Back to Woody's Watersports Blog

A Brief History of Personal Watercrafts

Personal Watercrafts

Personal WatercraftsMost people refer to personal watercraft as Jet Skis. However, this particular phrase is actually trademarked by Kawasaki in Japan. Like Band-Aids or many of a dozen other words that have worked into our vocabularies as an everyday word, “Jet Ski” has become synonymous with personal watercrafts. But how did that come to be the case? Let’s look back at some of the history behind personal watercraft.

The Beginnings

The first personal watercraft originated in the early 1950s by motorcycle companies looking to expand from the road to the water. As About.com reports, the earliest models – then called “water scooters” – were first made in Europe, but they failed to gain popularity in those early markets.

By the 1960s, an Australian named Clayton Jacobsen took his turn at trying to develop an appealing craft and changed the initial concept to have the rider of the vehicle positioned to be standing instead of seated. He also changed as to switch out the motor. Instead of using an outboard motor, he switched to an internal pump jet.

Jacobsen made his first prototype in 1965, and a year later created a model made from fiberglass. This concept he sold to Bombardier, the snowmobiling company, which saw limited success and gave up on Jacobsen’s design. In 1973, he turned to Kawasaki to pitch his idea and got a warm response, leading to the manufacture of the first Jet Ski model later that year.

Competition Rises

The Jet Ski name caught on, and Kawasaki was able to market the concept of “waterskiing without a boat,” notes About.com. Riders still had control of the situation and these crafts made the open water more intimate and engaging.

The arrival of the 1980s brought two new players to the personal watercraft market and also reintroduced sit-down models – something Bombardier first tried in the late ‘60s, as the Personal Watercraft Industry Association notes in its history. Yamaha came first, introducing the WaveRunner model, which quickly moved from single riders to double occupancy. Shortly after, Bombardier rejoined the market, taking a cue from the Ski-Doo snowmobile line to introduce its new Sea-Doos.

Incredible Growth

In the 1990s, the personal watercraft industry really took off. Manufacturers added room for a third rider to the different personal watercraft lines and these crafts quickly became entertainment for the whole family. Three more companies joined in on making personal watercrafts – Polaris, Arctic Cat and Honda – though all three have now discontinued their models.

Today, you can enjoy all the fun of riding a personal watercraft with a rental at Woody’s Watersports. We offer a range of different watercraft styles and rental options to meet your needs and your budget. To learn more about or to plan your personal watercraft rental in beautiful Madeira Beach, Florida, call us today at 727-391-0200.

  • Posted in: