Quiz: How Much Do You Know about Jet Ski Evolution?

PWC Evolution_01_Jet Ski Rental

Jet Ski Evolution

The Personal Watercraft from 1968 to the Present

Tracing the history of PWC Jet Skis is kind of fun. We’ve taken a look at some of the old photos and film clips to see what a has changed over time. The first ride on a jet powered jet ski must have been exhilarating. Can you imagine? Believe it or not, It was done by a bunch of astronauts in a Sea-Doo RXP-X 260. It all evolved from that point in 1968.

Rumors are that they went at a breakneck speed and executed amazing hairpin turns. Or so they thought. Wow! The first PWC was pretty potent with plenty of raw power for its time. Perhaps “they don’t make them like that anymore!” But we do have the modern-day RXP-X ready for you to have the adventure of a lifetime.

The early days

The protype was the 1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo that came in two versions. The inventors, Laurent Beaudoin and Clayton Jacobson II had already found success with their snowmobile. The saucer-like design was short and wide and it was a bit awkward to ride. It was short-lived and turned into the Kawasaki Jet Ski over time. Another direction was taken with the RXP-X.

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A tweaked version looked somewhat like a kiddie ride. The modern concept is futuristic, saddle-shaped and has great support. It is surely a cutting-edge design.

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The design of the alternate RXP-X continued to change with some longer and thinner models and a more integrated appearance.

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It is interesting to see so much innovation since the sixties. The hull has been altered and has softer chines forward with hard chines aft, resulting in better cornering and inside lean. Performance has been approved by sponsons that can be adjusted in appearance, depending on your personal taste. The whole PWC experience is new and updated. The driver feels much more comfortable in a space adapted to his or her physical needs.

What about power?

The real news is below the seat. Once there was an air-cooled 318 cc single-cylinder Totax block engine (made of aluminum) that could move the craft only a modest 18 horsepower. Fuel was contained in a small tank and there were stainless-steel vents on the deck. Engineers kept working on it and improved the pulley system to eliminate slippage. The pull start was later replaced by an electric button. A few years ago, you could roll along at 260 hp, which has since been pumped up to a whopping sixty-seven mph.

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The 21st century model is still by Rotax, but so many modifications have transformed the vehicle. The RXP-X now has a 1,603 cc engine with souped up power, thanks to the supercharger and intercooler.

You’ve come a long way baby! It takes only 1.5 seconds to reach maximum speed. While you used to skid with the hull pivoting around the bow, you now turn on a dime. Turns are easy as pie, sending up a beautiful wall of spray. The rider has less force on the appendages, allowing him or her to stay the course. Some say it is like a ride on Disneyland’s Space Mountain.

Quite a contrast

There are many points of comparison between 1968 and today, such as the maneuverability in forward, neutral and reverse. It was at first rudimentary with a push-pull knob and mechanical reverse had to wait until 1990, a long time after. Functionality in the PWC has come a long way, particularly in the last few years.

With the Sea-Doo and the Yamaha, the directional systems are electronically controlled. It is a highly intuitive and ingenious proposition so that the driver’s hands can remain on the handlebars. No need to look down. Why? Because you have an electronic throttle that engages cruise control or no-wake mode. You can lock in your speed instantly and never have to hold a trigger throttle so long.

When towing skiers, cruise control is ideal and helps eliminate the inevitable surges from a throttle. A tap of a button achieves the acceleration curves desired and you can even request an eco-setting for fuel economy.

In the old days, the old model Sea-Doo used two encoded lanyard switches (one to control speed) while the modern RXP-X uses a lanyard-style cutoff unit. There are advancements in directional control to avoid collisions and improve turning. Noise and emissions issues have been addressed with a quieter engine featuring vibration-absorbing parts. It is good to note that the modern PWC has the cleaning engine on the water.

The old 1968 engine was air cooled; but that changed quickly in one year to water cooling. That has remained the standard with the final version being a closed cooling system with a ride plate functioning as a heat exchanger, which helps eliminate debris and other contaminants.

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The ancestor of the PWC was great, but had many limitations. It was powerful, but certainly not like today, nor as agile. The new vehicles are clean and quiet and respectful to the environment. They can maneuver well, even at a tight dock. There are amazing high-tech features that improve everyone’s ride.

This brief overview of the evolution of the PWC should indicate how exciting the sport has become and how advanced. It’s faster, safer, and more enjoyable than ever before!

If you are looking to hop into some Jet Skiiing fun this weekend, check out our Jet Ski Rentals here, along with other boat rentals. Find other Things to do in Orlando too such as Rent a KayakATV Rentals,  Paddle Board Rentals, and more.

Want More? Check Out these related Blog Post:

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5 Top Training Techniques for Jet Ski Rentals 

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