When riding your jet ski, you always do your best to avoid falling off. After all, if you’ve fallen, it’s usually because of an error with your technique. Another reason to stay on your personal watercraft; you could be sharing the same waters as a shark. What if you came across a shark? Can you outpace this dangerous creature on your jet ski?
Can a jet ski outrun a shark?
Are jet skis faster than sharks? Jet skis are faster and can outrun a shark. The current fastest jet ski on the market can reach 70 miles per hour, with some can even hitting speeds higher than 80 mph. Compare that to the top speed of the fastest sharks in the world, shortfin Mako shark, which is 42 mph.
So, there you have it. Jet skis can outrun sharks as they are quicker than the Mako, which is the fastest shark on the planet. However, given the open design of a jet ski, though, you may not be as safe as you think… especially if you happen to fall off the watercraft and attempt to outswim a shark.
In this article, I will discuss more about jet ski speed in relation to that of sharks. It will include details on how often sharks attack jet skis, whether you are statistically safe from sharks when jet skiing, and even if they are attracted to personal watercraft.
I’ll also talk about watercraft safety tips and what to do to ensure survival if you see a shark in the ocean with you.
Let’s get started.
What is the top speed of a jet ski?
Jet ski innovation is changing and improving all the time. With each new year, manufacturers like Kawasaki, Sea-Doo, and Yamaha introduce watercrafts that blow the prior year’s models out of the water.
Take, for instance, this research on jet ski speeds I previously published. It talks about several popular jet ski models, including the FZR from Yamaha, the Ultra 310R from Kawasaki, and the RXP-X from Sea-Doo.
These vehicles clocked in at around 67 mph for average speeds, with some able to reach speeds of up to 80 mph or higher.
The latest jet skis that have come down pike boast even greater speed. For instance, the 2019 Jet Ski Ultra 310LX from Kawasaki has an average speed of 70 mph, making it one of the fastest jet skis on the market today.
Its base speed is already 3 mph greater than the jet skis that JetSkiTips.com showcased. It probably has little issue reaching 80 mph and up.
So, how does that stack up against the speeds of sharks that you might encounter when jet skiing?
What is the top speed of a shark?
While the big three jet ski manufacturers continuously work on their respective watercrafts to increase their max speed more and more, the same cannot be said of sharks. They are how they are.
With 440 shark species in the world, these creatures come in all shapes and sizes. Only one gets the title of speediest swimmer though, and that’s the shortfin Mako shark.
Also known as the bonito shark, blue pointer, or simply the Mako, the shortfin Mako shark or Isurus oxyrinchus can get up to 10 feet long and weigh nearly 300 pounds. The females tend to outsize the males, which is interesting.
You can tell this shark apart from others due to its very lengthy tail. Shortfin Mako sharks also have countershading, a type of coloration that differs depending on the area of the body.
These sharks prefer any tropical and temperate waters, and they will reside in bodies of water with a depth of at least 490 feet. Based on that, it’s possible that you might encounter one whilst on vacation… and if you do, will your jet ski go faster than a shark?
OK, so the speed of a shortfin Mako shark can be up to speeds of 42 mph, allowing them to traverse 18.8 meters in one second’s time. Yes, that’s scary.
The Mako does not swim that fast all the time, of course. Those speeds were recorded during quick bursts.
Are jet skis safe from sharks?
Okay, so it’s easy math from there. Jet skis can race at 70 to 80 mph and the shortfin Mako shark only reaches 42 mph. Other shark species don’t compare in speed to the Mako, so that’s your toughest competition.
It makes sense to assume then that when on a jet ski, you’d be safe from a shark, right?
Well, yes and no.
Sure, you can overpower a shark on your watercraft, but that’s only provided you see the shark first. If the creature comes up from behind, then you have no way of knowing what’s hit you until it’s happened.
The shark could either severely damage your jet ski (maybe even to the point that it no longer works) or knock you off the watercraft. Neither is a good situation. Horizon Charters notes that even the bulky great white can swim at 5 mph when traversing the water.
That’s the swimming speed of Olympians, so the average person can’t swim that fast by far.
To make matters even worse, when a shark has decided to attack, they can up their speed to roughly 12 mph. Even if you could outswim a shark at basic traveling speed, you sure can’t do so now.
The good news?
Shark attacks happen very infrequently.
In the United States, every year, about 16 people will get attacked by sharks. Despite what the media sometimes portrays, sharks are not bloodthirsty savages eager for the taste of human meat. If they’re attracted to you, it’s because they:
- smell blood
- you’re moving in an erratic enough fashion that you draw the shark’s attention
- they think your jet ski is food
Are sharks attracted to jet skis?
Most of the time you will be travelling at speed on your jet ski. Just like speed boats, sharks won’t be interested and it’s extremely unlikely that they would give chase to your jet ski.
So, in conclusion, sharks are not attracted to jets whilst they are in motion, and it’s impossible for the shark to outrun or go faster than the speeds you will travel at.
However, there is an instance where you could be at risk of a shark attack, and that’s when you’re stationary sat on top of the water on your jet ski.
An inquisitive shark could see the shadow of your jet ski at your feet dangling into the water. Whilst very rare, this could be enough encouragement to the shark to come and take a closer look at the jet ski.
Thankfully if you do see this happening, you now know what to do; jet skis are faster than sharks, so open up the throttle and get yourself going again quick smart. The noise of the jet ski will also probably scare the shark.
So, whilst sharks might be attracted to a static jet ski, once you’re motoring it’s very unlikely that they would show any interest at all.
But that’s not to say shark attacks on jet skiers hasn’t happened. Let’s look at some statistics.
Jet ski shark attack statistics from 2018
The International Shark Attack File recently published its findings relating to 130 shark attacks globally in 2018. Of the 130 attacks that were studied, 66 were recorded as being unprovoked. That means where the shark attacked a person with no fault on the human (view source).
The statistics don’t publish data relating to shark attacks on jet skis, but what they do is state how many attacks were on boats. We have to assume that includes jet skis.
It stated that of the attacks studied, only 9 were boat attacks. Even if they were some jet skis includes in that data, it’s an extremely low risk.
What may cause you reason for concern is what the study said about when shark attacks take place; when there are more humans in the water… yep, and that could mean those jet skiing.
Here’s a quote from the research:
“The number of human-shark interactions is strongly correlated with time spent by humans in the sea. As the human population continues to expand and as interest in outdoor aquatic recreational activities increases, the incidence of shark attacks is expected to rise. Improved global communications between ISAF, scientific observers and beach safety organizations as well as increased coverage of sharks in the media has heightened public awareness of shark-related issues. This has led to an improved accounting of human-shark interactions.”
What I take away from that is sharks could be attracted to jet skis, as this is a recreational activity which is on the increase year on year.
Jet ski shark fatalities in the press
Whilst the research didn’t specifically call out any shark attacks relating to jet skis, there have been a number of reports in the press in recent years.
But I can’t find any record of a jet skier being killed by a shark. The closest I could find was from a guy on a jet ski who tried to save a swimmer who had been bitten by a shark.
“There was just blood everywhere and a massive, massive great white shark circling the body. I reached to grab the body and the shark came at me on the jet-ski and tried to knock me off. I did another loop and when I came back to the swimmer’s body and the shark took it.”
How to keep safe from sharks when on a jet ski
Just because most sharks aren’t out to get you on your jet ski doesn’t mean you should ever get lax. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and that goes double for riding your jet ski in waters that may contain sharks.
To that end, I recommend you follow these tips. First, here’s what to do to avoid a shark encounter:
- Never go into a body of water blindly, especially if you’ve never ridden it before. Instead, do your research first. Does this water attract sharks? What times of year? You might still want to think about riding elsewhere even with this information.
- Before riding your jet ski, ask an authority like a lifeguard about the state of the water for that day. Again, stay away if there’s been a recent shark sighting.
- Know how to spot a shark. If fish or birds begin jumping from the water, there’s a possibility that sharks are nearby trying to chomp on these creatures.
- Don’t ride your jet ski near piers or in other areas where people fish. All those fish and the bait could get sharks swimming that way.
- If possible, always choose bodies of water that are as clear as possible. Not only can you see a shark more easily, but they can spot you, too.
- Limit your erratic movements. Since you probably keep both hands on the handlebars of your jet ski (or at least, you should), this shouldn’t pose a huge problem. The more unpredictable your movements, the more attention you draw to yourself. A shark could notice and come on by to check it out.
Should you find yourself in the same waters as sharks, I have tips for that as well:
- Remember that sharks don’t really want to eat humans. Most of the time, if you’re calm and don’t freak out, they may swim right by you.
- If you’re attacked, you need to try to get away the best you can. Sometimes that means blowing bubbles, other times going underwater and trying to yell, or doing that above water. You can attempt to fight back or not, but don’t let the shark take over or it could be deadly.
- Although this should go without saying, antagonizing a shark will not end well for you. Don’t try to take selfies with a shark and certainly never touch one. It could cost you your life.
- Avoid wearing jewelry or other shiny, reflective items on your clothing, wetsuit, or gear. They resemble the glimmer of fish scales, and that will get the sharks coming over to you.
- It’s not a myth that sharks like blood. They very much do. Never ride your jet ski if you have an open wound. Women should avoid the waters when on their menstrual cycle.
- Know the times that sharks gather more often, such as dusk, dawn, and nighttime. Don’t ride your jet ski during these times.
- If you can, always bring a buddy or two to ride with you. Some jet skis have room for a passenger, but honestly, the more jet skis on the water in one grouping, the less likely sharks are to come around. If they by chance do show up, your bigger group could scare them off.
While jet skis are faster than sharks and can certainly outrun then we’re also talking about an open watercraft here. A shark could take you down or bump you off your jet ski if they wanted to.
In the water, they can almost always outswim you, especially if they’re primed to attack.
By following the tips and advice I outlined in this article, you’ll know how to spot and avoid a shark. Should you see one and, even worse, should one attack you, the pointers I provided could help you survive.
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If you are planning on going jet skiing for the first time, it’s understandable that you want to know whether sharks will be attracted to the jet ski, and what dangers there could be. I hope I’ve put your mind at rest at least a little bit. Here’s are some other guides you should find helpful before you go.