Handy Hints for Teaching PWC (jetskiing):

PWC Session Briefing:


Your student briefing needs to contain the following elements -

  • Safety - Hazards in area, Basic Road rules & byelaws (including slowing down to displacement speed i.e. 5 knots if another craft enters the operating area)
  • Aims - what you want them to achieve & why they are doing it.
  • Area - the course or area of operation
  • Direction of travel when going around a course
  • Distance - away from safety craft / between PWs
  • Duration - session length / number of laps of the course
  • Safe Speed awareness & the speed that you want them to carry out the exercise
  • Signals - whistles are difficult to hear over the noise of your students engine, therefore you need to create one of two scenarios - either set them a number of laps of the course to complete and inform them that they must slow down and return to you on completion OR brief them to look over at you on a regular basis, if you are giving them a hand-signal (i.e. arms ontop of your head or pointing & waving them in) then they must return to you at this point. For hand-signals to work effectively, you must position yourself in an obvious place, insight of your students. It may be worth purchasing a fog horn to gain their attention in an urgent situation.
  • Key teaching points of the exercise - How they are going to achieve the aims (Demonstration?)


Transiting from A to B:

Brief your students to follow you on your starboard side, in front of your wake, leaving a minimum of 3-5 PW lengths between them and the PW infront.. the pattern should look similar to the photo above. 

The dangers of following directly behind each other is that if someone was fall from a PW or stop suddenly the PW behind will run straight into them. The reason for keeping your students to starboard is that they are then kept on the right side of any channels and away from other craft. 

Swopping Passenger & Helm Over:

Something often overlooked is how to safely & effectively swop your students over on the helm. It is important to remember to keep them out of the water.. as soon as someone enters the water regardless of what country you're operating in they become at risk of being a casualty. This is due to their potential inability to re-board the PWC (due to fatigue, strength, cold etc), plus in rougher conditions it can become challenging to re-mount. Aside to this, if they lose contact with the PWC they run the risk of ending up in a real 'Person Overboard' situation that will require them to be recovered effectively by the person remaining on the PWC. In the UK & other places with similar climates we do not want our students to get cold too early so ensuring they stay as dry as possible, for as long as possible is also key. 

The other consideration to make is: though as training centres we carry a spare kill cord onboard sadly our students don't always do this, it is a good moment to emphasise the importance of carrying a spare kill cord as there is always the possibility that one of the occupants may fall off (at any point during their ride); carrying a spare kill cord will allow the remaining person to start the engine and go back to safely retrieve the other if there have drifted away. 


To do this: ensure the engine is turned off prior to swopping, the kill cord is removed and attached to the new helm before proceeding. Ask the helm to remain seated & lean out in an agreed direction whilst the passenger stands up and passes them on the opposite side. The helm simply slides back on the seat into their new position whilst the new helm sits down. 

Teaching IRPCS afloat:


The Syllabus says that we have to teach a 'practical application of IRPCS' to our PWC students - but how is this done and what should be included? 

The rules:-

The IRPCS rules we need to cover at a minimum in our courses are:-

  • Keep a good look out
  • Ride on the right
  • Overtaking
  • Crossing situations
  • Sound signals

So, how do we give our students a practical understanding of these rules? 


- Teach IRPCS in 'theory' with the use of a whiteboard/teaching aids. 

- Set up a box course using 4 buoys

- Request that 1 of your 3 student PWs on the course either moor up or stay in a designated 'safe' area with their engine off and watch the activity on the box course.



- Student session Aims:- to implement the correct course of action when presented with an IRPCS situation.  

- Ask TWO of you student PWs to ride around the box course at displacement speed (i.e. 5-7 knots) maximum (it is VERY important that they do not travel at any speed) with 2 buoys between them and rider ahead.

- Once your student is traveling comfortable around at a speed you deem safe and reasonable and is definitely displacement then you are going to integrate yourself into the box course. You aim whilst there is to create IRPCS situations:- 

  • You will place yourself at a reasonable distance infront of your student and travel at 2-3 knots so that in order to pass you they must overtake. 
  • You will travel towards them 'head on' and they must take the correct action i.e. turning to starboard to go around you and you must turn to starboard also
  • You will create crossing situations in order for them to carry out the correct action etc. 

- Each time they achieve the goal and take the right action give them a thumbs up so they know they are doing well. If they take the wrong action then you now see the importance of why you do this at such slow speed and why you are the one who is the opposing PWC and not another of your students i.e. you have the ability and foresight to manouvere clear of the situation. 

- When you finish all the actions, head back to the rest of the group and 'quiz them' on what they saw and what actions were performed to keep them involved. 

- Repeat the session above for each of your students to have a go. 



The key to teaching any manouvere: 

Consider P.A.M.E. –

  • Plan – How you are going to get there safely
  • Approach – What angle you should take, considering the wind/tide effects
  • Manouvere – What speed and other considerations you need to make
  • Escape – Always have an escape route! 

Man overboard:

Syllabus states – ‘Can – Approach and recover a man overboard’


Why? Usually to recover your passenger from the water when they have fallen off or perhaps been thrown off!


Fundamentals: Never use a real person to practice this exercise, instead use a weighted fender or MOB dummy. Demonstration as with all aspects of the syllabus, is key. The approach should be made from a reasonable distance downwind and be VERY slow. Remember to turn off your engine when you are near your MOB and recover the MOB from the rear of the PWC rather than the side, if this circumstance happened for real you could only practically recover the MOB from the boarding platform. To discuss recovery methods further there are videos available to show your students in the RYA PWC e-book. 

Coming alongside:

Syllabus states – ‘Can – Come alongside another craft, pontoon or floating dock’


Why? Setting up a tow, refueling, marina operations


Fundamentals: Always demonstrate first, introduce the manouvere later in the day, once your student has had plenty of practice and in particular understands stopping distances and can pick up a MOB. Get your student to practice coming alongside a buoy first. Once they have mastered this, then move them on to coming alongside a pontoon, craft or floating dock. During your demonstration and your briefing you must emphasise the importance of:

• Using Neutral and reverse to control speed (if they have it, otherwise to turn the engine on and off to maintain a slow speed).

• Angle of approach – this will depend on the strength of the elements (wind/tide) but be aware that if the turn is too sharp, the stern of the PW will continue to swing into the pontoon even once the engine is turned off.

• Effect of wind/tide – use these elements to help slow you down.

• Aim to stop the PW within 2-3 foot (reaching distance) from the pontoon rather than directly alongside it, this will minimize the possibility of knocking it and will allow enough space for an escape route.

Planing Speed:

When PW riding was all about stand-ups, the teaching was heavily weighted towards body position. Nowadays the market is dominated by sit-down PWs and this seems to have been forgotten. PW riding is classi ed as a sport, so let’s get our students to stop sofa-riding. This will not only improve their riding ability and help them get the most out of the craft, but it will also add some more energy!

How to do it:

start the student with some practice runs where they are just on the plane (around 16-18 knots).

Instruct them to:

Start the turn earlier than they think they need to and get a feel for how much the PW slides.

Start wide, turn early and aim

to finish their turn adjacent to the buoy. This will put them in the best possible position to

go straight into their next turn (slalom course) or put on some more power for the straight (box course).

Once your student is feeling more con dent; ask them to try

Ease, Drop and Squeeze.

Ease the power which will drop more bow in the water.

Drop their body position aggressively into the turn.

Squeeze the throttle back on to power through and exit.

Top tips:

»  Plant a foot towards the rear of the outside footwell to keep the stern locked in. This reduces slide.

»  Brace your legs, squeeze them in against the seat and brace the outside foot against the edge of the footwell for extra leverage.

»  If the PW has trim control, trim down for the turn and then trim up as you enter the straight for maximum speed (box course).

Advice to pillion riders:

Sit close to the helm to reduce the amount of movement and bumping into him/her.

Mimic the helm’s body position to help with the turn.


Reduce the risks:

Students instinctively want to stand and pull their arms in a brace position, which results in two primary risks;

1. Having your arms pulled in and

down brings your face closer to the handlebars than necessary. When you hit waves or a wake the PW will bounce, making it likely to impact your face.

To avoid impact and ensure

they are positioned a reasonable distance from the handlebars, ask your student to check they can see both their elbows in their peripheral vision at all times without needing to move their head.

2. Hitting waves or a wake when in a standing position is likely to mean you will be pushed forward on the bounce, causing impact on the handlebars with your chest, stomach or face.

At the very least this will cause discomfort or winding.

Advise your students to hover with their buttocks about 3cm above the seat. Their shoulders, hips, knees and ankles will then absorb any bumps without losing core body stability or grip. Encourage them to grip with their knees rather than relying on their hands, which will fatigue more quickly. The end result is protecting your back/ spine from impact without risking losing control of your body position. As an instructor, if you can see the sky between your student’s buttocks and the seat, they are too high! 

Capsize recovery:

There are two obvious ways in which you can teach capsize recovery; firstly, it is always a good idea as with anything, for your students to see 'how' it is done. The Capsize video in the RYA PWC proficiency course eBook is the best way of doing this. Press play and pause at key points talking through what is happening, check you students understanding at the end. There is alot of concern pinned to the capsize exercise by students, the 2 main concerns seem to be:-

1) That their ski will not re-start after capsize.

2) They will not beable to right the capsize.


If you don't have the eBook, please see PWC Capsize Recovery Video by clicking here, please note there is much more detail in the RYA eBook (along with other videos that you will find useful whilst teaching the course)

Are your students getting enough time afloat?

Sometimes its hard to figure out the best way to manage short vs. afloat sessions, especially when you review the course syllabus and how easy it is to perceive that theres alot of ‘theory sessions’ involved, so, how do we ensure that our students get enough time actually riding a PWC to meet the time requirements and ensure they gain enough PWC handling experience?


Whether you teach the proficiency course on a lake, the sea or from the back of a Superyacht the same rule of thumb applies, a minimum of 70% of our day should be spent afloat, this not only makes it more interesting for your students but also allows them enough time to truly get to grips with riding a PWC to be safe in the future on this relatively short course.


Here are some ideas of how to make this easier for you and allow the time to be used in the best possible way..


Cover ‘theory sessions’ 1:1 / 1:2 whilst the other PWC/s are carrying out the slow speed practical sessions, this is particularly relevant when running courses for 3 x PWC where only 2 PWC are on the course at any one time. However don’t forget to keep an eye on the practical sessions at all times!


Tidal streams & Weather are directly linked to sessions like MOB, CAS and Stopping distances/ Teaching these subjects as part of these practical sessions will help make them more relevant to the task at hand.


Knots: Why not get your students to practice their knot tying whilst waiting for their turn at a practical session? A great use of time and preparation for the towing session.


Buoyage: If you work in coastal waters then use the buoyage thats around you particularly during the ‘follow a planned route’ session rather than ‘talking about it’ in a classroom, this will not only make it quicker to cover, but also more relevant.


IRPCS:  if you run your course in a busy patch of water then you will ‘see’ various IRPCS activities whilst transiting between locations whether that be ship movements or leisure craft heading out for the day.


Slipway Launching & Recovery: This is the perfect time to introduce a working knowledge of Tides, Depths / Chart Datum for fear that you will instead have your trailer stuck in the mud!


Types of PWC:  If you are launching from an area where other people are using PWC’s use this an opportunity to show your students some different types of PWC. Alternatively if you are based near a PWC dealer why not pop in over lunch and have a look round.


Balance & trim: This subject that becomes quickly relevant when running slow speed familiarisation and can be enhanced during the planing speed exercises.


Capsize recovery/ Versa Docks / Launching - if you have a smart phone or tablet (in a waterproof case) why not get your students to watch the video/s (within the RYA eBook) whilst they are waiting for their ‘turn’ at a practical session    


What happens if my student does not stop when I show my hand signal?

- Move yourself into a more obvious area in direct eyeline with your student (not on a collision course!) so that your student can see you & show the hand-signal again, or just hold you hand up in a stop position.


What should I do if my student goes in far excess of the speed limit that I have set them?

- Stop the session immediately, recall your student & remind them of the initial briefing. Most PWC's have a speed guage onboard - for novice students, tell them a physical speed to follow i.e. 10 knots/mph/kmph - it is very difficult for new riders to know the difference between planing, displacement speed etc.


What should I do if my student does not follow the course I set-out for them?

- Stop the session immediately, recall your student & remind them of the initial briefing. You may need to demonstrate the course for them to have a full understanding of what is expected of them (especially with slalom exercises).


Another jetski/boat/craft is heading right towards my group & looks like it is going to cut through my course?

- Stop the session immediately, gather all of your students together in one group & wait for the craft to pass by. If your students paid attention to your briefing they should already slowed to displacement speed when they saw the other craft heading towards them.


Group control:

Teaching PWC courses creates an entirely new element to any thoughts you may have previously had on 'group control'. The main reason for this is the fact that you are looking after anything up to 3 PWC's and 6 students at any one time, all of which have the capability of going up to 70mph in opposite directions!

The key is in giving an effective briefing, but we are also going to have a look at the 'worst case scenario' and how you as the instructor can deal with this.


Prior to briefing - Answer the following questions to yourself:

  • What is a safe area to operate?
  • What type of course can I lay to keep my group safe, that I can be seen (& can see all my students), It needs to be out of any main channels & preferably away from the general public?
  • i.e. a box course means that you can be sat on your safety craft in the middle of the box - remember only 2 PWC's on a box course at anyone time, if you are doing 'an introduction to high speed' then only 1 PWC on the box at anyone time. The other students can join you in the middle of the box to observe.
  • What is a safe speed to beable to effectively run this exercise?
  • What is the ability/background knowledge of my students? (Never assume!)

RYA Wavelength Articles:

Teaching rules of the road wavelength-se
Adobe Acrobat Document 280.6 KB
MOB recovery wavelength-jan14.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 1.3 MB
Are your students getting enough time af
Adobe Acrobat Document 216.6 KB
Planing Speed Wavelength_Dec16.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 209.6 KB
Why wear protective gear.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 46.7 KB

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