Older Riders & Personal Water Craft (PWC)
We are seeing older riders 50 years plus now making up a growing proportion of jet ski – also known as personal watercraft (PWC) – users and there is no sign that the trend is slowing down, indeed quite the opposite. Sales figures confirm that more seasoned folk are embracing PWC.
Whether you’re an excited newbie, experienced boater or returning to watercraft after a long time away, it’s always good to have a fresh look at safety when it comes to PWC riding, and be aware of your limitations. A regular pre-ride checklist is a must so you are not caught out without bungs or your phone.
Before you head out, it’s important to check the weather. The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) website is a great source of information. If it’s cold, think about wearing a helmet (because it keeps you warmer), a well-fitted lifejacket and quality riding gear to deal with wind chill. Heated grips are now an option on some watercraft (such as some Sea-Doos). You can add wind deflectors for even greater benefit.
When you start heading out, it’s best to buddy up with a friend, but if you’re alone or heading offshore then it’s worth logging on and off using the free Marine Rescue App on your phone. If you’re regularly riding alone or offshore, you might want to invest in a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) which is available from many boating outlets. Make sure it’s attached to your lifejacket, rather than your PWC, should you fall off.
When you’re out on the water, do you have the strength to re-board your PWC? Will Sullivan, an experienced PWC rider, was lucky to be rescued after falling off his PWC, but not before several hours in the water. “My muscles started to lock up. My body was shaking. I was thinking OK this is getting very serious right now’” Sullivan said. His story and advice is a warning for all PWC riders. “Pay attention. No matter how calm it seems, or how good you think you are, you’ve got to pay attention because it could go very bad very quickly.” You could also consider installing a fold-down step at the rear of your craft to help get you back on board more easily.
Tips to stay safe
- Always wear a lifejacket, and make sure any passengers wear one too
- Write a pre-ride checklist
- Make sure your lanyard is attached to your lifejacket
- Check the weather before you head out
- Partner with a buddy whenever you can
- Make sure you have enough fuel and your battery is fully charged
- Tell someone where you are going and your estimated time of return; log your destination on the Marine Rescue App
- Know your limitations
- Watch out for signs of fatigue
- Make sure you are comfortable reboarding your PWC, or install a fold- down step at the rear
- Be aware that your vision may be compromised as the light fades in the late afternoon
- Consider carrying a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon)
As you get older, taking extra care, and riding safely and responsibly, will help you have many an enjoyable day on the water.