How to Ride a Jet Ski as a Passenger: 9 tips

If you were invited to ride as a passenger on a friend or family member’s jet ski, but are not as familiar with jet skis, you may be unsure or even afraid about what all being a passenger on a jet ski entails.  Even longtime jet ski enthusiasts may be hesitant to make the transition from driver to passenger but, below are some tips to help you make the most of your ride as a passenger on a jet ski and ensure that it is both enjoyable and safe that will apply to new and experienced riders alike.

How to ride a jet ski as a passenger?

The best way to ride a jet ski as a passenger is to consider safety precautions, hold on tightly to the driver or the jet ski, wear a properly fitting life vest, know how to re-board, ensure communication with the driver, and stay alert on the ride to anticipate any moves the driver will be taking.

9 Tips for Passenger PWC Safety

When riding a jet ski as a passenger, you first must consider some basic, standard safety measures to ensure the best possible ride.  These measures include wearing a life vest, starting off slow, and understanding what to do in the event that you fall off or need to re-board the jet ski.  Considering these measures will limit any risk associated with riding a jet ski and allow you to better enjoy your ride.

Life Vests

One significant safety procedure when riding a jet ski as a passenger is to ensure that both you and the driver are wearing proper life vests. Wearing a life vest is required by law and this practice should become habit even after your first ride.

It is important that you select the correct life jacket based on your size and weight because a life vest that is not designed for your weight or does not fit properly may not be as useful if you are to become unconscious and fall in the water. 

First, you should ensure that you weight falls within the weight range that the life vest is designed for.  Then you should try the life vest on to ensure it fits you around the chest, tighten all of the straps, and then pull on the shoulder, or have someone else pull on the shoulders to ensure it doesn’t slip up too far around your head. 

A properly fitted life vest will close easily but will not be able to be pulled above your chin so that you cannot slip out in the water.  Then finally, you should make sure that you still have a full range of motion in the life vest so that your swimming or riding will not be impaired.

Choosing a life vest may seem like a small and generic step in riding a jet ski but wearing the right life vest is actually a very significant tip to ensure your safety as a passenger on a jet ski. The last thing you want is an oversized jet ski or undersized that limits your range of motion and is uncomfortable.

Starting Off Slow

Another important tip to ensure your safety when riding as a passenger on a jet ski is to start off slow the first few times that you ride.  However, don’t begin too slow as it may make the jet ski more unstable, so this is largely about finding a middle ground. 

Even for the experienced rider, it can be harder riding a jet ski as you don’t know what the driver is going to do. If the driver quickly whips the jet ski around, you may find yourself scrambling to find balance and shift your weight so you don’t fly off.

While the driver actually controls the speed, for you, as a passenger, this will require discussing how fast the driver plans to go ahead of time or what kind of riding he will be doing. Make sure to communicate beforehand if you are going to just go touring by going straight and consistent, or if you will be having fun by doing fast acceleration and spins. This will help you prepare for what is going to come at you.

You may not know how your body will adjust to being on the jet ski or to the increased speed on your first ride, so make sure to start off with slow consistent acceleration and long turns so you don’t have to have quick weight shifts until the passenger gets the hang of it.

It may also be helpful to discuss how long you plan to ride, so that your prepared for the length of the ride without becoming too fatigued and to discuss the water conditions or opt to take your first ride as a passenger on smoother water. Overall, it is an important tip to start off slow and know what to expect during your first ride on a jet ski to not only keep you safe but to also make you a better passenger for the ride.


Another important safety tip for riding a jet ski as a passenger is to ensure that you know what to do in the event that you fall off of the jet ski, including how to re-board the jet ski.  If you are someone new to riding a jet ski as a passenger, falling off may seem like a terrifying possibility but as long as you are adequately prepared, it should not be a source of fear.

The first thing to remember in the event that you fall from the jet ski is not to panic as remaining calm will allow you to locate the jet ski and the driver more quickly.  Then you will want to swim back towards the jet ski, and approach it from the rear. 

Climbing back onto the jet ski from the rear is not only the safest but also the easiest way to re-board a jet ski from the water. Re-boarding from the side can cause the jet ski to become tippy and tip over onto yourself.

Always board in the order you are sitting, first comes the driver, then passenger 1 and passenger 2 if you have 3 people. Having to shimmy for positions while on the jet ski can be a great balancing act. This can give the driver a chance to start the jet ski right away as once you are moving it becomes easier to balance.

Quick Tip: If you are having trouble re-boarding all of your passengers and your jet ski is tippy, try starting your jet ski and giving it some throttle right as the last rider climbs aboard. This will solve any balance issues.

Once behind the jet ski, place your hands on the rear grab bar, and feet on the rear of the jet ski or boarding ladder if equipped, and pull yourself back up onto the jet ski. If you are unable to re-board the jet ski in this manner, then you may want to ask the driver for help pulling you onto the jet ski.  It is important that the driver is stable, preferably sitting, when pulling you onto the jet ski so that he or she does not fall into the water.  

Another important thing to consider is to watch how the driver re-boards the jet ski because this may give you a better idea of what works on this specific jet ski and some jet skis even have ropes or ladders on the back to assist with re-boarding from the water.


A second significant element to consider when riding a jet ski as a passenger is the communication between the passenger and the driver because, being able to communicate before turns, stops, or in the event that something unexpected occurs is vital to your safety, enjoyment, and comfort as a passenger. 

When riding a jet ski as a passenger you should always feel comfortable alerting the driver if you need to stop for any reason or if you need the driver to conclude the ride.  If you feel unable to communicate these needs or uncomfortable alerting the driver to your need to stop or slow down, then you should address these concerns before boarding the jet ski.

Hand Signals

One way the driver and passenger communicate on the jet ski is to establish hand signals before they begin riding. Some useful hand signals would be to have ways to communicate if you need the driver to slow down or to stop the jet ski.  These signals should be used in the event that you, as the passenger, feel unsafe or need to communicate these changes to the driver.  This will allow you remain comfortable and feel a greater since of control when on the jet ski.

Some traditional hand signals may include a thumbs down to indicate a desire to slow down and a flat open hand to indicate the desire to stop.  While these signals are easily recognizable it is still important to clarify that both you and the driver are aware of the signals you plan to use before you begin the ride. 

Similarly, the driver may have additional signals that he or she likes to use when riding a jet ski.  Additionally, you may need to communicate with the driver on where you can hold the signal so that it is not only seen by them but also safe for both of you.


A potentially even more important element of communication when riding a jet ski as a passenger is to remain alert.  The hand signals mentioned above are intended for you, as a passenger, to communicate with the driver but the driver may not be able to communicate each turn or stop with you while driving, especially if there is an unexpected obstacle, so it is important for you to remain alert.  Staying alert will allow you to see if there are any sudden needs for turning or slowing down so that you will better be able to hold on and be prepared for them.  It will also allow you to be aware and brace yourself if the water becomes rougher or other conditions change due to a boat wake approaching or a sudden turn.

Staying alert includes watching in front of the jet ski to prepare for anything that might arise and making sure you’re paying attention for any cues or signals from the driver.  Being alert is an important tip to keep both you as the passenger and the driver safe when riding a jet ski. 

Weight Rating Guidelines

Another important way to prepare yourself to ride a jet ski as a passenger is to familiarize yourself with all of the relevant recommendations and guidelines.  These can include ensuring that you are not exceeding the maximum number of passengers recommended for your jet ski and that you know the proper way to hold on to limit your risk of falling.

Some jet skis may have a weight capacity of 450 pounds for example, which may or may not include fuel and oil in the motor. If you added a 16 gallon tank of gas and about 1 gallon of oil, your weight capacity reduces by about 107 pounds giving you only 342 pounds of capacity or an average of 114 pounds for each person on the jet ski if you have 3 people.

When you have 3 people on a jet ski, it will become very top heavy and really be hard to ride in the corners. As a passenger, you will need to really hold on and lean into the turns so it doesn’t flip over. Sometimes it is fun to flip, but sometimes you may be in your dry clothes just trying to get from point A to B and not want to get wet.

Passenger Capacity

The first important guidelines based tip for riding a jet ski as a passenger is to ensure that the jet ski you are riding is designed to hold more that one rider.  In most instances this is easy to tell as two-seater jet skis are fairly common and they can be easily identified by looking at the length of the seat.  If you want to confirm that the jet ski you plan to ride on is intended to for two riders before you see the jet ski, you can look up the name and read the guidelines for how many riders it is designed to hold.

This concern is more common when you are not the only passenger on the jet ski as three-person jet skis are far less common than two seaters.  Riding a jet ski with more than the intended number of riders can make the ride more dangerous and increase the likelihood that you fall off of the jet ski because there will be less room available.  This may also make it more difficult to hold on while riding the jet ski.  Because of this, it is important, when you board a jet ski as a passenger, that you ensure that you are not surpassing the maximum capacity of the jet ski.  Similarly, you may want to ensure that yours and the drivers combined weight does not surpass the maximum weight capacity of that specific jet ski.

Overall, it is important that you look into the guidelines for the specific jet ski that you plan to be a passenger on if you have concerns about the jet ski’s capacity so that you can be a better informed and safer passenger.

Some jet skis are technically rated for 2 passengers, but in reality, they are only built for one rider. For example, the 1996 SeaDoo XP was a great model. It said it was a “2 seater”, but in practice it is such a small hull, it is very hard to balance two people when riding away from a dock or in a no wake zone.

How to Hold On

Another important thing to consider when riding a jet ski as a passenger is how to hold on to the jet ski, or rather to the driver, when riding as a passenger.  This is important because holding on improperly or not holding on in a secure way may allow you to fall off the jet ski in rougher water or at higher speeds.

The preferred and often safest way for a jet ski passenger to hold on while riding a jet ski is to hold onto the driver’s waist.  This is normally done by wrapping your arms as far around the driver’s waist as possible.  While you want to hold on tightly to the driver, do not to hold on too tightly because you may begin to restrict the driver’s range of motion or limit his ability to steer the jet ski. 

You can also hold onto the jet ski itself, but in rough water or aggressive riding it is also not advised because you may not be able to get as secure of a grip.

Holding on properly to the jet ski also includes ensuring that you are sitting in the correct position with one leg on either side of the seat and your feet firmly planted on the floor of the jet ski. The ability to grip the seat between your legs while riding as a passenger on a jet ski may not only make you feel more secure but also allow you to stay on if your grip on the driver is jarred or loosened.

While these are the most common ways of holding on while riding on a jet ski, if it is your first time as a passenger you should communicate with the driver and see how he or she recommends you hold on when riding.  This will allow the driver to let you know what he or she is comfortable with and what is safest in that particular situation.


In conclusion, these are nine tips to be a better passenger when riding a jet ski which may be helpful if it is your first time riding a jet ski or simply your first time on a new jet ski/with a new driver.  While these tips can serve as general guidelines, the most important part of being a passenger on a jet ski is making sure that you are communicating well with the driver, obeying any guidelines that you are given, and following all safety requirements, recommendations, and procedures. 

Being prepared and informed about riding a jet ski and about what your role is as a passenger will not only help you be safer on your ride but will also make the ride more enjoyable for both you and the driver.  These tips can serve as a guideline and be built upon as you become more comfortable riding a jet ski as a passenger.

Enjoy your ride!