Deep Thoughts: Do PWC Need Brakes?

Someone asked me recently what I thought was the best innovation of the past several years in the PWC market, and without hesitation I answered Sea-Doo's braking system. That answer, however, is not for the obvious reasons. Sure, I think the ability to "brake" a boat on the water and avoid an obstacle is cool and all, but what impresses me most about the system is what else it enables — namely the ability to effectively start a PWC in neutral, then shift into forward or reverse.

1st February 2010.
By Jeff Hemmel

Someone asked me recently what I thought was the best innovation of the past several years in the PWC market, and without hesitation I answered Sea-Doo’s braking system.

That answer, however, is not for the obvious reasons. Sure, I think the ability to “brake” a boat on the water and avoid an obstacle is cool and all, but what impresses me most about the system is what else it enables — namely the ability to effectively start a PWC in neutral, then shift into forward or reverse.

Take a look around the next time you’re spending a few minutes at the launch ramp, or an a group ride and pulling in for a lunch stop. Even for riders of average experience, close-quarters maneuvering can be chaos. Newcomers especially tend to have problems. After all, a PWC is basically always in gear. Start it up and it moves forward, or pull the reverse lever (if so equipped) and you back away. Neutral, however, is a fine line, the result of the driver constantly feathering the reverse lever to maintain position. Should that reverse lever be in an awkward position (you know who you are, manufacturers), it’s next to impossible.

Contrast that scenario with starting up on one of Sea-Doo’s brake-equipped models. Hit the start button and the boat starts and stays in position. To go forward you give it some throttle. To back away, you apply pressure to the brake/reverse lever on the opposite handlebar grip. It’s completely intuitive, and works exceptionally well.

Haven’t seen the system in action? Check out the video below…

Do PWC need brakes? Not always – a good rider can still usually get out of harm’s way with a careful combination of throttle and evasive handling. But brakes do come in handy should you need emergency stopping power. Braking ability has also opened the doors to new methods of handling.

Still, I think braking technology has produced the greatest results in just everyday, slow-speed riding. When I get on a PWC without that ability, I suddenly realize how much I miss it.

But that’s just my opinion. What do you think? I’m curious to know…as I’m sure are a few manufacturers.


About the author:

Jeff Hemmel

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Jeff Hemmel writes for boats.com, Boating, PersonalWatercraft.com, and Powersports Business. The former Senior Editor at Watercraft World, Jeff is a multi-time award winner as well as a 2008 inductee into the IJSBA Hall of Fame. His first book, "The Anti-Pirate Potato Cannon...and 101 Other Things For Young Mariners To Try, Do, & Build On the Water," received a bronze medal in the 2010 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards. For more info, visit Jeff Hemmel's website.

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