Just what jet skis needed: more sound

Published in The Sault Star August 24, 2022

I’ve cemented my membership In the Grumpy Old Men of the Lake club.

The other day a jet ski zoomed by, leaving a huge wake of very loud music. As it sped out across our lake I could hear the lyrics even over the considerable roar of the engine.

Must be one powerful sound system to be audible over the noise of a personal watercraft, which the internet tells me exceeds the decibel level of a symphony orchestra.

But there was nothing classical about the music bouncing from shore to shore. As you might guess, it was rap. And one of the defining characteristics of rap is its use of swear words instead of quarter notes.

So I was moved to muse, on our lake’s Facebook page, that the advent of sound systems on jet skis makes it possible for everyone on the lake to hear the word “motherplucker” at the same time. (Like many people I am prone to typographic errors on social media.)

Within hours I received an apologetic message from a woman across the lake who said she would instruct her boys not to play their music while playing with their jet ski. 

Good on her. A generation ago I too tuned up my own kids when friends informed me they were performing seadoo shenanigans out of sight of my camp.

But I had intended my post more as wry comment than complaint. 

I might joke about using a potato gun to pick off jet skis as they whomp-whomp-whomp past my place, but I’m not among the sizeable cadre of even grumpier geezers who would ban them if they could.

Provided personal watercraft don’t intrude on my morning canoe paddle — and who can imagine a teenager awake at 7:30 — nor into the quieter months on summer’s shoulders, let them have their fun.

I owned one and understand its allure. And, though one would scarce believe it, there was such a thing as being a teenager back when I was a teenager.

Mind you, there was no rap. (Some things are best left uninvented.) I might have been blaring Hendrix or Dylan or the Stones, though that would have required one heck of a long extension cord to power my record player.

And I had to terrorize adults in a converted rowboat with a 9.9-horsepower red Mercury Kiekhaefer outboard that would leave all those 9.9 Johnsons and 9.9 Evinrudes and 9.9 Scotts in its rooster tail. Still crazy ‘bout a Mercury.

No, I don’t blame those kids. Put a sound system on any sort of vehicle and a teenager of any gender is genetically predisposed to turn the dial up to 11.

And how else are you going to hear your music on a jet ski?

I suppose in theory you might putt along at kayaking speed on your personal watercraft, listening to Celine Dion or light opera at sound levels that might allow you to continue to hear conversations should you live past 65. 

But why on earth would anyone putt along on a jet ski? On our lake even balding men, and women whose hair would be as grey as Lisa LaFlamme’s if they weren’t naturally blond, go bar down when they climb arthritically aboard their personal watercraft.

Unless you want your sanity questioned, you jet ski fast. And therefore loud. Hence, to hear music, it must also be loud. How loud? Loud enough to annoy people who aren’t on jet skis at that particular moment.

No, I blame the manufacturers of jet skis, specifically Sea-Doo and Kawasaki, which offer these annoying sound systems as a no-doubt-expensive option. Oh, and the makers of aftermarket sound systems for personal watercraft, who insist without any sort of logical proof that, “Let’s face it, the music shouldn’t stop when you get to the water.”

Au contraire. Even if you’re a teenager, the point of jet skiing isn’t to listen to music. It’s to jump waves and do donuts, wheelies, tail-stands, 180s and 360s.

Must that be done to a soundtrack? Only on a TV commercial, I’d say.

Perhaps those sound systems are intended to serve the same purpose as playing extremely loud Van Halen clips at junior hockey games: to annoy people who came to watch the game. At least that music stops when the action starts.

Or maybe it’s like the extremely loud Van Halen songs played on midway rides, which mask the sound of nuts and bolts falling off the safety equipment. 

But music blaring from a jet ski reminds me of the classic 1979 movie Apocalypse Now, in which Robert Duvall’s character has his helicopter squadron play Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries on loudspeakers while trying to capture a beach from the Vietcong — and get in a little surfing.

What will personal watercraft manufacturers come up with next?

Wireless cellphone chargers?

Heated seats?

Keyless entry?


Display screen?

Bicycle rack?

Baby on Board decals?

Better they come up with collision-avoidance technology, or even brakes.

Oh, and put the brakes on the sound systems.

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