For those who enjoy outdoor and active summer lifestyles, water entertainment may be the way to go. Racing the waves with the wind flowing through your hair can be a fun and exhilarating way to enjoy fresh air; a dip in a cool lake can also help keep the heat at bay on hot summer days.
Despite world events over the past year, the watersports lifestyle is thriving – potentially due to the nature of personal watercraft riding and ability to practice social distancing. In fact, powerboat sales reached record highs, and while that momentum has slowed some in 2021, personal watercraft sales are still surging – up 77% over 2020, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association. This growth means there are lots of new riders on the water, and that can affect the safety of riders both experienced and new.
Respecting riding etiquette, wearing protective gear and being conscious of the environment can help ensure riders have fun and continue to enjoy access to watersports. The team at Sea-Doo, a global leader in personal watercrafts, shares this advice to help keep everyone safe while having fun on the water:
Know the rules. Rules can vary from one state or location to the next, so be sure you know what the expectations are before you head out on the water. You can find more about licensing requirements and other regulations in your area through the Boat U.S. Foundation.
Dress for success. Ensure you have a life jacket or personal flotation device that fits snugly but comfortably. Remember to connect the tether cord from the ignition of your watercraft to your life jacket to cut power to the engine should you end up in the water. Additionally, neoprene shorts can help prevent injuries and give you a comfortable layer between your body and the saddle. Gloves and boots provide protection and improve your grip, and sunglasses can help protect your eyes from the wind and water. It’s also a good idea to keep a windbreaker in a storage compartment in case weather blows in unexpectedly.
Gear up. Once you’re dressed for the occasion, you won’t need much other gear, but there are a few items that can help protect you. Always keep an anchor on board, along with a radio to call for help if you have trouble. A water bottle can help ensure you stay well hydrated on the water, where you typically sweat a lot due to the wind and sun.
Play nice. On gorgeous, sunny days, you can expect your local lake to be busy. Being respectful of others on the water helps ensure everyone can enjoy their water adventures safely. If you haven’t already, take a watercraft or boat safety course and brush up on the basics. Beyond that, pay attention to signs, especially ones that note restricted areas and no-wake zones, and keep a safe 200-foot distance between yourself and other watercrafts.
Be earth aware. Part of being responsible on the water is respecting the environment. You can do your part by committing to green habits like refueling on land and doing maintenance work well away from the shoreline. When you’re riding, getting too close to the shore can tear up your watercraft, but it can also be harmful to the fish and birds that feed on the sediment in the shallows, as well as the vegetation. Be aware noise and movement of boats may disturb bird populations. Stay clear of posted bird nesting areas. Nesting birds may fly from their nests, exposing unprotected eggs and hatchlings to the sun’s heat or predators. Keeping to channels and deeper water also helps protect the wildlife and prevent shoreline erosion.