters enjoy the great versatility found in a motor craft. Boats are typically able to accommodate ten to fifteen people depending on the size of the vessel. This means that families are able to recreate together. Our society is grossly guilty of neglecting the family. The fast paced, task oriented world finds it hard to take time with family and friends. Boating keeps its participants on their toes and allows them to escape the real world. Naturally there will be different talents and passions among family and friends; thus, boating allows its participants to enjoy a variety of sports such as skiing, wakeboarding, kneeboarding, tubing, parasailing and air-chairing (just to name a few). For the non-active type, a simple ride in the boat is equally thrilling. So whether a person is five or ninety-five they can enjoy the pleasure of boating. Jet Ski participants, on the other hand, must be over the age of twelve and pass the state safety and personal watercraft operation course.

However, even after many states have implemented such safety courses, Jet Ski injuries continue to grow. In 1995, The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) conducted a personal watercraft accident study. The study, which included all participants treated in an emergency setting for a Jet Ski related injury from January 1, 1990 through December 31, 1995. The JAMA’s conclusion was that from 1990 to 1995, there was a four-fold increase in injuries associated with an increase in recreational use of Jet Skis. In fact, the rate of emergency room treated injuries related to Jet Skis was concluded to be approximately 8.5 times higher than that of motorboats. This same study, conducted in 1995, found that there were about 760,000 personal watercrafts (Jet Ski, Waverunner, Seedoo, etc.) in use at that time. Of those personal watercrafts (PWC), 200,000 were sold in 1995. The following table illustrates the PWCs share of boat accidents, injuries, and deaths in 1996:

  TotalInvolved PWCPercent PWC
Boating Accidents 8,574 3,079 35.9%
Injury Accidents 3,995 1,316 32.9%
Fatal Accidents 591 55 9.3%

This data clearly shows that over a third of all injuries and accidents in 1996 were caused by PWCs alone. An article from News Canada, written last summer, supports the idea of boats being safe recreational tools across the board. It said that United States statistics show that boating is twice as safe as biking, five times as safe as driving, and twenty-four times as safe as scuba diving. In an effort to reduce these horrifying accident rates, the authors of the JAMA study offer several recommendations to aid in preventing injuries to Jet Ski users:

Specific training for PWC users would be appropriate, much like training that is offered for persons operating boats. Given the fast speeds that can be achieved on PWC, training requirements and enforcement may reduce the number of injuries considerably. (PWC Accident Study)

The flaw in this recommendation is that the JAMA has omitted a prominent characteristic found in many Jet Ski related injuries—alcohol.

In the past, a common trend has been get drunk on the party boat. Go out, cruise the lake, and enjoy a “good” beer. However, in recent years, due to changing demographics of various recreational watercraft users, the trend has changed. Recent observations denote that alcohol usually follows the Jet Ski crowd. This crowd is made up of lower class nineteen to twenty-five year old, fun-loving kids. I’m not saying there is a problem with this demographic of users; however, there is a proper place for alcohol if one chooses to consume, and this place is not the lake. It is vital that the parties of this crowd become responsible for their actions and respect the lives of those also enjoying the lake.

Another downfall of Jet Skis is their effect on the environment. Their two-stroke engines emit harmful gases into the waterways. Their gases have been proven to not only disrupt the ecosystem but also be harmful to those recreating in the lake. Along with the core dangers of Jet Ski operation, this is a reason for the ban of Jet Ski in the majority of the national parks along with many state parks. For example, at Lake Powell over 93% of the lake is off limits to Jet Skis. It has been said that Lake Powell, one of our countries treasures, is turning into a lagoon of sewage. The emissions tests simply aren’t doing their job, and our national and state parks are suffering. If precautions are not taken, the water sports we all know and love will disappear. Our lakes, oceans, and rivers will eventually become polluted to the point of a completely stagnant ecosystem.

This is a charge to protect your passion. It isn’t about protecting your Jet Skis any longer; it is your love of the water and the recreational opportunities it provides. Boating is a joyful experience for all. It is something that a large group of friends and family can enjoy together. This earth has so much beauty to offer, why enjoy it alone? Diversify your water recreation. There are classes and forums held regularly in which you can learn a new art such as water skiing or wake boarding. The best part of boating is there is no age limit or minimum to enjoying a boating experience. The only restraint placed upon boaters, outside the general vessel navigation laws, is any participant under the age of twelve must wear a life vest. However, this single restraint is perfectly logical, because the common age of competent swimmers is about twelve years old.

Therefore, with the upcoming summer season, make recreation choices wisely. As for me, I will always live for water sports; it will just be behind a boat. The adrenaline rush of wake jumping is not worth the other risks incurred. Let us keep our loved ones safe and alive. Step away from the Jet Ski world and embrace the joys of boating. It is clear that Jet Skis do have their advantages; however, the versatility and safety found in boating clearly outweighs any possible benefits from jet skiing. So off I go to purchase my new boat for next summer.

See you on the lake… (Behind a boat that is).

Works Cited

“PWC Accident Study.” The Journal of the American Medical Association. (Aug 1997). 25 Oct. 2004.

News Canada. “Safe Boating . . . All Summer Long.” Google.com 18 Oct. 2004
< http://www.seek-online.com/boats/art_boats_0.html>.