So you’re heading out on your first jet ski riding experience but you’re a little bit unsure what to wear. Fortunately – I’ve got you covered!
Here is what you need to wear when riding a jet ski:
1. CG-Approved Life Jacket
It goes without saying that you’ll need to wear a life jacket, but which type? We’ve done an in-depth guide on the best life jackets but we would say it’s most common that you’ll get a life jacket which is similar to a wakeboarding life jacket designed for calm waterways.
If you’re hiring a jet ski, it’s 99.9% guaranteed that the rental business will provide these to you in your sizing. These may not be so comfortable so you may wish to bring your own.
2. T-Shirt and Shorts
You can’t ride with just a bikini, so you’ll need a t-shirt (preferably long-sleeved) and shorts. Those who ride much faster will need a full-length wetsuit in 2/3mm to protect against skin injuries when crashing at high speeds.
Your shorts should come down to the knees when you’re standing straight, much like typical hiking shorts. This is because they’ll be pushed up the thigh when you’re riding due to the wind draft.
3. Water-Resistent Sunscreen
While I know many riders don’t opt for it, I do recommend sunscreen…even if you’re riding for just an hour. This will mean that you are less likely to get burnt and won’t spoil what will otherwise be a great day on the water.
Look for SPF 30+ sunscreen which is water repellent and aim to reapply every 2 hours. Pay close attention to the back of your neck and your arms which bear the brunt of the sun’s rays.
4. Polarized Sunglasses
Sunglasses are highly recommended when riding to help you see more clearly and avoid squinting while you’re riding. Polarized sunglasses are a step beyond and you can find a good set for under $50 in most outdoor stores.
Avoid the gas station sunglasses which are often labelled as polarized but often aren’t, or just don’t provide the level of protection as the big brands. You’ll also need to buy a strap in case they fall off. My best recommendation is sunglasses for runners as these have more tightness on the face. As an alternative, dirt bike goggles work very well but will be warmer and may fog up.
5. Lip Balm
In addition to sunscreen and sunglasses, lip balm will help your lips stay protected. It’s not just the sun that’ll lead to cracked lips but the dryness of the saltwater and sandy beaches too.
Again, you’ll want to look for something SPF 30+ and take some with you in your pocket. It’s very inexpensive and available in many outdoors stores, pharmacies and gas stations.
6. Hydration Backpack
Depending on your life vest, you may not be able to wear a hydration backpack while riding a jet ski. However, they’re so malleable that you can fit one into the front storage locker of your jet ski.
I recommend leaving these in the freezer the night before and only taking it out when you’re ready to leave home. There is nothing more refreshing than cold water while riding out there on a hot day!
7. Thin Riding Gloves
If you’re participating in a jet ski tour or hiring privately, it’s unlikely that they will supply you with gloves due to hygiene reasons. For less than $20 you can find some good gloves that will save you from chaffing.
There are several types of PWC gloves you could buy that work for the marine industry. My personal favourite is road bicycling gloves as they’re very thin but with some padding in the right spots. After all, those guys have been holding on to the handlebars for decades. Avoid motorcycling gloves as these can get hot, provide limited functions and won’t drain your wet fingers easily.
8. Wide-Brimmed Hat
Following along with our SunSmart initiative on JetSkiAdvice, a wide-brimmed hat will do wonders to keep you cool while riding. You’ll need to make sure it has a string/strap to avoid flying away at high speeds.
You may find it leads to very mild strangulation at high speeds as the hat string pulls on your neck. In this instance, swap the string for a wide dirt bike goggle strap that spreads the load. You can find these replacement straps online for less than $10.
9. Smart Phone or EPIRB
Our last and final recommendation for something to wear is one that could potentially save your life. If you crash suddenly or get knocked out, then having your smartphone with you or an EPIRB could assist in getting authorities to you as quickly as possible.
My cheap recommendation is the SPOT Tracker as it’s not only very cost-effective but easy to clip onto your life jacket. If you’re into jet ski fishing, then go for a GPS with an EPIRB built-in. Your smartphone is the last resort as it may not survive being dunked in saltwater, and nor can you depend on phone service in some riding areas.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you’ve seen what you should wear, let’s cover some common questions that people have asked me over the years.
Do I Need To Wear a Helmet on a Jet Ski?
No. Helmets are only recommended for those who are riding jet skis very fast (above 40-knots) as well as those riding in hazardous conditions. They are only compulsory in some competitive events such as racing and stuntwork.
Can I Use My Jet Ski Life Jacket For Other Activities?
Absolutely! Jet ski life jackets are well suited to water skiing and wakeboarding as well as canyoning with life rafts or kayaks. Keep in mind that this may wear them out faster.
Do I Need Everything On This List?
In many cases, you only need to wear a PFD approved in your state, territory or jurisdiction. All other items mentioned on this list are optional yet highly recommended.
Where Can I Buy My Gear Cheaper?
Facebook groups are often the best place to find used jet ski gear from last season. Often there is nothing wrong with these items but the individual has moved on to other sports. You might also want to keep an eye on eBay.
There we have it! 9 things you really should be wearing while riding a jet ski. Some of these may have been common sense but we know that people get nervous when riding a jet ski for the first time and need some guidelines.
We hope you have an epic time riding out there! Better yet – we hope this propels you forward into full-time jet ski ownership, and if it does, JetSkiAdvice will be here with all the advice to see you safe out there!