We all know that jet skis are mainly for recreational, adventurous activities. Usually, we usually drive them in landlocked waterbodies or in the ocean tightly close to the shorelines. But seriously, have you ever thought about this: how far can I take my jet ski in the ocean? In this article, we will attempt to answer this curiosity.

Jet Ski – The Category R vessel in South Africa?

Jet Ski or a PWC (Personal Watercraft) less than 3 metres in length are always considered a category R vessel. Meaning, you cannot take this vessel out in the ocean. So that’s out of the picture.

However, jet skis greater than 3 metres in length can get a certificate of fitness (CoF) as a category E, D, or C vessel, depending on how a skipper decides to use them. However, prior to receiving category recognition, the jet skis have to prove that they are up to the category standards. Then and then only they are eligible to receive a certificate of fitness.

Thus, if you have such a jet ski, you are legally allowed to explore the oceans on your own, given you also have the necessary SAMSA Skipper’s license.

Related: SAMSA Jet Ski Rules for a Skipper in South Africa

How far can I take my jet ski in the ocean?

So here we are, the burning question. Jet skis, or PWCs are high-powered vessels that have lightning speed! And one requires a great deal of experience before one can enjoy a jet ski’s adventurous potential at its maximum. So, if you are a novice, you should not even consider going deeper into the ocean, for your own safety.

But, this idea is hypothetical, so let’s consider that you practice safety all the way. Then how far will you be able to go? Well, the short answer is, about 10-20 nautical miles from the shore, largely depending on sea conditions and your fuel capacity.

Can I go beyond that?

Certainly! But jet skis are unstable in nature and they may not be able to maintain their balance in choppy waters. The deeper you go into the sea, the more uncertain it gets. The waves are taller, the seas are rougher, and the storm conditions are unpredictable. A jet ski is generally not equipped to deal with such unpredictability.

Yes, one may argue that it is possible to sustain balance in choppy waters, given the PWC has a Deep-V hull. Deep-V hull helps you with cutting waves easily, which makes the riding experience smoother. However, even so, the activity itself is dangerous and one should not consider this.

And lastly, you might not have enough fuel to make the return trip. So do consider the factor as well.

Fuel Capacity of a Jet Ski

Each jet ski model is different and so is its fuel capacity and mileage. Lightweight models tend to have less fuel capacity than heavyweight models.

However, there are more factors in play when it comes to understanding how fuel mileage works. For example, a lightweight model on calmer waters may give better mileage on average than a heavyweight model facing rough waters. Why? Because jet skis also burn more fuel in choppy waters. It all matters on where you are driving the jet ski. Also, your speed and having a passenger onboard with you may also determine the fuel consumption and mileage.

Roughly speaking, a jet ski may be able to pull off roughly 50-100 nautical miles on a full tank in a safer range. For more information on your tank capacity, you should refer to your jet ski’s model specifications.

Planning a trip with a Jet Ski?

Since fuel consumption on a jet ski varies according to different conditions, you should consider the following practice. Always plan a trip based on the 2/3rd of the capacity of your fuel tank. You may face unexpected storms or choppy waters with irregular waves, which burn more fuel. This is why the 1/3rd capacity of the fuel tank should be considered as your backup fuel. This is a good practice to prepare for unforeseen adversities.


So there we have our answer. Ideally, a jet ski would cross a maximum distance of about 50-80 Nautical Miles (this includes the return trip to the shore, by the way). So that’s about, 25-40 nautical miles offshore in a safe range. That’s how far you can take your jet ski in the ocean. South Africa is blessed with some of the nicest shores in the world and jet skis can certainly help you with enriching your watersports experience.

Did you know the fun way of getting into the powerboat scene? Getting an RYA PWC License. Want to know more? Feel free to contact us for more information.