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Ed Salvato, Man About World Magazine | January 20, 2016
My partner and I spent a week this summer in Bermuda. Our gift to ourselves and our bonding experience was a two-and-a-half-hour adventure: a tour cruising among 10 of Bermuda’s islands on jet skis. That’s the butch-looking bad boy pictured below.
The Just Add Water brochure features calm, smiling tourists — men, women and older kids — happily posing for photos astride their jet ski on perfectly calm Caribbean-blue water. So when our instructor mentioned that part of the tour included heading to the open ocean we didn’t really think much about it. It’s a gorgeous teal-blue coral sea after all. What could go wrong? But when we were just about to exit the protected bay into the open ocean, only then did he happen to mention the angry 15-foot-high, white-capped swells we were about to encounter just beyond the rocky outcropping.
Say, what!? This was our first time on jet skis in the open ocean and there’s a world of difference between skimming across a calm bay and maneuvering among waves almost two stories high that are crisscrossing one another and crashing into the rocky coast. In fairness to our instructor though he saved this challenge to the end and used the first couple hours leading us through calmer waters demonstrating the basics of accelerating, stopping and the most Zen and difficult-to-explain “becoming one with the jet ski” — getting to a point where you’re feeling rather than thinking your way up and over swells without back-shattering slams into the troughs between them. The only way to achieve this state is by practicing, which is what you’ll do for most of the tour. That, and bonding with the other members who are going through their own rapid inner journey from casual rider to symbiotic man-machine.
Besides me, my partner and our hunky surfer-dude instructor there was a man and a woman riding tandem — a friendly local mixed-race couple with that oh-so-charming Bermuda lilt — and another solo male. The entire group mastered the basics very quickly. Our instructor had us performing ever-faster figure eights, solo runs, short jumps, quick accelerations and stops and other maneuvers which — stunt by stunt — helped us quickly build a skill base for our big test.
So there we were face to face with some of the biggest rolling waves I’ve ever seen that close up. And off we went accelerating up steep waves, easing off as we came down with a lot of bad slamming at first. It’s hard to reach Zen when you were worrying about getting flung off the jet ski, your eyes filled with salt water and craggy rocks looming in front and to the sides. At one point I gunned it when I should have decelerated and felt my feet and butt flying off the jet ski. Luckily my instincts took over causing my fingers to release the throttle, and the jet ski (with me still aboard) gently lowered into a trough only feet from a very sharp rock. Phew. Eventually we all achieved a close proximity to rhythm and made it through this very challenging patch of ocean and back into a protected bay. Time for a few all-out 55-mph figure eights as a team. Then a slow proud jet back to the harbor, everyone excitedly recounting their favorite moments.