History of Jet Skis
Every powersports vehicle has its starting point in history. When looking at the history of jet skis, there are a few important turning points worth knowing about this interesting watercraft. Let's take a look at the major points in history every jet ski fan should know.
Originally called water scooters, the first jet skis were introduced in the 1950s. They were manufactured by European motorcycle manufacturers looking to create a new stream of income while giving consumers something truly innovative and exciting. When British company Vincent released a limited run of only 2,000 water scooters in 1955, the models were popular but not enough to create an entirely new section on the market as hoped.
The rest of the 50s and 60s would see several models and manufacturers try to jumpstart this section of the market, but with little success until a breakthrough by Clayton Jacobsen II in the mid-1960s. He introduced his own design which was the first to switch from an old outbound motor to an internal pump jet which would change the way manufacturers looked at the manufacturing and overall design of these vessels. Another issue with the earlier models was the use of aluminum for the hull. Jacobsen was the first to use fiberglass for his design and this would be another game changer.
The history of jet skis was not without setbacks. Jacobsen went on to sell his design to Bombardier, but the design was pushed to a back burner because of a lack of sales. When Bombardier didn't put enough effort into the design, Jacobsen took it to Kawasaki which would prove to be a pivotal turning point in the story of personal watercrafts. Kawasaki introduced the first model in 1973 and the overall quality of the designs coupled with the marketing prowess of the manufacturer led to an instant success. While the success wasn't entirely mainstream at first, it paved the way for what would become the jet ski we know today.
The growth of this vehicle type was slow but steady for a few reasons in the beginning. For starters, the initial growth was because many people wanted the fun of being out on the water without the hassle or cost of owning their own boat and a jet ski was the perfect solution for this need. On the other hand, the early history of jet skis was somewhat limited to certain people because they were designed as single riding options where you had to stand to ride which ruled out people who were less athletic as well as younger riders. It wasn't until models were introduced intended for sitting while riding that the market ramped up considerably. By the time two-seater and three-seater models came about, jet skis were a solid option for fun on the water with a considerable market share.
Once Bombardier saw the success Kawasaki was having with their jet skis, they decided to get back in the game with new vigor for this innovative vessel. They introduced their lineup of Sea Doo models in 1988 and changed the world of personal watercraft forever. While these two names would go on to compete for popularity, Sea Doo would become the name most people think of when thinking of a jet ski.