Get together some people who have been riding personal watercraft for a lot of years (yeah, Patrick Butler, I’m talking about guys like you), and it’s almost inevitable that the subject of the coolest, or the most influential PWC ever will arise. Coming up with a definitive answer is next to impossible, akin to asking a parent to name their favorite child. Different craft appeal to different people for different reasons. It goes without saying that if you’re into touring you’re likely not going to pick a performance two-seater and vice versa.
Still, I’m not afraid to weigh in on the subject. After all, I’ve been riding PWC since 1977. My first craft was a 1976 Kawasaki Jet Ski JS400, a woefully underpowered machine but to a teenager obsessed with all things water, one of the coolest toys I could ever imagine. And though I still personally veer more towards a sharp-handling performance model, I can also appreciate the benefits of a cushy cruiser or a bargain-priced introductory model. I’ve also had the good fortune to ride nearly every single model ever made. Heck, come to think of it, maybe I have rode every single model every made.
So which is the coolest, a craft that even today continues to influence the industry? For me the answer is easy — the 1993 – 1996 Yamaha WaveBlaster.
In an era of sitdown craft that provided little challenge and typically featured a strange, outside lean to hook up in a turn, here was a machine that thrilled like a stand-up and cornered like a motorcycle. It was the stand-up guy’s sitdown, but as it turns out, it was also so much more. WaveBlasters appealed to motocross riders, slalom water skiers, even guys that seemed more comfortable on a “sea couch” but found that an aggressive handling sitdown had its appeal. Credit the WaveBlaster for showing that an inside lean was not only cool, but the way a craft should turn. There’s little doubt it influenced the Sea-Doo HX, and second-generation Sea-Doo XP years later. Even now, I can feel its DNA in craft like Yamaha’s FZR and Sea-Doo’s new RXP-X, even Kawasaki’s Ultra 300X.
Looking for a used craft to add to your fleet? Check out a ‘Blaster, or the slightly more big-guy friendly WaveBlaster II. Or, next time you’re around some old-timers, ask them for their opinions. Heck, maybe they might even offer you a ride. Even today, WaveBlasters remain one of the most popular used models, with a dedicated fan base.
That’s the definition of a truly influential boat…as well as one that is just really, really cool.