Jet skis now come with methods for slowing down in much shorter distances. But you need to understand how the braking systems work on these crafts, because jet skis behave differently than boats or cars while slowing down.
SeaDoo and Yamaha use their own dedicated iBR and RiDE braking system technologies. These are not brakes in the traditional sense. Rather, they use the steering bucket to increase drag on the ski and redirect water towards the front of the ski. Skis built before 2009 do not have a dedicated braking system.
Whether you’re just looking to rent a jet ski or buy one, it’s important to understand the brakes so you can safely ride. From traditional jet skis without devoted braking systems to newer models that have been released with dedicated systems, there are a few important facts you should know. Let’s jump right in.
How Do Jet Skis Work?
Jet skis utilize what is known as a water jet propulsion system to travel through the water. As the engine revs faster, it uses a pump to pull in water and pushes it through a tube and propeller combination called an impeller. The impeller is mounted on a shaft so that it rotates under power from the motor.
If you’ve ever inflated a balloon only to let it go flying across the room when you let it go, you’ve tested Newton’s Third Law of Motion. A jet ski’s engine and impeller work together, drawing water into the craft and then expelling the water in a stream of water behind the watercraft. The resulting force directed rearward drives the ski forward.
So a jet ski is able to travel through water by pushing itself with a jet of water. If you’ve seen a jet ski moving through water before, you’ve likely noticed the high-powered stream of water it ejects.
How do jet skis stop?
But what about stopping? The traditional method of stopping a jet ski is to release the throttle and glide to a stop from the friction of water. But more recent models have added systems that basically increase drag quickly to slow the ski over a shorter distance.
When it comes down to a jet ski’s braking system, there are two main systems used today. Using these takes a little bit of practice. Most new riders don’t understand that a coasting jet ski or one under braking loses its steering ability. That can lead to unexpected behavior and have unintended consequences.
For example, when you suddenly see an obstacle ahead, you can’t brake and try to steer around it at the same time. Change direction to avoid it before applying brakes or lifting off throttle.
Do Jet Skis Have Brakes?
The answer to this question is both yes and no. Essentially, it depends on the type of jet ski you have. If you’re looking to buy or rent a jet ski, you can inquire about which type of braking system it uses. We’ll give you an overview of both braking systems that are currently in use today so that you can make an informed decision.
When you’re steering your jet ski on the water, the manner in which you maneuver it is similar to the way you would a motorbike. When you move the handlebar to the left or right, you’ll pivot the jet ski in that direction. However, motorbikes function by turning the front wheel. A jet ski doesn’t have a front wheel to turn. Instead, PWCs change direction by shifting the angle of the jet stream behind the craft.
As mentioned above, the impeller expels the water in a high-powered stream to move through the water, and this jet stream can be used to change the direction of the PWC. However, because this rate of flow plays a crucial role in steering the craft, the speed you’re going at plays an important role.
Many jet skis can go up to 70 MPH. The closer to that speed you get, the more effectively you will be able to steer the watercraft. This is because the stream of water being expelled is more powerful and the ski will react more quickly to changes in the stream’s direction. Conversely, the slower you go on the jet ski, the more likely you are to struggle when steering the jet ski.
If going faster on a jet ski means better steering, then it’s crucial to know how to brake while riding. PWC riders must approach braking differently than when driving a car or even a powerboat.
Let’s break down the two most common braking systems for you.
The Mechanics of a Jet Ski’s Braking System
Traditional Personal Watercraft without Dedicated Braking
The first jet ski equipped with a dedicated braking system was released by SeaDoo in 2009. Before this, jet skis didn’t have brakes at all. In fact, many still do not have brakes in this day and age. Instead, they utilize another feature to help you decelerate when out on the water: reversing.
When you reverse on a traditional jet ski, the direction of the jet stream of water is changed by having a jet cover drop down over the impeller tube output. When you do this while stopped, the ski will start to move in reverse direction.
When you’re out on the water in your PWC, and you put it into reverse, the change of direction of the stream of water being expelled will slow down the craft. This is the braking system used today. A rapid increase in resistance and redirection of the flow from the pump are used to slow the ski over much shorter distances than when coasting to a stop.
That’s why both braking and reversing are controlled by the same lever. You will need to learn the time and distances required to bring the craft to a safe stop without and with brakes.
Once you have successfully decelerated the PWC, you’ll need to release the brake/reverse lever. Holding it in will cause the jet ski you’re using to begin moving in the reverse direction. Due to the lever’s double duty, you need to be cautious when braking and docking your jet ski.
Personal Watercraft with Dedicated Braking Systems
The following systems were designed to give you more peace of mind while out on the water. Jet ski brakes work by dropping the rear reverse bucket in front of the Jet outlet, increasing drag in the water as well as redirecting water flow towards the flow in the opposite direction. This is very effective at slowing and stopping the ski.
SeaDoo’s iBR Braking System
In 2009, SeaDoo was the first jet ski manufacturer to release a line of PWCs (the iS models) that featured their dedicated braking system. This system is known as the iBR system, or Intelligent Brake and Reverse. Currently, this technology is in its third generation since the initial release more than a decade ago.
Due to SeaDoo’s iBR technology, their PWCs can stop roughly 160 feet before a PWC without a dedicated braking system. SeaDoo’s innovative iBR system has been praised by the United States Coast Guard, who said SeaDoo was improving safety when it came to these watercrafts.
Yamaha’s RiDE Braking System
Yamaha eventually released watercrafts that featured their very own RiDE dedicated braking system. ‘RiDE’ stands for Reverse with Intuitive Deceleration Electronics. On Yamaha’s PWCs that utilize their RiDE system, there is a dedicated RiDE lever that is located on the left handlebar.
The RiDE technology will allow you to safely and stably decelerate your personal watercraft. While you can decelerate on these devices the way you would on traditional PWCs, by simply releasing the right lever, you can also use the left lever to decelerate and brake your jet ski.
For a long time, jet skis simply didn’t come with brakes. Instead, the reverse mechanism of the personal watercraft was utilized to aid in deceleration by changing the direction of the jet’s stream of water being expelled from the engine. With these types of jet skis, you may need more time and distance to bring the jet ski to a stop.
In recent years, however, SeaDoo and Yamaha have released their own braking systems. Both SeaDoo’s iBR (Intelligent Braking System) and Yamaha’s RiDE (Reverse with Intuitive Deceleration Electronics) technologies have revolutionized the landscape of jet ski braking and safety.