About Jeff Hemmel

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.

Kiwis Try To Break PWC Distance Record

A group of New Zealand PWC enthusiasts is setting out from London on August 1st in hopes of breaking the world distance record for travel on a personal watercraft.

The trip, dubbed “The Ultimate Ride,” is being led by Jerome Burfoot, who circumnavigated New Zealand in 2006 in a benefit aimed at raising funds for cancer research, and who once again plans to draw attention to this cause. Burfoot is a melanoma survivor. Burfoot’s group includes fellow Kiwis Travis Donoghue and Jed Martin, along with Ivan Otulic from Croatia, who broke the Guinness endurance record last year with a 1,014-mile ride off the Croatian Adriatic coast.

The 32,000 km (just shy of 20,000 miles) journey is scheduled to go from London to the Rhine and Danube rivers, before heading into the Black Sea. From there, riders will head to the Red Sea, head around the Arabian Peninsula, and head north up the old Arab Spice Sea tradewind routes to Pakistan, before heading around and southward down the western coast of India. A support crew will join them as they cross the Bay of Bengal to Singapore. Beyond that the route once again heads south to Papua New Guinea to the east coast of Australia, culminating back in Auckland sometime in November.

If all goes planned, the group will break the current world record of 18,400 km several days beyond Singapore. Anyone interested in tracking the group’s progress can find updates on their website www.london-sydney.com.

Whale Jumps, Lands On Sailboat

No, this isn’t my normal beat, but how can you pass up a story about a whale leaping from the water…and landing squarely atop a sailboat that was, ironically, on a whale-watching trip?

A South African couple on their 33-foot sailboat got the suprise of their life when the 10-meter Southern Right whale shot from the water and smashed down atop their boat, breaking the mast before finally sliding back into the water. A whale-watcher nearby managed to capture the episode on film.

Yes, this is kind of like the shark leaping at the helicopter, or any other number of fake pics that have become popular on the Internet. This one, however, is real. The couple amazingly escaped injury, and were able to make it back to shore under power.

YouTube videos have been taken down for copyright reasons, but you can still find the sequence here: au.news.yahoo.com/video/national/watch/20995463/

Exclusive PWC Film Details Direct From Larry Rippenkroeger

A little more news on the feature film on personal watercraft, direct from the man behind the film himself, Larry Rippenkroeger. Larry sent me an email this morning with a few more exclusive details on Hot Water…

According to Larry, they’ve just gotten the project to the point where they could pull the trigger and make arrangements to shoot some footage at the World Finals. The film will not be a documentary, but a story set against the backdrop of the pro PWC tour.

“I wrote the script for Hot Water,” Rippenkroeger confirms. “It’s an action/comedy set against the backdrop of the pro Jet Ski tour. It involves modern-day PWC, not vintage watercraft, so don’t break out your day-glow wetsuits. This won’t be a cheesy Hollywood sports movie, but rather, a great coming of age story, full of excitement, challenges and laughs.”

Following the World Finals, the preliminary plan is to start principle photography early next year in Hawaii during the big-wave season. “The action and stunts will be spectacular, and we’ll be calling in the sport’s top pros to help make it happen,” continues Larry. “The remainder of Hot Water will be shot afterwards in locations that we’re working on now.

“We are currently in the casting process and I will be making those announcements as they come. Anyone who knows anything about Hollywood knows it’s a miracle that anything ever gets made in this town. There’s so many hurdles you have to overcome in each step of the process. We’re excited to finally be far enough along to be able to start rolling some cameras. More to come…”

PWC Feature Film Gets Green Light

A long-running feature-film project by former PWC race champ/now Hollywood stuntman Larry Rippenkroeger has finally been given the green light in Hollywood. Rippenkroeger, along with producing partners Kyle Collinsworth and Greg Pellerito has gotten the go-ahead on a film dubbed Hot Water, which will begin shooting initial footage at this year’s World Finals in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

“I’ve always wanted to bring some of the fun and excitement I experienced on the IJSBA tour to the big screen,” Rippenkroeger says of the project, which I first remember being talked about as far back as the late ’80s. “We have a great script, a great director and are in the casting process with some of the top names in Hollywood.”

The movie is set to be directed by David R. Ellis, who helmed last summer’s hit The Final Destination, a film which racked up over $183 million worldwide. Principal photography will begin in early 2011, but Rippenkroeger and the production team are taking advantage of the World Finals setting this fall to capture some initial racing action, crowd scenes, and pit activity.

I’ve known Larry for a long time, and I’m really excited about the project, both for him and the PWC community in general. I’ve contacted him for more details, but in the meantime, here’s an interview I did with Larry for Boating Magazine about 18 months ago…it’s well worth reading.

JH: First things first, didn’t you used to be some kind of champion Jet Skier?

LR: Yes, once upon a time in a land far, far… actually it was the mid-eighties thru the early nineties when I had my run at the top of the sport. It’s some of my fondest memories, traveling all over the world, winning competitions, getting paid to ride Jet Skis!

JH: So how did you go from that to being a Hollywood stuntman?

LR: I had always hoped to transition into the movie business but was having a hard time making it happen. Then I caught a lucky break and got called to perform Jet Ski stunts in the movie Waterworld. I was originally schedule to be there in Hawaii for ten weeks but ended up staying on board for eight months. It was an amazing experience that allowed me to get to know dozens of the top stuntmen in Hollywood, and like most things in life, this business is all about who you know.

JH: Waterworld, huh? That wasn’t exactly a critical favorite…

LR: I enjoyed it. I know the critics panned it and called it a bomb, but the funny thing is it ended up making money. It grossed over $300 million worldwide but you never hear the critics mention that. It was easily the best movie making experience of my life!

JH: So how do you parlay a tailor-made stunt job on Jet Skis into a long-term stunt career?

LR: It was tough the first several years. Initially I was hired by Universal Studios to work in the Waterworld live stunt show. That was a lot of fun and basically paid the bills, but as I tried to pursue movie jobs I was constantly hit with the fact that people only saw me as a Jet Skier. I kept pushing and training, learning all the other skills needed to be a true stuntman like high falls, fire burns, stunt driving, etc. Eventually, with a lot of persistence I broke out of that mold and was able to prove myself.

JH: So where have we seen you?

LR: A few of the highlights are Titanic, X-Files movie, Matrix Reloaded, Terminator 3, and several Bruce Willis movies.

JH: Is it true you’re Bruce Willis’ stunt double?

LR: I have been fortunate enough to double Bruce for the last five years or so.

JH: Any close calls?

LR: You could say that. I almost died on Live Free or Die Hard. It was a freak accident where I fell off a fire escape ladder three stories down to the street below. That was about a year and a half ago and I’m still not fully recovered from all the broken bones.

JH: Latest projects you’re working on?

LR: I just finished working on Fast and the Furious 4 and another big movie for 2009 called G.I. Joe. (Update: Larry has most recently doubled once again for Bruce Willis in Surrogates, as well as worked on Iron Man 2, and the upcoming films The Other Guys, A Bag of Hammers, and The Green Lantern.)

JH: I bet you can kick Bruce Willis’s ass on a jet ski…

LR: Unless it’s in a movie…cause nobody kicks Bruce Willis’ ass in a movie!

Harley Clifford Takes Wake National Championship

Harley Clifford captured the Pro Men’s title at this past weekend’s 2010 Air Nautique WWA Wakeboard National Championships, presented by Rockstar. The comp was held outside Reno, Nevada. Nicola Butler captured the Pro Women title, while Reed Hansen took home the Pro Wakeskate crown.

Last year’s champ Adam Errington didn’t make it into this year’s finals, leaving Clifford to duke it out with Danny Harf, Rusty Malinoski, Phillip Soven, and Bryan Hutton. All reportedly put together impressive runs, but none could top Clifford, who edged Soven and Harf for the national title. (Check out Clifford’s winning run here on WakeboardingMag.com.)

“It feels awesome to win Nationals,” said Clifford. “It’s my first one and I’m stoked. Winning today helps me out a lot in the King of Wake and I can’t wait for the next contest.”

Clifford now leads the King of Wake series over Soven and Malinoski with three rounds to go.

It was also a first Wakeboard Nationals title for Butler, who was followed by Amber Wing and Raimi Merritt in Pro Women. Butler now leads the Queen of Wake series. Wakeskater Reed Hansen was the only one to defend his national title, topping Grant Roberts and Stuart Shinn.

Carnage At PWC Offshore National Championships

Just heard from PWC Offshore’s Mark Gerner, who told me some early results from yesterday’s Long Beach-2-Catalina And Back PWC Offshore Championships. The summary? It looks like big water, big fog, and heavily modified boats in the Pro class resulted in some big losses for the favored pros.

First to fall victim was Chris MacClugage, who had mechanical problems on the line and wasn’t even able to start the race. Out of the Queen’s gate Craig Warner took the lead by a small margin, followed by Sean Conner, Pat Roque, Lee Phan, Chris Lawrence, Mark Gerner, Robert Carreon, Andy Wise and Tyler White all mixing it up close behind.  As soon as the racers exited the Queens Gate into the Pacific conditions got really big. Robert Carreon suffered a breakdown and Lee Phan fell back a bit, leaving Warner, Roque, Gerner, Tyler White and then Sean Conner.

Tyler White would then go on to break about a mile offshore, followed by race leader Warner about two miles out. Gerner then took over the lead as the race headed into heavy fog conditions. Pat Roque delaminated a hull about this same time and fell back a bit, before Andy Wise also broke down, followed by another breakdown by Chris Lawrence.

With the fog growing even thicker, Gerner took about a two-mile lead on the field and was first to the turnboat. But about a mile offshore following the turn Gerner too would fall victim, blowing a supercharger belt and dropping out of the race.

That left Pat Roque, second to the turnboat, to assume the lead, followed 60 yards later by Sean Conner, with Kim Bushong a distant third. Halfway back Rogue, too, would suffer a mechanical and completely break, while Kim Bushong would pass Conner to take over the lead and begin to build a sizable lead. Conner would ultimately fall back, losing his position to Pham, and Kim Bushong of PWCOFFSHORE Racing would hold on for the win, with Paul Pham second and Brian Steeves third.

Of note, first, second, and third place finishers were all on nearly stock boats. Gerner notes that the race footage helicopters were all forced to turn back due to the fog only a few miles into the race. Shawn Alladio also stopped her own race and just resorted to tow and rescue for all the other racers breaking down.

“It was carnage in the Pro Class,” summed up Gerner. “The pros were holding heavily modified rockets wide open in big water and it took a toll. The little video we did get was hardcore!”

Sea-Doo Wins Design Award For 210 Challenger SE Sport Boat

BRP’s 210 Challenger  SE sport boat recently received a prestigious “red dot award” in the product design category from the Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen in Essen, Germany. This makes the seventh red dot award Sea-Doo has received since 2005.

Never heard of red dot? Neither had I, but apparently the red dot awards have honored outstanding design quality and trendsetters in the fields of product design, communication design, and design concepts since 1955. This year 1,636 companies from 57 countries (for a total of 4,252 entries) submitted their projects to the jury.

“BRP is the benchmark of the powersports industry when it comes to design, performance, efficiency, and on-board safety features,” said Denys Lapointe, executive vice-president, Design and Innovation. “It is exciting to be recognized in the transportation category amongst such a competitive field of entries, many of which come from the automobile industry. This award is further proof that BRP is committed to providing the best possible motorized recreational experience for consumers.”

“BRP’s Sea-Doo 210 Challenger SE sport boat is a 21-foot tour de force which provides a surface layout similar to that found on most 23-foot models,” continued Lapointe.. “It was conceived to enhance the deck experience with an industry-first rear swim platform that quickly converts into deck chairs when extra space is required,”

BRP proudly notes that this is the third boating related award for the company thus far in 2010. In February, at the Miami International Boat Show, BRP was the recipient of two safety awards from the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) for its 2010 Sea-Doo RXT-X 260 watercraft and for its Advanced TEC iCatch PWC trailer.

Video Look At PWC World Championship

Veteran racer Mike “The Mauler” Yellich is a Facebook friend of mine, which is nice for several reasons…one of which is that he posts links to some pretty good PWC videos from time to time. The latest is a look at the 2009 World Finals. For those who have never been to the event before, or just wonder what all the hype is about, I think it offers a great glimpse into the action both on and off the water.

Speaking of the World Finals, this year’s event is coming up October 3-10, once again in Lake Havasu and based out of the Crazy Horse Campground & Resort. There’s a countdown calendar at www.ijsba.com.

PWC: What’s New For 2011?

Once upon a time, every new model year brought a number of all-new craft from every PWC manufacturer. Lately, however, the economy and other influences have all conspired to make a number of manufacturers just simply trot out the tried-and-true, existing models that may have been freshened up with new graphics or colors, but little else. True, Sea-Doo brought out a number of new models last year, but beyond the market leader, not much was seen from Yamaha and Kawasaki, and Honda seemed almost non-existent.

Fair warning: I won’t be spilling any big news at the moment. That will come following the various dealer shows or press intros sometime later this Summer and early Fall, when writers are no longer obligated to keep their mouths shut, or fingers off the keyboard. What I can tell you, however, is that I’m hearing murmurs that we might indeed see some new machines for 2011.

Sea-Doo will certainly continue to trot out new twists on its current line — the expansion of Intelligent Brake and Reverse seems almost a given. The company shot their 2011 promotional campaign virtually right in my backyard just before the start of summer, but I respected the ban on my presence and resisted the urge to get out a long camera lens to check things out. I did have my former next-door neighbor call to tell me a plane almost crashed into her new waterfront condo on the bay — it turned out to be part of the Sea-Doo photo shoot — but she didn’t spill any juicy details or take video. Evidently, I’ll have to prep her better next time.

Yamaha also appears to have something new up its sleeve. I’ve heard rumors, but nothing concrete. Last year gave us some tweaks to the VX line, but I have a feeling this year will see something more substantial.

Kawasaki? I haven’t heard what to expect, so that one will be a total surprise, as will Honda.

What about you, have you heard anything? Just because I can’t talk, doesn’t mean you can’t. Great places to chime in are pwctoday.com and greenhulk.net.