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.

PWC Plunges Off Wave, Barely Misses Surfer

This one’s been around for a little while, but it’s thrilling enough to warrant a second look if you’ve seen it, or a first one if you somehow missed it. In the clip, a rider on a PWC bails just as the craft freefalls off the lip of a monster wave…narrowly missing the head of a surfer below.


Big Names, Big Purse For Can-Am Cup

The 2010 Hydro-Turf APBA National Tour moves to Belle River, Canada this weekend, July 17-18, and promises one of the biggest purses of the summer for PWC racers. This marks the first time in a decade that the national tour has ventured north of the border.

Dubbed the Naut Wukin Racing Eastern Canadian Nationals, the race is offering a $30,000 cash purse, a number which should bring out an impressive field of racers. The race is happening in conjunction with the 16th Annual SunSplash Festival, an event that includes a classic car show, parade, lawnmower races (yeah, you read right), arts and crafts, and live entertainment throughout the weekend.

For more information on the event, check out apbaracing.com.

Flashback: Jeff “The Jammer” Jacobs, Legendary PWC Racer

There have been a lot of great stand-up PWC riders over the years, but most would agree the most gifted, most naturally talented pilot was Jeff “The Jammer” Jacobs, a guy who won his first title at only 15 years of age, then went on to become one of, if not the most dominant racer in IJSBA history.

Although I’m sure he doesn’t remember it, I first met Jacobs at my very first race, a World Cup event in Ft. Myers, Florida. He was a skinny, 14-year-old kid, but one that I soon learned was dominating the Expert ranks. I then remember his first year as a pro, when he rode what looked like a homemade-painted ski for Performance Jet Ski with the #51 on the side. That year he upset all the favorites, like Larry Rippenkroeger and Dave Gordon. Later, he’d go on to battle the sport’s next generation of stars, like Chris Fischetti, Harry Goatcher, Victor Sheldon, and Chris MacClugage.

I stumbled across this Jacobs tribute video on YouTube. The quality is lousy, but it offers a cool reminder of the sport’s early years…and the man who undoubtedly was its king. Right behind it I’ve got a classic Jacobs World Finals victory in its entirety, in all its neon ’80’s glory.

Enjoy them both…

Sunscreen: There’s An App For That?

It seems like there’s an “app” for virtually everything, but one for sunscreen?

Apparently the answer is yes…kind of. Coppertone has launched the Coppertone MyUV Alert™ application for the iPhone. According to the company press release, it offers “outdoor lovers the ability to quickly manage individualized sun protection needs as the temperature rises.  A must-add, this app helps take the guesswork out of sun protection and offers custom sunscreen reapplication reminders creating one less thing for you to remember!”

At least that’s the pitch. Here’s how it works. Users enter their zip code, which allows the app to offer a Custom UV Index via the iPhone’s embedded GPS. Daily UV Index advisories then let you know how strong the sun’s rays are that day in your region. With the knowledge of the daily number, you can choose the proper level of sun protection, even when traveling.

Of course, there’s more. Using the app’s Personalized Suncare Profile, you can even choose the level and type of protection that’s appropriate for your family, whether you’re light or dark-skinned, etc. Establish a profile and you can click on the “recommend” button based on your planned activity for the day.

There are even suncare “reminders” based on your activity. The app will alert you when it’s time to reapply. A giant hand will even emerge from the iPhone and rub sunscreen in on those hard-to-reach areas on your back!

Okay, I’m kidding about that last part…although that would be cool, huh?

In all seriousness, the sun is brutal, and the damage it inflicts is on the rise. As PWC enthusiasts we’re out in it all summer long, so if there’s a unique and fun way to make sure we’re getting the coverage we need, that’s a good thing.

Download the app for free through the iTunes Store.

Aquapalooza This Weekend In Austin

Sea Ray’s Aquapalooza Signature Event, an on-water boating extravaganza, is scheduled for this coming Saturday, July 10th, in Austin, Texas. The Aquapalooza series is billed as the world’s largest boating event, last year attracting 15,600 boats and 84,000 people at 123 events. The signature event is the centerpiece of the series, and this year takes place on Austin’s Lake Travis.

For those looking for a little more explanation, this video from last year’s event neatly sums it up…

Headlining the day will be Country music superstar Brad Paisley. I’ll admit I had to research him a little, as I’m not much of a country fan, but he’s a big star, whose current H20 World Tour is being sponsored in part by Sea Ray.

Paisley will be  joined by Jerrod Niemann, Lee BriceJoanna Smith and Matt Stillwell. The event will kick off with a performance from the winner of the AquaPalooza Battle of the Bands, which takes place Friday, July 9, from noon to 2 p.m.

The Signature Event is scheduled for Saturday, July 10, at The Reserve, located at Calcasieu Point, mile marker 22 on Lake Travis near Austin. Hosting this year’s Signature Event is Sail & Ski Center, a leading Sea Ray dealer that was ranked as the No. 1 dealer on Boating Industry Magazine’s list of the Top 100 Boat Dealers in North America.

What makes Aquapalooza unique is that your boat is your ticket to get in the door. All types and brands are welcome, meaning you guys on your PWC will be right in line with the folks on the 40′ Express Cruiser. Numerous rafting lines will begin to form at 7AM on July 9. By show time, expect row upon row of boats, and lots of people getting a front row seat via inflatable tube or floating chair.

Sea Ray encourages those planning to attend the Signature Event to register. It won’t guarantee a spot on the rafting lines, but allows the company to keep you up to date on details.

This sounds like a very cool party, with a very boating-friendly twist.

Riva Offering OEM Brand Loyalty Shirts

Riva Racing is offering some OEM-branded shirts for all you performance junkies who need to show your colors this summer. The Ts feature Riva’s familiar icon logo on the front, and a Kawasaki, Sea-Doo, or Yamaha-specific graphic on the back.

Check ‘em out at rivaracing.com.

Summer Weather Watching Tips For Boaters

Summer is here, and with it, plenty of daylight hours to spend aboard your PWC or boat. But while summer brings with it visions of sunshine and warm temperatures, it can also bring in the turbulent weather that can put a swift end to all that fun on the water. Thunderstorms, lightning, and wind are all bad news should you be caught unprepared aboard a personal watercraft or boat. The good news is that with a little basic knowledge, you can learn to predict many of those coming storms, and get yourself out of the water before you’re ever in danger.
Here are a few tips for keeping your eye on the sky:

• Bad weather is often forecast before you ever leave shore. Check the television, newspaper, or Internet for your local marine forecast, and pay careful attention to any warnings that may be posted for the area in which you intend to ride.

• Look for the telltale signs a thunderstorm is forming, such as clumps of thick cumulous clouds (the puffy, cotton-ball type) darkening into a towering, cumulonimbus cloud (think cumulous growing vertically, with an anvil-like shape at the top). When you see this formation starting, head for shore. Winds, lighting, rain or worse can occur within as little as 30 minutes.

• The severity of a storm can often be predicted by the shape and color of a cloud’s front edge. The darker, sharper, and lower that edge, the more severe the storm is likely to be. A storm cloud’s anvil-shaped top also will typically point in the direction the storm is traveling.

• Thunderstorms often build over the water in summer when the humidity and temperature on land are high. The reason? Hot air radiates upward from the sun-heated ground, and absorbs moisture from the nearby water, ultimately rising to begin to form a thunderhead. The telltale sign of these storms are fast-moving black clouds, often approaching from the southwest, south, or west.

• How long do you have before a storm arrives? Try this trick. When you first see a flash of lighting, count how many seconds pass before you hear the accompanying thunder clap, then divide by five. The result is the number of miles you are away from the storm.

• Even if a storm is still several miles away, the lightning it generates can reach you with ease. Lighting can strike well before a storm, as well as once the storm has seemingly passed. Watch for the “coppery” haze and building cumulonimbus clouds that indicate a thunderstorm, and seek shelter well in advance.

• If you can’t outrun a storm or find decent shelter, point your craft into the wind, and try to take approaching waves at a 90-degree angle on a PWC. This will keep your pump in the water, and lessen the chance of your craft getting rolled over. It’s also best to stay as low as possible, so that your body is not the tallest target on the water. Once on shore, follow the same tactic, taking shelter near a lower tree, well away from the trunk.

• Remember, whenever you’re venturing farther than just your local bay or shore, a handheld VHF radio can be a lifesaver. Many include a weather alert feature to warn of approaching storms. In addition, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) broadcasts continual weather bulletins on designated “WX’ channels, which are updated every six hours.

Slippery/Parts Unlimited Posting PWC Race Recaps Online

Slippery and Parts Unlimited are showing their support for the personal watercraft industry by attending stops on the national race tours, as well as posting some pics and news blurbs online.

The company’s current recap from Myrtle Beach is up at the IJSBA website, and includes not only the requisite bikini snaps, but also a shot of Slippery’s own Victor Sheldon, who came out of retirement to not only race the Pro-Am Stock class, but dominate it en route to the overall victory. Pics are by leading PWC race photographer RonnyMac.

SBT Offers Sea-Doo Scanner Tool To Independent Shops

With Sea-Doo offering its four-stroke diagnostic tool only to authorized dealers, independent shops have been unable to do such basic things as perform diagnostics, read, explain, or clear error codes, read engine and exhaust temperatures, or perhaps most common, encode security lanyards.

At least, they haven’t been able to do those things until now.

SBT just released a Scanner Tool to their dealer network that will do all of the above. For independent shops that now means the ability to attract new Sea-Doo business. For the Sea-Doo four-stroke consumer, that means now being able to have the option of going to a trusted local shop rather than only an authorized Sea-Doo dealer.

SBT is offering the tool only to their dealer network, on a pricing scale consistent with the shop’s dollar volume. All will pay $295 for the tool itself, with free ground shipping and one year’s free use of the software. Shops that do over $10,000 in annual business with SBT will continue to receive yearly license renewals for free. Shops that do $5,000-$10,000 with SBT annually will pay $300 for yearly license renewals, while those with volume below $5,000 will pay $600 annually after the first year.

The tools will not be made available to the public.

For more information on the tool, or to find a local independent dealer who has the system, contact SBT at shopsbt.com.

Yamaha Releases Sea-Doo Brake Test Video

Yamaha is pulling no punches with a new YouTube video that reportedly shows real consumers trying out Sea-Doo’s iBR braking system. Like a similar video mentioned recently here, this one shows Sea-Doo pilots unable to stop in time to avoid an obstacle in the water, despite the presence of the brake. But also like the aforementioned video, it also puts that obstacle extremely close to the braking point.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…while I think these videos show a valid concern — that in close quarters, an evasive maneuver is often better than relying on the brake — I also think they’re decidedly slanted. Keep in mind, your car, with the traction of a rubber tire on pavement, probably couldn’t stop in such short a distance, either. In fact, at 30 mph a boat travels about 44 feet in one second. At 50 mph, that figure is about 74. In one second.

In fact, without going into the complexities of the math, the stopping distance for the average car at 50 mph has been estimated at 119 feet…and that’s not even taking into account reaction time. Add that in and the realistic figure is about 229 feet to stop…a car.

So why are we so up in arms that a watercraft performs as it does in the video?

Again, I think there are points to consider here. In tight quarters, the brake is not going to prevent you from hitting something, nor would it stop you from hitting something if you were in your car on the road. It’s just not realistic. The better alternative is to avoid the situation if possible by turning and applying throttle.

But the brake does slow you dramatically faster than a boat without brakes. Does that mean we should all immediately get one? Of course not. But it does mean that it works, works well, and allows you to ride and handle a craft in ways not previously possible. A lot of inexperienced riders will panic and simply hit the brakes, not realize they could steer out of problems. In those cases the brake would allow them to at least lessen the speed of any impact, and perhaps even avoid it all together.

I think the big question is how fast you can regain control from the Sea-Doo’s onboard computer. Keep the brake on and it overrides the throttle. Release the brake, however, and you regain throttle and steering control. I don’t recall how fast this happens, but the next time I get aboard a Sea-Doo craft I’m going to try it out.

Better yet, sometime in the next few months I plan to stage my own test to verify – or debunk — the claims in these videos.