When visiting Florida and its gorgeous waters, a popular thing to do is to hop on personal watercraft.

For many, these watercraft (also called Jet Skis) offer a fun, new way to explore the water. While this is exciting, they also present unexpected challenges. Here are some useful tips for getting around safely on a personal watercraft (PWC):

1) Steering means accelerating

Unlike any other vehicle, when releasing the throttle of a PWC, you instantly lose the ability to turn. This feels counter-intuitive because in a car reducing the acceleration often gives us more turning ability. However, personal watercraft use their throttle to steer.

This is one of the main hurdles for new riders. The instinct when having to make an unexpected turn is to release the throttle. However, on a personal watercraft when you release the throttle you give up all steering control.

2) Correctly get onto the watercraft

If you ride a PWC long enough, you’re going to fall off. This is just an eventuality. It’s important to understand how to get back onto your watercraft when you do hit the water. Many people try to approach their PWC from the side and grab a handlebar.

This can cause the craft to tilt dangerously to the side and even flip onto the rider. Instead, the correct way to re-board a PWC is to use the handle located on the rear of the craft. Use that handle to pull yourself up to a kneeling position and then get back in the saddle.

3) Don’t ride over your head

Personal watercraft are fast. Really fast. They have the same engines as many boats and can accelerate at roughly the same rate as a strong motorcycle. This creates an amazing experience on the water, but it also means the margin for error is small.

Riding over your head means going too fast for you to properly control the PWC. Going fast is part of the experience, but only where appropriate. If you’re around other boats, animals or swimmers, keep a reasonable speed.

If you find yourself going faster than you feel comfortable with, orient yourself in a straight line and reduce the throttle until you get back to a familiar speed.

Staying safe while having fun

Personal watercraft can be a blast, and a great way to see more of Florida’s beautiful water features. Of course, along with these tips, all riders should always wear the right gear for the water conditions and never go without a safety vest.

It’s important to take action if you’re injured by another driver’s negligence. The Law Offices of John W. Merting, P.A. can be a valuable resource for injured riders.