Personal watercraft — most commonly referred to as Jet Skis or WaveRunners — are meant for one purpose: fun. They’re the physical embodiment of want over need, and with millions of these water rockets registered in the USA, it’s clear that people want ’em. They’re beloved for speed, nimble handling and the relatively low price of entry. If you now have the means to live out those “best summer ever” promises you made to yourself as a kid, these are the five best PWCs (and three ludicrous alternatives) you can take to the water today.
Best Entry-Level PWC: Many would-be PWC owners don’t take the plunge because owning one can be expensive. Sea-Doo’s new Spark, however, was created to combat that drawback without totally compromising performance. With a price tag far below other entry-level jet skis on the market, the Spark cuts costs by offering less power — 60 horsepower to be exact — but with a weight of only 405 pounds, it matches most other PWCs in power-to-weight ratio.
Best All-Around PWC: If you’re looking for your PWC to be more of a jack-of-all-trades than a master of one, the Kawasaki STX-15F is your watery steed. With 160 horsepower on tap, it’s powerful enough to tow wakeboraders and water skiers, and has enough juice to top out at 62 mph. The hull of the STX-15F has a lightweight composite construction and a design based on Kawasaki’s racing boats, giving it excellent handling capabilities. With all this performance and a seating capacity of three, the STX-15F’s sub-$10,000 asking price makes it an incredible value.
Renegade S Hovercraft
One of the big drawbacks of a PWC is its limited window of use. Unless you live in the southern part of the States, you get just a few months of usage. Enter the Renegade S Hovercraft ($27,900), a PWC alternative you can use when your local body of water freezes over, as well as on land. A 750cc engine powers a seven blade fan, propelling the Renegade S up to 47 mph. And if you’re easy on the throttle — which we assume you won’t be — you have a range of up to 105 miles.
Yamaha Waverunner Superjet
Best Handling PWC: Stand-up Jet Skis aren’t exactly the easiest PWCs to ride, and as a result they’re largely becoming phased out by the industry. However, with the right amount of practice, their increased maneuverability over their seated counterparts makes them worth the extra effort. Yamaha’s Waverunner SuperJet is one of the last standing jet skis still available for purchase, and with a 74 horsepower 700cc engine and a lightweight body, it’s by far one of the most fun PWCs you can buy.
Yamaha Waverunner FX Cruiser SHO
Most Luxurious PWC: Normally, we don’t think of Jet Skis as being full of features, but The Waverunner FX Cruiser SHO is one that comes fully loaded. A multifunction instrument panel has all relevant information, and there’s cruise control, a compass, two storage spaces, a lake water temperature display and even a cup holder. A big cushy bench seats three. If you’re suspecting the entire package gets heavy, well, you’re right, but with a supercharged four-cylinder engine putting out 210 horsepower, the FX Cruiser SHO is no slouch.
Innespace Seabreacher Z
Why swim with the dolphins, when you can swim as one? The Innespace Seabreacher Z is built upon that concept, with the end result being a mechanical replica of everyone’s favorite sea mammal. A supercharged, 260 horsepower engine comes standard, allowing the Seabreacher to achieve speeds around 55 mph on the surface and 20 mph below. Thrust from the Seabreacher’s engine is also fully vectored, so the Z has the capacity to pull off dives, jumps and full 360-degree barrel rolls.
Belassi B3R Sport
Most Powerful PWC: This is the most powerful jet ski in the world. Using a turbocharged three-cylinder engine, the Belassi B3R churns out an insane 315 horsepower, which makes it capable of well over 80 mph. This is apparently too extreme for us ham-fisted Americans, so when it becomes available over here it will be strictly limited to 65 mph. Still, that’s plenty of get-up-and-go to land any rider in hot water. Ride at your own risk.
U-Boat Worx HP Sport Sub
What exactly would a “sport submarine” look like? The HP Sport Sub ($1,000,000+) is your answer. Described by U-Boat Worx as a “sub-sea Ferrari”, the HP lives up to that title with a bright red paint job. However, unlike a Ferrari, its top speed is three knots (3.5 mph) on the surface and two knots (2.3 mph) fully submerged. That’s not exactly quick, but the ability to explore 100 meters below the ocean surface for up to six hours at a time certainly makes up for that. Want one? Let’s hope your pockets are as deep as the sea.