#TBT Gallery: A Look Back at the First Jet Ski

By Will Burgess

The first official production “Personal Watercraft”, trademarked the “Jet Ski”

Here’s another PWC themed #ThrowbackThursday (see also: last week’s article on the Windjet and Shuttlecraft boats). Take a look at the original Jet Ski model designation “WSAA”, as it would have looked at its introduction to the public in 1973. Sure personal watercraft existed before this, like skimmer boats, and other similar outboard apparatus. Even Bombardier had a seated prototype. But Kawasaki has been charged with making this craft its own industry by designing the vessel to be lightweight, nimble, and use jet-propulsion.

These limited production models were powered by a 400cc 2-stroke twin-cylinder engine pumping out plenty of thrust for waterborne fun. Featuring greater maneuverability than any boat and extremely shallow drafts, they set the standards for the personal watercraft of the future. The unique JET SKI watercraft feature of the fully enclosed impeller pump dramatically improved water safety over conventional outboard motors. Self-righting and self-circling features ensured that the craft would idle in circles at slow speeds if the rider fell off. The WSAA and WSAB could be distinguished by their hulls: the WSAA featured a flat hull, while the later WSAB featured a V-type hull.

Kawasaki New Zealand on the 1973 Jet Ski

Though the WSAA was introduced on a trial basis in some limited demographic areas in the United States, by the time 1975 models were rolling out, the demand was high and consumers wanted their hands on the Jet Ski. That year would mark the first commercially available models to appear at dealerships.

Hailed as a dirt bike for the water, particularly because its design was inspired by motorcycle racer and inventor Clayton Jacobson, water sports enthusiasts flocked to the upright watercraft by Kawasaki for well over a decade until Yamaha produced the first sit-down WaveJammer in 1987, and Bombardier re-introduced the Sea-Doo to a more welcoming audience in 1988.

An early prototype PWC by extreme sports enthusiast Clayton Jacobson | from Wikipedia: Jet Ski (shared under CC BY-SA 3.0)

Technically Sea-Doo has been building something akin to the PWCs we know and love today since 1968, but Kawasakiβ€”owner of the Jet Ski brand and the licensor of Jacobson’s first patented “pleasure watercraft”β€”has been designing and building PWCs continuously since their inception.

Today there are an estimated 20 million Americans who use and enjoy PWCs yearly.
Gnarly! πŸ€™

The Jet-Ski logo on a sign you might see at your local Kawasaki retailing dealership
1973 400cc “WSAA” Jet-Ski
1973 400cc “WSAA” Jet-Ski

Will Burgess is a journalist with Adrenaline Powersports Mag


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