Best personal watercraft

Looking for some fun on the water? Personal Watercraft (or PW for short – often known as ‘Jetskis’ after the original Kawasaki ‘Jet Ski’) offer a great solution either as a standalone fun craft, or as a ‘toy’ for those with larger boats (see Top 10 coolest superyacht toys).

While once upon a time, the PW industry was obsessed with power, the battle for jet-propelled one-upmanship seems to have taken on a new and more sustainable complexion. It has been tempered by an understanding that efficiency, affordability and a more flexible and confidence-inspiring rider interface are assets of at least equal value. There has also been a recognition that it is possible to appeal to a much broader spectrum of watersports fans by mixing up the traditional musclecraft with a selection of softer, less aggressive, more versatile leisure packages – and today, the market reflects that, with power outputs from 50hp to 315hp and prices from £5,000 to more than £20,000…

10 top personal watercraft: Yamaha GP1800

1. Yamaha GP1800

The latest exponent of Yamaha’s ‘GP’ racing line combines the SVHO engine and lightweight ‘NanoXcel2’ construction to take you from zero to 62mph (54 knots) in under five seconds. With a weight of just 349kg, it also handles like a race craft, with tremendously taut turns and satisfying response to your input. As with most hard-edged performance craft, you need to be proactive with your weight distribution or you’re likely to get ejected from your seat, but it’s not all about unbridled fury. A handy five-point trim switch, a low-RPM mode for improved safety and the intuitive RiDE system, help optimise rider control.

10 top personal watercraft: Sea-Doo Spark
2. Sea-Doo Spark

When the Sea-Doo Spark first appeared, it was lighter, smaller and cheaper than anything else in the world – and not by a margin, but by a country mile. With its fresh construction techniques, its skeletal aesthetics and its user-friendly customisation and upgrade routes, it got exactly the acclaim its 10-year development deserved. It didn’t quite manage to sidestep the industry and establish a new ‘Aquascooter’ genre (as the designers originally envisaged), but as a credible, desirable, fun and accessible PW that you could pick up for little more than pocket change, it heralded a radical and welcome shift in market focus.
10 top personal watercraft: Kawasaki 15F

3. Kawasaki Jet Ski STX15F

It might have fallen from the mainstream in Britain’s market, but no rundown of PWs would be complete without at least one craft from the originator of the ‘Jet Ski’ trade name. With its long-established 1,498cc, inline four-cylinder engine, its expansive aft deck, its ‘Smart Steering’ system and its ‘Smart Learning Operation’ (SLO) mode that enables novices to develop their skills with confidence, the 15F is a very easy boat to like. True, it’s been around forever, but if you want generous power, a compliant hull and proven reliability, this Kawasaki classic remains a contender.

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