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Kawasaki Jet Ski celebrates 50 years of the PWC

When the original Jet Ski watercraft debuted in 1973, it created a whole new lifestyle of having fun on the water.

50 years of Kawasaki jet ski
Kawasaki created a new lifestyle on the water with the introduction of the Jet Ski in 1973.

“For 50 years, Kawasaki Jet Ski has been synonymous with ‘good times’ on the water,” said Bob O’Brien, Kawasaki’s director of marketing. “As an early leader in the PWC category, Kawasaki and Jet Ski developed a fun-loving lifestyle centered around the exhilaration of combining speed with control.”

The first jet skis employed a liquid-cooled 400cc two-stroke twin engine with pivoting handle pole system so riders could stand up and slice through turns and skim over waves.

These early model skis set the stage for today’s powerful PWCs, with Kawasaki using a supercharged 1,498cc inline four-stroke marine engine in its sitdown models. While PWCs have evolved over the years, the original idea remains to recreate the feeling of riding a motorcycle on the water.

The “Good Times Theatre” video players were used at Kawasaki dealerships in the 1970s for customer viewing in the showrooms.

Bringing the stand-up Jet Ski watercraft to market in the early 1970s was among the first projects of the new Kawasaki R&D department in Southern California. After creating several prototypes, both flat-hull and V-hull stand-up models were launched on a trial basis. Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing Corp., U.S.A. in Lincoln, Nebraska, later started full production of the stand-up Jet Ski in 1975.

Kawasaki jet ski from 1977
The stand-up Jet Ski created a whole new market for Kawasaki’s version of motorcycles on the water.
(Photo: Youtube)

In 1986, Kawasaki was the first to market the “sit-down” style PWC – the Kawasaki X2. This two-passenger watercraft led the way for the Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra and Jet Ski STX lineups of three-passenger runabouts. Development continued as Kawasaki engineers tweaked hull design and engine displacement.

In 2007, Kawasaki unveiled its high-powered Ultra 250X. This Jet Ski used a supercharged 1,498cc powerplant derived from the Ninja ZX-14 superbike.

In 2017, Kawasaki went back to its stand-up roots, introducing the Jet Ski SX-R, the first four-stroke stand-up Jet Ski, using the same naturally aspirated 1498cc engine from its runabout models.

The introduction of the Jet Ski SX-R is further proof of the company’s dedication to the PWC category as Kawasaki has continued to update and innovate their lineup of Jet Ski products, including the new Jet Ski Ultra 310 series.

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