Are Jet Skis Easy to Ride & Drive? + Easy to Flip Over?

are jet skis hard to drive

Jet skiing is a fun activity that many people take part in during the holiday season, either with a friends’ jet ski, hiring your own or taking part in an instructional lesson. However, jet skis can be dangerous, so it is important that you know the full ins and outs of jet skiing before you take to the water. Are they hard to drive, can you flip it over? Let’s find out… 

Are jet skis easy to ride? Riding a jet ski can be as easy as pushing the throttle and steering. With instruction from an experienced jet ski pilot, riding and controlling a jet-ski is relatively easy for most people to pick up. A boat is often seen as the ocean-equivalent to a car, so then a jet-ski is akin to a motorbike. 

Sounds easy right? 

Well, not quite.

It is highly recommended that jet skis should be used in open, calm water, and away from swimmers. You will inevitably come off at some point, so you will also need to know how easy jet skis are to flip over. I will explain what to do when a jet ski flips over lower down the page. 

Are jet skis hard to drive?

Providing you have been given full instruction, jet skiing really isn’t all that hard and can be enjoyed by a wide range of ages and abilities. In fact, jet skiing can be enjoyed by kids as young as 14 years old.

are jet skis easy to ride
Jet skiing is great for all ages, and are easy to drive after just a few minutes of practice. 

Jet skiing can be a really fun way of spending time by the sea, either by yourself, with a partner or your family, provided the right precautions are taken.

In fact, some people even go jet skiing as it can be a great workout. Read this other blog post I wrote about how many calories you can burn jet skiing.

But how do you go about driving a jet ski and how easy is it really?

Before you ride your jet ski

First, you need to make sure what kind of jet ski it is that you have; either a stand-up or a sit-down one.

Sit-down jet skis are often considered to be the easier of the two, being more comfortable and allowing you more control rather than splitting your attention between balancing yourself and controlling the machine.

Before your ride, make sure you are wearing the appropriate clothes; including a wetsuit, eye protection and a life jacket in case you fall off. To help you out, I’ve put together a list of what jet ski gear first timers should buy.

If you are riding within the USA, be sure of the laws of your state and whether or not you require a license to ride. (If you do, then you will have to take part in a jet ski course before you can ride on your own).

Other necessary safety measures include a functioning ventilator system on the jet ski, a US Coast Guard approved fire extinguisher and make sure that your ski has enough fuel for the ride.

Anyone riding a jet ski also needs to have a cord or lanyard which is attached to the ignition sky tied around their wrist. This is in case you fall off your jet ski, meaning that it shut down and doesn’t go riding off without you on it.

How to ride a jet ski the easy way

Are jet skis hard to drive?

Not if you follow this step by step guide to getting started. If you’re off on a vacation and are worried about jet skiing, this should give you some confidence that it will be easy… and of course, you will get an instructor showing you too!

1. Get comfortable

You don’t want to be fidgeting around while you are riding, so be sure to sit comfortably before you start. This will help you to get used to how easy riding a jet ski will be.

Place your hands on the handlebars and put your feet on the footrests and become one with the jet ski! 

2. Turn the ignition

Make sure that the lanyard on the key is securely attached to your wrist, so that the ignition turns off as soon as you fall in the water.

Some jet skis don’t need the throttle to be continually pressed, so you don’t want it going off without a driver as this can pose massive risk to onlookers or swimmers.

3. Slowly push the throttle

Treat it like a car or a motorbike. You don’t want to just slam your foot down and go off at uncontrolled speed.

Start off slowly with the throttle and you won’t get any nasty surprises.

4. Cruise in a straight line

Once you are happy you have control over the craft, travel away at around 5 to 10 mph until you are a safe distance away from the shore and any swimmers.

5. Gradually increase speed

Now you are in open water, away from any swimmers and other boats, you can begin to increase the speed.

Still be sure to keep it in your comfort zone, don’t just slam your foot down as this can cause you to lose control and potentially fall off.

6. You’re good to go!

Don’t go too fast or run before you can walk.

Be aware you your surroundings, including boats, other jet skis or any swimmers who may be around, and move away from them to clear water.

Are jet skis easy to flip over?

Ah, the whole jet ski flipping scenario… this is the main thing that newbies get worried about and become anxious. But please, don’t be! It is easy to flip over but it’s not going to be a problem – I promise.

The bottom line is this; falling off is often an inevitability.

are jet skis easy to flip
Jet skis are easy to flip over if you don’t ride with care and attention. 

Even the most experienced jet skiers fall off, so don’t worry if that happens. Getting back on is as easy as swimming to the craft and hoisting yourself back up from the back of the ski.

However, what happens if you flip your jet ski?

Capsizing can be a danger for any kind of watercraft, including boats and PWC (personal watercraft), and is often caused by inexperienced drivers or recklessness. Flipping is usually caused by turning when going too fast, which is why it is important to slow down when taking turns, and never turn too sharply.

Why do jet skis flip over?

If you do go too fast and make a sharp or sudden turn, then yes, jet skis are easy to flip.

Head trauma is usually the main concern, rather than drowning, so if you are thrown into the water by an overturned jet ski make sure you are aware of you and any passengers’ surroundings.

The good thing is, most jet skis come with helpful info on how to flip your jet ski on the bottom of the craft, so following those instructions will help get your jet ski the right way up and prevent any damage to it or its engine.

Make sure that the engine is off before attempting to flip it, with your wrist lanyard having hopefully removed the key once you were thrown clear.

Certain models of jet ski have to be flipped in a certain direction, either anti-clockwise or clockwise, so pay attention to which way the instructions tell you to flip it.

Once it is flipped back upright, attempt to start it.

  • If it does start? Ride it back to shore immediately so that its owner or the people you hired it from can make sure that it is working and safe.
  • If it doesn’t start? Getting it back to shore can be harder so make sure that you have someone waiting at the shoreline to help you get it out of the water.

To conclude; are jet skis easy to flip? Yes, they are if you drive recklessly and don’t have full control over the jet ski. However, most modern jet skis are easy to flip back again into the correct position so you can carry on.

If you own a jet ski, rather than hiring one for the day, there are some other things you need to do after a bad flip and broken vehicle.

You will need to get your broken jet ski out of the water. Make sure it’s unplugged from its power and gas and then ground the wires to prevent any damage or potential fires.

Make sure everything is fully dry on the inside before attempting to start the ski again (making sure to add a small amount of fuel into the cylinder holes before you reattach the plugs).

Related questions to jet skiing 

I assume you’re going to be riding a jet ski as part of a vacation soon. Like I said, you should get full training before the instructor lets you set off.

To give you some more tips though (and peace of mind), here are related questions that people asking “are jet skis easy to ride” will often ask too. 

How to not fall off a Jet Ski

Falling off of a jet ski can pose a danger to yourself, especially if you are travelling at speed. However, for a new rider this danger can mainly be down to inexperience, so it is important that you are completely aware of the safety precautions mentioned above.

Going too fast, being reckless, jumping waves and making sharp turns are all ways in which you can be thrown off of your jet ski.

To avoid this, be sure to take it slow when first riding and don’t try to run before you can walk. Spend a while getting used to the ski, including getting used to control of the throttle and how to turn.

Jet skis do not have brakes, meaning that to slow down you have to take your foot off of the throttle, as well as putting it into reverse gear to stop your forward motion.

Dangers of jet skiing in the ocean 

There are a lot of horror stories thrown about on the news about jet ski accidents, the most famous being singer Kirsty MacColl who, while she was killed by a powerboat rather than a jet ski, is still widely associated with the dangers of jet skis (view

Because of this, while precaution and awareness is now very much part and parcel when it comes to jet skiing near popular swimming and diving spots, there is an assumption that they are far more dangerous than they actually are.

An experienced jet ski rider or instructor will always make sure that they are safely away from any swimmers, boats or other obstacles before riding at any speed. 

Most jet ski injuries are caused to the driver more than any surrounding bystanders and are often caused by reckless or inexperienced driving.

Common jet ski injuries include concussions, head injuries, broken limbs, burns and whiplash, all of which can be caused by flipping a jet ski, allowing a child to drive or a loss of control. 

Can jet skis explode? 

This may seem a little extreme, but it is a known risk (despite its rarity) as jet skis have both electric wires and gas lines inside, with an internal combustion engine that can cause fire and even explosions if not treated correctly.

Jet ski explosions aren’t very common and are actually caused more by leaving your jet ski idle for a long time with a full tank of gas. The engine is located under the seat and leaving your jet ski for a prolonged length of time with gas in the fuel tank can result in it leaking out into the engine compartment or having a build-up of fumes within the engine.

This means that when the jet ski is started up again, this leaked fuel within the engine catches fire and explodes.

However, you shouldn’t worry about this if you are one-time driver and are hiring it from a reputable company for the day. This is only an issue if you are a long-term owner of a jet ski and have no used it in a while.

What about sharks?

I hear this one all the time. Whilst jet skis are easy to drive, many people won’t even consider it due to a (irrational) fear of shark attacks.

Jet skis can outrun sharks. To read more about why you shouldn’t really be concerned, this article I wrote about jet skis and shark attacks.

How fast can jet skis go?

Modern jet skis can hit very high speeds. Most vacationers won’t ever need to go this fast though, and you can read more about speed here.

Can you jet ski when pregnant?

You can, but you might find that insurance is invalidated. To be honest it’s not something that I advise and you can read more about pregnancy and jet skiing here.


To conclude, jet skis are not hard to drive or ride.

Within a few minutes you should be completely at ease with the jet ski, the only possible limit being how fast you want to push things.

Don’t be afraid. It’s not scary. It’s a whole lot of fun!

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