Apr. 21, 2008 – A soft spot for the stand-up class

By Jeff Hemmel
Contributing writer
In the overall picture of the PWC market, the stand-up, the boat that all but gave birth to an industry, has become a pretty small player.
Surpassed quickly by the surging popularity of two- and three-passenger runabouts models, stand-up numbers dwindled in rapid fashion throughout the early ’90s. Today, only two models remain in the entire mainstream consumer market — Yamaha’s SuperJet and Kawasaki’s 800 SX-R. And while together they’re holding strong, the reality is that today, stand-ups constitute only about 3-4 percent of the overall market.
Recent signs, however, indicate that both manufacturers and enthusiasts still have a soft spot for the stand-up. Kawasaki retooled its 800 SX-R to coincide with the Jet Ski’s 30th anniversary in 2003, a change that had buyers scrambling to get on the new ride. And now, five years later, Yamaha is doing likewise, altering its long-revered hull to give the SuperJet a unique new personality.
Hanging on … or hanging tough? A closer look at the stand-up market reveals it’s definitely the latter.

Yamaha’s platform
The biggest news in the stand-up class for 2008 was clearly the renewed interest Yamaha showed in the SuperJet platform. A model that literally has not seen a significant redesign since 1996, the SuperJet came into 2008 with little different at first glance — the boat still sports the same blue-tinged top deck that has become its trademark and the same dual carb, 701cc two-stroke engine. Below the bondline, however, Yamaha elected to tinker with the status quo.
The changes, all which affect the craft’s handling, are many. First and foremost is the inclusion of molded-in sponsons along the hull’s sides, slightly forward of the center point. Like the aftermarket Tubbie sponsons from Blowsion that so effectively changed the look of stand-up racing, these sponsons widen the craft’s footprint forward, increasing the hull’s wetted surface area. Yamaha also has slimmed the hull as it flows aft, and deepened the chines. The mods are rounded out with a new 2-inch setback to the pump, extended ride plate, stainless steel impeller and shorter handlepole (50mm less than the previous design).
“Our main goal was to find the right set of modifications to make it the best choice for freestyle, free-ride and competition riders alike,” said Andrew Cullen, marketing communications manager for the Yamaha Watercraft Group. “And to do this while still maintaining the essence of the SuperJet heritage that has made it a classic. We wanted to create a product that would be the ultimate standup watercraft for both new and experienced riders.”
The editors from PSB’s sister publication Watercraft World report that, as promised, the new design indeed makes the 2008 SuperJet both more fun and more playful than its predecessors. It leans much more intuitively into the corners, a style that is notably similar to the Kawasaki. In the process, the boat eliminates much of the flat turning style the old-school SJ previously demanded from its pilot. Editors note the boat also is far less tiring — both mentally and physically — to ride, now that the rider isn’t fighting the centrifugal force the former design’s flat style produced in a turn. One tradeoff, deemed more than acceptable given the advantages, is that the boat is slightly less stable in extended, straight-ahead runs.
“Combined, these modifications leverage all the classic SuperJet design elements,” continued Cullen, “along with fresh, race-tested ideas that we feel will help this product appeal to a wide range of stand-up enthusiasts, as well as those looking at entering the market.”

Kawasaki Standing Strong
Kawasaki arguably took over Yamaha’s momentum with the SuperJet when it retooled its own 800 SX-R in ’03. Like Yamaha’s recent makeover, Kawasaki’s also involved integrating Tubbie-like sponsons into the hull below the bondline. The design helped the SX-R achieve excellent straight-ahead stability, and carve aggressive, yet forgiving corners. The result was that hard-core stand-up enthusiasts flocked to the craft for its abilities on the race course, and yet beginners found a more forgiving ride with a shorter-than-expected learning curve.
In 2008 the 800 SX-R remains just that, a fact that should now make the Yamaha-Kawasaki battle in showrooms more interesting than ever to watch.
Like the Yamaha, the Kawasaki is staying true to its 781cc, dual carb two-stroke. Rumors persisted that both manufacturers would follow niche manufacturer HydroSpace’s lead into the four-stroke arena, but both manufacturers are likely to stand pat for now given the industry numbers. Watercraft World editors found the boat arguably more stable than the Yamaha, but it’s also heavier, a full 60 pounds more. That only enhances the craft’s feeling of stability, but also can detract from its playfulness to some extent. In terms of price, however, Kawasaki holds a clear advantage. The 800 SX-R can be had for $6,049, more than $600 less than the Yamaha.

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