Can A Jet Ski Capsize?

Jet skis provide an adrenaline rush like few other water-born sporting equipment can. Their ability to fly out of water holes and jump over wakes while turning very sharply onto their wakes makes these vessels incredibly versatile. It also makes them easy to fall off, which is why basic safety precautions should always be observed.

A jet ski can capsize, which is one of the many characteristics that makes them such fun to ride. As long as all of the basic safety precautions are taken, the rider and passengers wear the appropriate life vests, and caution is taken to other water users, it is not dangerous to capsize a jet ski.

The safest place to be with  Jet Ski is on the vessel, not in the water. When the rider and passenger are thrown off the jet ski, they are vulnerable to other boaters not seeing them and possibly causing injury, which is why it is very important to try and remain upright.

A Jet Ski Can Capsize

There are several reasons and circumstances why jet skis can capsize.

The Shape Of The Jet Skis Hull

Jet skis have a very shallow V-shaped hull, which provides a stable platform for almost all uses. The hull’s shape means the vessel can be affected by waves approaching the side.

Older model jet skis have very narrow hulls, which meant that the riders would take regular swimming lessons until they had built enough muscle memory to stay upright.

Standing jet skis are the most unstable, adding to which the relatively high center of gravity meant beginner riders regularly ended up in the water.

Jet Skis Are Used For Trick Riding

The very nature of jet skis, with their ability to turn sharply and accelerate very fast, means that the riders often push the boundaries and make them perform outside of the rider’s ability.

If you are not experienced, start to learn simple maneuvers and only expand the limits once you are completely confident with the current ones.

The Jet Ski Is Ridden To Slowly

When the jet ski is ridden very slowly or even stopped, it is much less stable.

At speed, the hull’s shape plays a big role in keeping the jet ski upright; however, when it is driven slowly, the rider and passenger’s balance keeps it upright.

If the passengers and rider are novices, it is very easy for each one to unseat the other.

It is also important to use thrust when cornering the jet ski, and if the throttle isn’t used, it is very easy to fall off.

Riding A Jet Ski With And Unbalanced Weight

If too much weight is carried on top of the jet ski, it becomes top-heavy, making it much easier to roll over.

Two large, unbalanced adults sitting on top of the jet ski is an almost guaranteed recipe for falling off if they are not skilled riders.

When riding with a passenger, it is a good idea to try to practice working in sync together when you start. It will pay dividends as the rider begins to explore the boundaries of what can and can’t be done.

How Do You Stop A Jet Ski Capsizing

The easiest way to prevent a jet ski from capsizing is to operate it within the boundaries of your skill levels. It may seem unduly restrictive, so the following lists the basic precautions you can take to keep the activity as safe as possible.

Follow A Standard Set Of Procedures

When the rider starts on the jet ski, they should spend a few extra seconds preparing themselves and the boat.

  • Check that the drain plug(s) are installed and tightened.
  • Check there is sufficient gas in the tank.
  • Attach the cut-off switch lanyard to the driver’s arm or body.
  • Keep an eye on which way the current and wind is moving.

Alcohol And Jet Skis

Never drive under the influence of alcohol!

The only time there may be a more deadly combination than alcohol and boating is alcohol and aviation.

Pilots use the axiom “12 hours between bottle and throttle,” which is a good practice with any high-speed water boat activity.

Alcohol, sun, and speed are deadly combinations.

Tricks and jumps

Do not try wild tricks and high speed while other boaters are in the vicinity because this increases the chance of collision, which can damage property and cause bodily injury.

It’s very easy to get carried away, and if this is done when the rider has sufficient open space, it is great fun; however, as soon as it places risks on other water users, it is not acceptable.

If you want to jump other boats’ wakes, that is not an issue; however, carefully ensure that the boat is not pulling behind a tube or water skier.

If you intend to “ride wild,” make sure that someone knows what you are doing and preferably have them watch you so they can respond if a problem develops.

shutterstock 1747824080

What To Do If The Jet Ski Capsizes

The following processes assume that the legally required safety precautions have been followed, which include.

  • Always wear the legally required Personal flotation devices (PFDs – Life jackets).
  • The rider must have the cut-off switch lanyard attached to the arm or body.
  • If a riding license is required, ensure that the rider is fully compliant.
  • If the rider has an age limit requirement, ensure that the order meets this.

If the jet ski begins to overturn, you can take a few actions to ensure that you are not injured.

Always Wear The Jet Ski Cut-Off Lanyard

Never go on the jet ski without the cut-off lanyard securely wrapped around your wrist.

It guarantees that if the jet ski does get away from you, the cut-off switch will disconnect, and the engine will stop running.

Many jet ski accidents are difficult to avoid and are not necessarily the rider’s fault. If the rider loses control and is not wearing the cut-off lanyard, it is inexcusable, and liability may be held against the rider under those circumstances.

Switch The Jet Ski Engine Off

If the rider is still on the jet ski or hasn’t fallen far enough away and the cut-off lanyard hasn’t pulled the cut-off switch out, the engine will still be running. If the jet ski is upside down and still running – unlikely – the water intake may not be pulling water in, which has implications for the engine being damaged.

In this instance, the engine must be immediately switched off to prevent the jet ski from running out of control and crashing into other water users and to prevent damage to the engine.

Switching the engine off provides time to assess the situation before continuing.

If the jet ski has overturned, there may be water at the air intake, preventing it from running.

Let The Jet Ski Go

Let go immediately if the Jet Ski starts to flip or roll over! There is nothing you can do, and holding onto the jet ski could mean it ends up on top of you, which is a recipe for a bad day.

If you are holding tight,  your hand is probably squeezing the throttle lever, which will cause the jet ski to accelerate. At this stage, if you are not balanced, you will have no control over the steering and, therefore, the direction.

It could cause the jet ski to career towards other water users, which is exceptionally dangerous and could cause injury, or even worse, a drowning.

Act Quickly

Don’t let the Jet Ski remain inverted any longer because water entering the engine compartment and possibly into the engine itself can cause substantial damage.

The steps to follow are

  • Return to the Jet Ski
  • Remount the jet ski

Return To The Jet Ski

Assuming you are now off the jet ski (which is capsized) and in the water, swim back to it, approaching from the rear side.

It is incredible how hard the water surface is when the rider and passenger hit it at speed, and the rider should assess any injuries that may have occurred once the self-assessment has been done and check that the passenger is not injured.

Unless you are injured and can’t get back to it quickly, it is important to act fast to prevent the engine from sucking water into the intakes.

The problem of water getting into the engine bay may be a difficult to start the jet ski engine, or it could be much more serious.

A more serious consequence will be If water enters the piston chamber, which can cause serious damage. Part of the ignition cycle of a jet ski engine is the air compression on the piston chamber, which improves combustion.

If water replaces the air which is supposed to be there, and because water is virtually incompressible, as the piston tries to rise and compress the water, it could cause a bent conrod or damage to the crankshaft, which is called hydro lock.

Flip It Back Over

Most jet skis have an illustration printed onto the back of the jet ski demonstrating how to reorientate it if the jet ski has capsized. Most models of jet skis are turned right side up one of three ways.

  • Back over.
  • Clockwise rotation.
  • Rolled in a Counterclockwise rotational direction.

You must turn the jet ski back over in the direction shown to prevent excess water from getting into the engine bay and subsequently into the engine bay.

Follow the steps listed below to flip the jet ski over:

Step One – Orientate Towards The Correct Rotation

Find the rollover illustration and work out which side of the jet ski you must be on to ensure the rotational direction is complied with.

 Move to the side of the jet ski shown in the illustration.

Step Two – Grab Hold Of The Water Intake Grate

There will be a grate on the underside.

Check that this is not too hot to hold; however, if the engine is off, it should be fine.

With one hand, grab the grate and place your feet on the edge of the jet ski.

Step Three – Finish the Jet Ski Rotation

Pull the grate towards the rider, and the jet ski should begin to rotate towards the rider.

As the jet ski rotates through 90 degrees, the rider should move both hands to the side lifted out of the water to continue the righting rotation.

Place the rider’s weight on both hands, so the rider is “hanging” off the side, and the jet ski should quickly rotate so that it ends up being right side up.

If the jet ski has an automatic bilge pump (recommended), it should start automatically and empty all the water in the engine compartment.

Remount The Jet Ski

Climb back up the jet ski from the rear edge, steady the vessel and clamber back over the seat.

Check that the engine bay is empty of water, reattach the kill chord and attempt to restart the engine.

If the engine is flooded and there is no bilge pump, manual or otherwise, do not attempt a restart. It is much safer to ask a friendly boater or other Jet ski rider to give you two back to shore.

If the engine won’t restart, do not continue to try turning the starter motor over, and rather request a tow back to the shore.

Assuming that no water is left in the engine bay area and the engine restarts easily, you can carry on with your session.


Jet Skis do capsize; that is one reason they are so excited to ride. The Jet ski’s ability to accelerate fast, power out of wave troughs, and turn on a dime are all features that make them so sought after by adrenaline junkies.

As long as the basic rule is followed, righting a capsized jet ski does not present a problem or any particular anger to the rider and passengers, and righting them is an easily learned technique.