Jet Ski Make/Model/Mods for Ocean Tow Ins

I did some searching and didn’t come up with what I was looking for so thought I’d start a new thread where we can compile more details on ski set ups for tow foiling.

We are using a jet ski to tow foil in the waves here in Oregon. The ski we are using is an old two stroke that is loud and it smokes pretty bad, actually making it difficult to breathe when winded after pumping or getting held down. The upside is it was free and is not a big loss if/when we sink it!

Here is what I’ve gathered either from experience or talking with others.

Stability: When there is a lot of water moving, stability is key. A big ski like the Yamaha FX or Kawasaki Ultra is a good starting point, and adding inflatable collars can really help.

Speed/Power: We have not been out in really big surf, but I’ve gathered from watching videos of big wave surfing, having a fast ski is a must. This brings up the debate of supercharged vs. the simpler NA motors. Yamaha now has a 1.9ltr NA engine that they use, but I have not ridden one, only the 1.8 SVHO (supercharged) and it is a rocket.

Neutral/Reverse: Simple and intuitive is a must, one hanged is even better. I’ve ridden Yamahas reverse with digital reverse on the left handle bar just like the throttle on the right, super easy and intuitive, but it takes two hands to use. Newer (22’ and up??) Kawasakis have everything on the right handle bar and I am told you can operate reverse easily one handed.

Here are a couple of videos that I’ve come across in my research. Feel free to add and give your opinion on what ski set up is ideal.

Audio is tough to hear, but some great ideas:

Oregon Coast Approved!

Great safety tips and training:

Is your ski fast enough?!?

Reverse Information

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I just got a ski for towing in may. It’s a seadoo gti 130. With a sled it’s good enough for 2 people easy. I have had 3 people but it’s gets a little crowded. As for speed I’m from the US east coast and I don’t ever have to out run massive waves but I think there is plenty of power on my ski to do so if needed. When it comes down to super charged or not from all the research that I did before buying I decided to stay away from super charged. They tend to have more problems more frequently.

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+1 on natural aspiration.

I have a Honda Aquatrax and can’t say enough good things about it.

Priority is reliability, maneuverability, and then speed last.

my $0.02

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Mark Healey just dropped this one today:

Rescue techniques

What are people using for sleds and what’s the best way to stow boards when not riding?

Anyone have any experience using a sea doo fish? Seems like if you removed the cooler and add a sled you’d have a lot of space to work with for boards, people, working on gear. I would also assume it’s pretty good on stability at a stop or idle given fishing activities. Not to mention you could keep the rod holder up front to patiently wait for swell haha

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Good information everyone.

It looks like the fishing model of the sea doo has a shorter seat/longer deck so I wonder if the actual hull dimensions are much different than their other models. Probably easy to find online…

In the yamaha line, the FX models have the longest and widest hulls and are said to be significantly more stable (when floating) than the other 3 seat yamaha’s.

It may not matter as much if you plan to put an inflatable collar on the ski.

Storage: It sure would be nice to have enough room in a compartment to put an assembled front wing-fuse-tail into the compartment. Our 2014’ kawi front compartment is almost big enough to put a Lift 170/tail into it, but the opening is about an inch diagonal to small. It looks like the new models from Kawasaki front hatch openings are even smaller. Anyone have a preference on storage compartments on any of the models?

Standard on Oahu, Hawaii is the Yamaha FXHO. Inflatable or rigid sleds are nearly as popular as each other. Pontoon/collar is great for added stability, maybe half of the skis have em installed. Majority of skis have traction/grip installed.

Does anyone actually know if towing is illegal in SoCA? I heard somewhere that they are but can’t find any reference to the actual written law or penal code.

I tow and do step offs in Norcal.

Seadoo Explorer Pro. Same as the Fishpro, different color. Nice big hull and plenty of power NA @170HP. Goes fast enough to outrun double overhead. You don’t need speed you need acceleration. This has plenty. I don’t believe a supercharger makes a lot of sense.
This is ado was a little bit extra to set up for towing as there is no tow hook like on the Yamahas. Unless you order the water ski tow attachment, I ordered a part from Jetsurf that bolted on and works nicely.

As far as rescue sleds, I’m not super experienced with different models but they all seem pretty similar. I’ve heard to stay away from inflatable but I’m not sure why and I see them being used.

SeaDoo vs Yamaha.
Yamaha is the standard but SeaDoo offers great options and has similar reliability these days. Some drivers have transitioned such as Chongkee and Kai Lenny is all SeaDoo now.

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+1 for Yamaha FXHO Cruiser. We enjoy the size and stability of the larger hull over the VX model. While the cheaper VX is very capable, stability is noticeably less, can be fixed with a collar. I appreciate extra stability more with foiling over traditional tow surfing. Seems like foiling involves more moving around on the ski when tinkering with gear. Also, VX has a much smaller storage box and fits almost no foils, FX can fit some foils.

I agree supercharged engines are not worth the trouble. I have personally smoked (seadoo) one because of a failed supercharger and have heard many more stories. At best, it adds costly maintenance. IMO the extra power is not needed if you’re only tow foiling. Generally tow foiling conditions do not require max power like tow surfing in extreme conditions. You’re just not out running big stuff in cavitation conditions.

Sleds, inflatable ones are cheaper, lighter, more maneuverable and convenient. BUT they are susceptible to foil puncture, been there. They are repairable but could impact your session. That being said, a little awareness goes a long ways.

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seems timely

I can’t imagine he pays for those…

I liken it to foils - people validate the product when they spend their hard earned $$$


Sharing my setup and some foil specific tips


Thank you for the video Steve, great information and visuals

Update, we ended up with a seadoo gtx 170 as that is what came up for sale close to us. Great ski with a nice ride in the ocean and the reverse/neutral is pretty intuitive after an hour or so.

I can’t help but wonder how the seadoo switch would do for towing in small surf (the 13’ model)? Anyone have experience with a switch? Probably not a great idea in breaking surf, but with all the “stuff” we are putting on regular skis these days, it got me wondering about this option.

A dangerous idea in the surf…