How to Dock a Jet Ski Like a Pro: Build Confidence & Make It Seem Easy

Probably the number one fear of many new owners is docking, especially on drive-up lifts.

Docking a jet ski is easy, but it does require some patience and practice.

In this post, I want to show you how to dock, put it on a drive-up lift, and tips I’ve learned from teaching many new owners about docking.

Number One Rule For Docking

The number one rule when it comes to docking a jet ski is to go slow.

When I say slow, I mean painfully slow, almost like it feels wrong and people are judging how slow you're going - kind of slow. 

The biggest mistake you can make when docking is to go fast or to play with the throttle.

Shut Engine Off

When in doubt at the dock, shut the engine off.

Hit the START/STOP button if you get in a tight spot or don’t know what to do. Avoid taking the safety lanyard off, just in case you need to quickly restart the engine.

Other Things To Keep In Mind

  • Jet skis are direct drive, this means if the engine is on the impeller is spinning and the unit is always doing something.
  • They don’t have a “true” neutral. Neutral is just the spot between forward and reverse. This means you have more control over the PWC, you can even steer it in neutral.
  • The nose of the watercraft will go the direction you turn the handlebars, no matter if you’re in forward or reverse. This is a bit confusing to some, as boats are not like this.
  • When the PWC is at the dock, and you’re holding on to the dock, -SHUT THE ENGINE OFF-. There is NO true neutral, and letting it sit in neutral at the dock is not safe.
  • Follow NO-WAKE ZONE laws!!! The white floating buoy or being within 100 feet of land is a no-wake zone. This means no throttle and going slow. Some no-wake zones are long, but you still need to go at idle speed. I know it’s annoying, but it’s for your safety and everyone around you.

Point one is an important one, a jet drive is always processing water. When doing jet boat test drives, I’ve had several “boat guys” tell me that shutting the engine off while at the dock is stupid. Their logic is true for normal boats with a true neutral, but not with jet boats that lack a true neutral. The only time you can rest with a jet drive is when the engine is off. This is the trade-off with jet drives, you have far more control when docking because you’re always processing water, but you also must kill the engine when docked.

How To Dock A Jet Ski

  1. Before getting to the dock, put the watercraft in neutral and see where the wind is blowing and what other people are doing.
  2. When it’s safe, and you understand the direction of the wind, head towards the dock. Try to use the wind to your advantage, go at an angle to the dock.
  3. Tap the forward and reverse/brake levers of the jet ski back and forth to control the slow movement towards the dock. Do not give the jet ski gas, only tap back and forth between forward and neutral. See the video below to understand the levers.
  4. You want to go slow, painfully slow. If you feel you’re going too fast, pull on the reverse lever to slow you down. It should feel like you’re docking a space shuttle in outer space, that is how slow you want to go.
  5. Shut the engine off if you can reach the dock or in a tight spot, but still close enough to the dock that you can reach.

If you’re ever in doubt, shut the engine off.

Jet skis don’t have a true neutral, and the only way to stop everything is to kill the engine.

A video to show you how to drive a jet ski and what I mean about going back and forth on the levers:

Docking Without Reverse

Docking without reverse is harder, but doable.

The trick with docking a jet ski with no reverse is to not use any throttle at the dock or no-wake area and, 20 feet before the dock, spin in a circle.

Look around you to make sure no one is near you, and then spin the craft in a circle with NO throttle. Spinning in a circle will kill all your momentum, and then point the machine where you want to go. When the jet ski starts to get back some momentum, you should be close enough to the dock, and you can shut the engine off. Once again, use no throttle when doing this, idle speed is what you want.

Docking How-To Videos

Tips For Docking!

To get better at docking your jet ski, you need to practice!

The best way to practice is to get a buoy out in the water and try to get as close to it without touching it. I like using the no-wake buoy, as there are a few near docks, and it’s probably the safest area, as people should be going slow there anyway.

Tapping the throttle and reverse levers, try different approaches until you start to get the hang of it. Remember, go slow, only idle speed. Do this a few times, and you’ll be an expert on docking jet skis in no time.

Drive-Up Lift Docking

Every manufacturer suggests you keep your jet ski on a lift and not in the water when not in use.

One lift type, the floating drive-up one, as the name suggests, you drive your jet ski directly on top of it. This lift is very intimidating to many owners, but it’s the best lift you can buy.

They also make ones that lift in the air, which is fine if your dock needs that, but the drive up ones are so much better and less tricky. The ones you lift in the air need to be centered and take forever to lift you out of the water.

How To Dock On A Drive-Up Lift

Putting a jet ski on a floating drive-up lift is nearly the same as docking on any boat dock.

  1. Before getting to the lift, put the PWC in neutral and see where the wind is blowing and what other people are doing.
  2. When it’s safe, and you understand the direction of the wind, head towards the lift. Try to use the wind to your advantage.
  3. Lightly hit the center of the floating drive up lift.
  4. Try to center yourself with the lift if you’re not already.
  5. Give the PWC –a little throttle– to get on top.
  6. Wait a second to make sure you don’t roll backwards. If you do roll backwards, try again, it’s no big deal.
  7. If you don’t roll backwards, turn the engine off and tie up.

Video How-To:

A lot of new owners are afraid they’ll overshoot the lift and end up on their dock and damage something. So long as you go slow, lightly touch the lift and keep it straight, you should not over shoot it when giving it a little bit of gas.

It may require a few tries!

This is why you want to wait before turning the engine off to make sure you won’t roll back off and have to do it again.



I began working at a jet ski dealership in 2007, initially in the parts and service area. I then transitioned to the technician side before eventually joining the sales team in 2013. I've done it all! While in sales, I created this website in 2014 to assist others with their common questions about watercraft. I now manage this site full-time, where I answer common questions, offer advice, and assist others with their PWC needs.

I've owned several watercraft and continue to buy, sell, and repair them. Currently, keep my Sea-Doo Spark as my main PWC. Additionally, I have developed tools like a used watercraft value calculator, a pricing calculator, an hour calculator, and more to better assist my readers.

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