Learning how to jet ski: a life and career advice

I’ve never ridden, much more drove, a jet ski. Neither my little sister. Yet, despite knowing there is a very high chance of us falling, tumbling, and making a fool of ourselves, we took on the challenge and both declared – “let’s do it!”

My sister is 12 years younger than me and is the youngest of the siblings. She was the one who suggested that we ride a jet ski. We were running out of things to do as we were already on our third day of our family vacation at Puerto Galera (side note: this was when the Covid-19 cases were so low, and it was Alert Level 2 prior to the spread of the Omicron variant). We’ve toured around the tourist destination, from the usual island hopping, sightseeing the Tamaraw waterfalls, going to view decks, to name a few. Of course, a lot of eating in between.

My sister and I being taught the basics.

I looked at her. She looked at me. We’ve both said: Ok!

While I have never ridden, much more drove a jet ski, I was confident that I would be able to pull it off since I already have the related skill sets. Meaning, I knew how to ride a bicycle and drive a motorbike/motorcycle. It would be cinch I thought – not yet realizing and only dawning on me later that there are these things found on the sea that are not found on flat roads, you know, those things that go up and down called waves. Also, funny me for thinking otherwise, a jet ski does not have a brake!

When it was our turn, the instructor gave us a two-minute crash course on how to operate the jet ski. No techniques, no tips. Just the mechanics of turning on the jet ski and making it go zoom! All the other stuff was on us – the newbies. To add, the way to apply gas to move forward was not similar to a motorbike where you would turn the throttle. No folks, for the jet ski to move, we had to use the clutch lever. You pull the clutch lever if you wanted to apply gas and then you go zoom!

Great, my confidence suddenly dropped.

When asked who of us would go first, I stepped up. My sister and I discussed it before hand. I was going to take one for the team. I’d be the one to make a fool of myself while figuring it out and then teaching it to my little sister who would be my passenger observing all along.

I gently pulled the clutch lever and felt the jet ski slowly move. We were going around less than five (5) kilometers at this point. Wait? Since we were at sea, that would be around 2.7 nautical miles. I know my maritime navigation, of course. If we were walking on the shore, an elderly person would pass us by. That’s how slow we were.

We were learning and we did not care about the onlookers. My sister and I were okay staying at this speed for a few minutes since we were figuring out how everything interacted. Remember, I earlier mentioned there were waves to consider. If you follow the direction of the waves, there is not much resistance so the jet ski will glide along. If you go against the direction of the waves, that creates resistance resulting in a bumpy ride. In this case, if you add speed to a bumpy ride, you can expect to be thrown off into the sea. That was what we were learning while we were taking our time. We did a few laps at slow speeds.

On the shore, onlookers were probably wondering what we were doing, and some may be having fun looking at us at our expense. These did not bother us in the least. As far as my sister and I were concerned, we were learning a new skill and the first few steps usually take time. You must understand the theory – that means the basics, the principles, and how things interplay. Then, you apply what you learn via practice – which often might have slight deviation from the theory. My sister knew it. I knew it too.

When I finally got the hang of it, I asked my sister if she was ready for us to accelerate. She quickly replied: yes! That’s when I gently pulled back more the lever applying more gas to the vehicle and off we went skiing through the waters as a jet ski is designed to do. Zoooooom

Going fast after learning the theory and applying it via practice

It was fun!

When it was time to switch with my sister, I slowly drove to the shoreline. As we were approaching, I shared to her my learnings and realizations with her. These were the tips and techniques I’ve distilled from my experience – and what the instructor missed giving to us. I was confident that she would learn it fast having shared with her my knowledge and insights.

Then, she said: “I’ve never learned how to drive a motorbike. I know how to ride a bicycle though.”

Me: Whuuut??

There’s a significant difference between a bicycle and a motorbike. One uses biomechanics to move forward, the other via the power of an engine. To add, a regular jet ski is a much more powerful vehicle compared to a regular motorbike as a jet ski is primarily designed for speed. It can go from 0 to 60 kilometers per hour in a matter of seconds. Recall that the jet ski we were using does not use a throttle to move forward; rather, the clutch was used to apply gas. Notwithstanding the surprise reveal, we laughed it off. I was confident that she would be able to learn it as we went.

My sister learning the jet ski

When she took over, and the first time she applied gas, the jet ski handlebar was slightly pointed to the left instead of being pointed towards the center. For those who know how to motorbike, this is something usually avoided when starting out from a stop position. When we moved, the jet ski naturally moved and leaned to the left prompting her body to gravitate to the left. For those who know how to motorbike again, your body should lean towards the opposite direction to counter the weight of your vehicle. Since her body weight added force to the left, we ended up falling into the water and the jet ski barreled to the left.

After surfacing from the water (thank goodness for life jackets! do wear them when doing sports activities at the beach), I advised her that her body should not have gone with the direction of where the weight of the jet ski was going and instead, she should have gone to the opposite to counter it. She replied realizing the error and taking note of it. She again positioned herself as the driver then slowly applied the gas. And we fell off again.

Don’t worry, the second fall was the last one. After going back on the jet ski, I reminded her again of what I said earlier. She seemed to have figured it out as we started to glide on the water. As in my case, she went slow as a turtle (hmmm, this might not be a good reference since turtles are fast-moving at sea). She followed what I did and went on laps driving slowly, figuring things out, and then getting the hang of it.

I was just in the passenger seat more for moral support as I remained quiet. I knew it was her learning time. She picked up all the theory and it was her time to process it. This was all for the purpose of gaining confidence.

When she finally sensed that she figured it out, she confidently asked me if I was ready to go fast. It was now her time to shine. And, of course, as any proud big brother will say, “Yes! Let’s do it”

Off we went, she went fast with the jet ski. At certain times, she went even faster than me. I had no qualms. I was enjoying myself.


There’s much to learn from this experience and why I wrote about it. We were both learning a new skill. I had a slight advantage since I knew and have experience riding a motorbike. I transferred my knowledge and insights to my sister who was in turn able to catch up fast. We performed well, if I humbly say so, and enjoyed the process of learning. All thanks to us for going after what we wanted and not fearing embarrassment and what other people might think. This is life and career advice in a short story.