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Flying across the water? Is jet skiing breathtaking or obnoxious?

by Ina Hinklemann, staff writer

   

PWC have a reputation for being both thrilling and environmentally unfriendly.

The wind and water rush by so fast they take your breath away. It’s like a roller coaster on waves—you bump up off the face of a wave and fly for 30 or 40 feet and splash down to do it again, and again. What can be more fun than flying over the open ocean in a jet ski at top speed?

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Or, what could be less fun? The noise is deafening. Make it stop. You duck your head under to water so you won’t have to hear it, but the vibration is still there, and the water tastes like gasoline.
Jet skiing is a popular Hawai‘i sport—with those who do it. For those whose senses are assaulted by the noise, the fumes, and the taste of oil in the water, jet skiing is another matter.

The jet ski, which is also commonly known as personal watercraft (PWC), is a popular water sport in Hawai‘i. It’s certainly popular among some HPU students. Wei Teck Lee, a TIM student at HPU, says he enjoys jet skiing a lot, and that he already went a couple of times back home in Malaysia.

According to the Hawai‘i Water Sports Center, in Hawai‘i Kai, the best customers for rental jet skis are tourists. Local residents who enjoy this sport usually own their own personal watercraft.

Every state has different regulations regarding the minimum age, boating education, and licenses. According to the American Sailing Association, there are no mandatory boating education requirements in Hawai‘i. However, to operate a jet ski, one must be at least 15 years of age.

The equipment requirements for PWC, according to the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources, are a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device for each person.

Furthermore, an engine cutoff lanyard must be functional and attached to the rider. Every jet ski has to be equipped with a whistle or horn and a B-1 type fire extinguisher. Also, every jet ski must carry its registration on board.

There are further specific regulations in Hawai‘i, such as designated and nondesignated Ocean Recreation Management Areas (ORMA). According to the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources, a designated ORMA includes all ocean waters and navigable streams extending from the low water mark to 3,000 feet seaward. In these ORMAs, all recreation activities are assigned specific areas where they may be conducted. Nondesignated ORMAs are open to any recreation activity. Around the islands of O‘ahu and the Big Island, PWC are permitted in both nondesignated and designated ORMAs. Around Mau‘i and Kaua‘i, PWC are permitted only in nondesignated ORMAs and around Moloka‘i and Lana‘i, PWC are prohibited, according to the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Hawai‘i is the only state in the nation that has changed the jet ski classification, which is actually a registered trademark of Kawasaki, to “Thrill Craft” because of operator and environmental concerns from the State Boating Law Administration, says Shawn Alladio on surfpulse.com.

The usefulness and purpose of personal watercraft is a controversial issue statewide. For some people, jet skiing is a recreational water sport. In Hawai‘i, PWC are also used by lifeguards in strong currents to rescue swimmers. Also, professional surfers are often towed into the big waves by jet skis.

However, there are people who argue about the hazards personal watercraft cause—both human and ecological. Jet ski engines are noisy and pollute the air and water by releasing oil and exhaust. A two-hour ride dumps about 2.5 gallons of gas and oil into the water and produces noise levels between 85 and 105 decibels, according to Making Waves, a publication of the Surfrider Foundation.

According to the Hawai‘i Water Sports Center, residents have not complained about noise, probably because jet skis in their area are operated only in designated ORMAs.

Jet skis can also be dangerous for humans. “The scary thing about them is the fact that they have no brake,” Lee said. To avoid a crash, one has to maneuver around objects at high speeds. This risks flipping and capsizing as well as impact.

In its Hawai‘i edition of Straight Talk, Yamaha Motor Corporation explains that PWC manufacturers spend millions of dollars annually to create engines that are cleaner, quieter, and more fuel efficient. Regardless of their success or lack of it, the industry is booming. Jet skis are the fastest selling watercraft in the United States with about 200,000 watercraft sold annually.

 

 

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