Mississippi jet ski group gains popularity with events around the state

A group of personal watercraft or “jet ski” enthusiasts started last year on the Mississippi Gulf Coast has grown rapidly statewide this summer and now includes many new members from the metropolitan area of Jackson.

Called “Mississippi Ski Riders”, the group was co-founded in March 2021 by Neil Scott and Cody Frierson of Ocean Springs.

“We saw there were big organized ski groups in Florida and other states, but we didn’t have any in Mississippi, so we decided to start our own group,” Scott said.

Over the past year, the group has grown from a handful to over 1,200 members. “It continues to grow – we have an average of two to 15 new members signing up every day,” he said.

While the largest number of members still reside along the coast, the second-largest majority now come from the Jackson area, Scott said.

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This growth prompted the group to hold its first-ever Central Mississippi event on a recent weekend at Ross Barnett Reservoir, bringing together approximately 55 skiers from across the region.

“We called it the Rez Ride. It was a great experience,” Scott said. “The weather was perfect.”

Departing from the boat launches at Tommy’s Trading Post on Highway 43 in Rankin County, the group traveled 21 miles through the Upper Reservoir into the winding Pearl River to what is known as the Low Head Dam. On the way back, the group stopped at a sandbar about 4 miles south of the dam for a group photo and a chance to socialize.

James Bailey, a member of Brandon’s group, said he was happy to see such a ride coming to the area.

Jet ski enthusiasts approach a sandbar on the Pearl River north of the reservoir during last Saturday's group ride.

“I’ve done rides in Alabama, Florida and other states, but this is the first time it’s happened here,” he said.

When asked how he first got interested in jet skis, Bailey said, “I’m from the Delta, so I’ve always been around water.” The main attraction, he said, is the camaraderie of the group. “If something happens or you have any problems, someone will be there to help you,” he said.

Scott said the rides aren’t formal competitions or races — just friendly get-togethers between like-minded enthusiasts.

Getting ready for last weekend's jet ski group ride are, left to right, Lisa Nicolaisen of Gulfport, Jill Allen of Biloxi, and Tracy Walker and Michelle Ray, both of Brandon.

Interest in personal watercraft dates back to the 1950s in Europe and the UK with what were initially called “water scooters”. But they never really caught on in North America until 1972, when Kawasaki introduced the first stand-up Jet Ski.

Then, in the late 1980s, seated runabout style skis entered production, typically allowing three people to ride seated rather than one person standing.

“Right now we have a large majority of sit-down jet skis,” Scott said. “Most casual skiers want a taller, more stable ski today, but standing skis are still a niche.”

Brandon's James Bailey prepares to launch his Yamaha personal watercraft during last Saturday's 'Group Ride at the Rez'.

Although the term “Jet Ski” is often used generically, it remains a trademark of Kawasaki. Other manufacturers use different registered names for their watercraft, including the Yamaha Waverunner, Bombardier Sea-Doo, and Honda AquaTrax. “We welcome them all,” Scott said.

The next scheduled event for Mississippi skiers will be the second annual “Deer Island Takeover” scheduled for Sept. 3. Members will take their own routes and then all end up on the island off the Mississippi Gulf Coast. “We’ll have giveaways, food and a live band,” Scott said.

For more information on the Mississippi Ski Riders, visit their Facebook group page: www.facebook.com/groups/mississippiskiders.

About Robert James

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