A PWC (Personal Water Craft) is a recreational vehicle that traverses over water and is controlled by a rider who is sitting or standing on the craft. PWCs are often referred to as Jet Skis, Sea Doos, or Waverunners, which are the brand names for the manufacturers Kawasaki, Bombardier, and Yamaha. The main difference between a PWC and a boat is that the riders are on the craft instead of within. PWCs are also unique in that they have a pump jet situated in an inboard engine that drives a screw-shaped impeller for propulsion and steering. Most PWCs are designed for one, two, or three people, however four-seat models do exist.
The recreational potential of PWCs has established it as a very popular vehicle in several different areas of the world. PWCs are small, fast, user-friendly, and employ propulsion systems that are less-threatening to swimmers and wildlife then their propeller counterparts. Because of their small size and propulsion, PWCs can travel over vast distances of water in a short period of time, and can access narrow and shallow areas of water where boats simply cannot go. PWCs are also easy to transport in comparison to boats, as even the largest, four-seat PWC can be hauled by a relatively small trailer. This flexibility allows for owners to transport their PWCs to different bodies of water with relative ease.
PWCs are generally used in relatively small bodies of water such as lakes and rivers. Although highly maneuverable and quick, they are not ideal for long, open-water areas as their small size renders them vulnerable to medium and big waves. Likewise, windy or choppy conditions on lakes usually leave PWC riders on the shore; such conditions make for slow, bumpy, and uncomfortable riding.
When conditions are favorable, the vehicle can be used in many different applications. A PWC has enough towing power for wakeboarding, waterskiing, and tubing, and is often used for these purposes. They are also employed by several police departments, as their speed and maneuverability makes them ideal for patrolling and pursuit.
The sporting end of PWC culture is nowhere near as large as that of its ATV and snowmobile counterparts, but produces some fascinating skill and entertainment. Most PWC competitions are waged in the form of a race in which riders must navigate a course of twists and turns and short straight-ways. The stand-up model of the PWC is often used for this purpose, allowing the rider for greater steering by the use of his/her bodyweight around turns.
A brand new PWC can run anywhere from between $8,500 to $14,000. It is used generally in developed nations with an abundance of lakes; North America, Scandinavia, and Europe are its primary users. Compared to the sizable markets of ATVs and snowmobiles, the PWC market is moderate in size, but is showing signs of growth. There were approximately 4,000 units sold in Canada in 2006.