Let’s face it, today’s jet skis are absolutely huge. Many of them resemble a small boat rather than looking like a “personal” watercraft! But why did they keep getting bigger and bigger?
In a nutshell, the five primary reasons for jet skis now being so large are as follows:
- Demand for higher performance
- More rider capacity
- Increased storage capacity
- The purpose of use has evolved
- Jet skis are designed for American riders
If you want to learn more about each of these factors, keep reading. We at PowerSportsGuide have compiled all you need to know into this post!
5 Reasons for Jet Skis Being So Large
1. Demand for Higher Performance
It’s safe to say that the main reason for jet skis having gotten so big is the increase in performance.
When jet skis first hit the market, they were powered by small 2-stroke twin engines that produced about 30-60 HP and offered a moderate top speed of 25-50 mph.
But powersport enthusiasts kept wanting more, more horsepower, and higher top speeds. Jet ski manufacturers got the message loud and clear and began increasing the performance of their models, year-after-year, literally.
By the turn of the millennium, high-end models were producing a remarkable 130 HP, and by the mid-2000s the supercharged engines were offering more than 200 HP. And now, today’s flagship jet skis can reach a whopping 250-310 HP!
As you can imagine, mounting today’s large engines into the previous models’ tiny hulls would be next to impossible.
The demand for increased power meant a significant increase in the overall size of jet skis. If you are in any doubt, just take a look at the chart below:
|Year||Model||Length (in.)||Weight (lbs.)||HP|
|2022||Sea-Doo Fish Pro Trophy||147||858||170|
|2020||Yamaha FX C. SXVO||141||820||250|
|2010||Yamaha Cruiser HO||133||805||200|
|2005||Yamaha Cruiser HO||132||783||160|
2. More Rider Capacity
Jet skiing is no longer considered a solo activity, as owners like sharing the fun with friends and family.
But taking passengers along on those vintage jet skis was tricky, as they were so nimble. Even though many were marketed as 2-seaters, their load limit was no more than 350-400 pounds.
This meant that the passenger could typically be a child or a lightweight spouse because with two large adults onboard, they became very tippy, especially at lower speeds.
In contrast, today’s jet skis have large seats that comfortably accommodate two or three adult riders. They also have longer and wider hulls that offer far more stability at any speed.
3. Increased Storage Capacity
Vintage jet skis also had other drawbacks, one of which was their surprisingly small storage capacities. Most of them only had a tiny “wet” storage bin at the front of the top deck.
These storage bins provided 5-6 gallons of capacity, and they weren’t even completely watertight either.
But nowadays, owners want and expect a lot more storage space for all their gear. They also need watertight storage for their wallet, smartphone, and other electronic devices.
This is why the newest jet skis come with 30-45 gallons of storage, usually divided up into two or three separate units.
While the largest storage area is still being mounted on the front of the top deck, there is also a small watertight glovebox in front of the rider. In addition, certain models come with a third storage bin under the seats.
These large storage compartments have made the top deck of jet skis larger and bulkier!
4. Purpose of Use Has Evolved
In the past, jet skis were simply small water toys, known as the “dirt bikes of the water.”
In the beginning, jet skis provided comfortable rides for just one rider, even the sit-down models. Because their hulls were small and there was little fuel capacity, these tiny vessels were used for playing around on calm waters near the shoreline.
But as their dimensions started growing, people wanted to use their jet skis for many other purposes like tow sports, touring, and fishing. These types of activities required a more stable hull, a larger seat, and some specific features.
Manufacturers grabbed the opportunity and started releasing larger, purpose-built jet skis for different uses.
This meant that jet skis began functioning as small boats, and they started looking like boats as well.
5. Jet Skis Are Designed for Americans
It’s a lesser-known fact that the first prototype for the Yamaha WaveRunner was unsuccessful on the American market, simply because it was way too small.
It was nothing more than a little water toy designed by the Japanese for the Japanese market! And as we know, Japanese people tend to be significantly smaller than Americans.
When Yamaha took their first WaveRunner overseas, they realized that this machine was too lightweight and underpowered for American riders. Surprisingly, the first WaveRunner prototype only weighed 141 pounds and was powered by a 25 HP engine.
Based on this overseas experience, the company decided to redesign their prototype and add more horsepower as well.
The hull was redesigned into a “shallow-V” shape, which offered more speed even with a moderate 30 HP engine. But the key advantage of this hull design was that it added a lot more stability and allowed the machine to take off much faster.
Therefore, it’s safe to say that today’s jet skis are designed with the size of the average American rider in mind.
Lastly, it may not be the most pleasant thing to mention, but the average American jet ski rider seems to be getting larger and taller with each passing decade.
According to CNN.com, the weight of the Average American man increased more than 24 pounds from the early 1960s to 2002.
And larger riders need larger hulls and more engine power in order to ride comfortably and safely. This again led to an increase in the size of jet skis over the years!
Over the years, the dimensions of jet skis have increased dramatically. The market was always hungry for greater performance, so their engine power jumped from 30 HP to a whopping 300+ HP!
And these more powerful engines required more stable hulls for safe comfortable rides. Furthermore, customers also wanted larger jet skis with more storage and seating capacities, so they could share the fun with friends and family.
As a result, jet skis transformed from small water toys to versatile “mini boats” that can be used for tow sports, touring, and even fishing.
Although there are certain benefits of this trend, jet skiing is no longer like it was back in the ‘80s!