Tips for Launching Your Jet Ski from a Trailer

While PWCs are fun and a great way to get on the water, it’s the getting on the water that many people have trouble with. If you don’t live on the water, it’s more of a chore to get your machine in the water.

The trickiest part for most people is backing the PWC down the boat ramp. Then there is how far do you back the trailer in the water? Is that the same depth as you need to get the PWC back on the trailer?

For the most part, to back a trailer down the water you keep it straight, have a little of the bunks sticking out and unlatch the bow strap when touching water.

Prepare The Watercraft

Before launching your watercraft, there are a few things you need to do first:

  1. Put the drain plugs in, if you don’t, you will sink.
  2. Remove the straps at the rear. Only do the bow strap when the watercraft is touching water.
  3. Make sure the engine starts up. If it doesn’t start on land, it for sure won’t start in water.
  4. Add all your gear and items you want to bring, do this before you back down the ramp.
  5. Have your key and life jacket ready.
  6. Double-check the drain plug are in.


The hardest part of launching is backing the trailer down the ramp. If you need a trailer, or want to know the best ones, go here.

It requires practice, but the straighter you can be when backing down, the easier it will be.


  • If you have a truck, lower the tailgate and look behind you. This is vital if you have a single PWC trailer, as they’re hard to see out the mirrors. If you have an SUV, then lifting the hatch and lowering the rear seats will do the same.
  • If you’re having a hard time figuring out which way to steer, then place your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel, this will feel more natural to you.
  • Don’t use the backup camera, as some of them can confuse you and distort the image.
  • Keep straight as possible. When you pull up to the ramp, swing around so that you’re perfectly straight to the ramp. Do this even if it means you feel like you’re far away to the ramp. The straighter the trailer is, the easier it is to back up.
  • If you feel like you’re going crooked, then you are. Pull up to straighten back out.
  • Go slow!!!!!!!!
  • NEVER unlatch your trailer to readjust it. Ramps are on hills straight to the water, and gravity will take over and put you and everyone at the ramp in danger.
  • Practice. On a weekday, go out to the ramps and practice backing in, or go early in the morning when no one is out. This is the only way you’re going to get good at this.

When the PWC is in the water, here is the way you take off:

  1. Put your life jacket on.
  2. Attach the key to you and the jet ski.
  3. Turn the engine on.
  4. Put it in reverse.
  5. If the jet ski is not moving, lightly give it gas until it does.
  6. Back the jet ski straight up, avoiding other boaters.
  7. Attached jet ski to dock or safely beach it so you can park your vehicle.

Launching Without Reverse

There are a few jet skis without reverse or brakes, and it’s a little harder for you.

You will want to back the trailer up a little more than you normally would a jet ski that has reverse.

You want the jet ski just about floating.

Unlatch all straps and rotate the jet ski around. The front of the jet ski will be at the rear, so all you do is start the engine and take off.

Boarding Your Trailer

Reboarding the trailer is the opposite of launching.

The trick is knowing the distance to back the trailer down. You want the bunks of the trailer to be sticking 1/3 out, as shown in the image below:

If you back too far in, you won’t have enough friction to stop the jet ski and hold it while you put the front bow strap on. If you’re not far enough in, you’ll be fighting the front strap to pull it on the trailer.

You want to approach the jet ski trailer slowly, do this by going back and forth on the forward and reverse. Keep it straight down the middle between the trailer bunks, and you’ll feel the trailer catch you. Once caught, you can give it a little gas, don’t over do it, if in doubt, get off and use the front bow strap to pull the jet ski on the trailer completely.

Make sure the front bow strap is attached and locked before pulling the jet ski out.

Once out of the water, remove drain plugs.

Boarding A Jet Ski Trailer Without Reverse/Brakes

If don’t have reverse or brakes on your jet ski, it can be more tricky when boarding the trailer.

There are 3 ways you can do this:

  1. If the water is calm, you can idle to the trailer and slide on to the trailer.
  2. Right before you see waist-deep water, spin in a circle at idle speed and shut the engine off. You can then walk it to the trailer. Warning – this way is more likely to scratch the bottom hull, timing is everything.
  3. When 3 jet ski lengths away to the trailer, spin the jet ski in a circle at idle speed. This kills your momentum, and then point it to the trailer and slowly get on. Shut the engine off when almost touching the trailer.

Unplugging the Lights?

A super common question I get about launching their watercraft is if they should unplug the trailer lights before touching the water?

Ideally, you should, but in reality, I don’t

I’m sure there are some fancy trucks and SUVs out there that need you to plug your trailer before touching water – but in my experiences, it’s never been an issue. The lights still work underwater and nothing terrible has ever happened. Not saying it won’t happen, but I feel this one is a bit over blown.

Life is not like the movies, you’re not electrocuting fishes if you don’t unplug your lights. You sucking something up or getting hit by other boaters seems to be a far bigger threat when at the boat launches.

Don’t Park On The launches Or The “Getting Ready Areas”

I’m still amazed at the many people that will park their trucks on the ramps or areas on the ramps for getting their boat ready.

Other people need to use these spots, even if you’re going to be quick!!!

There are spots on many launches where you call pull to the side before going down the ramps. This spot is for getting your fenders out and getting the boat ready, while also waiting your turn for a ramp to open.

When it comes to watercraft, there isn’t much to get ready. I often pull into a parking spot, get what I need ready, and then go right to the ramp. Most of the time I don’t even need to do that, I only need my life jacket and fender, which are already in the craft.

Just make sure you’re ready when it’s time to go, don’t start to unpack once you’re down the ramp.

What Not To Do!

YouTube is full of videos of people failing at the boat ramps. It can be hard, especially if you’re a new rider, but I think watching these videos is the perfect thing to show what not to do. Here is a good to watch:



I started working at a power sports dealership in 2007, I worked in parts, service counter, and as a technician before moving to sales in 2013. I created in 2014 to answer common watercraft questions I would get from people. Now managing the site full-time, I continue to provide advice and web tools for my readers about watercraft. I've owned several watercraft, with a Sea-Doo Spark as my current main PWC.


  1. The cool thing about having a seadoo spark is I tow it with my car because its light and easy to handle.

    I back my car up till my back tires near the highest wave point on the ramp and then I flick down my dolly wheel near the hitch. Take my winching cable off the ski, hook to my safety chain eye on my tow point. Lift it off and free wheel it down the ramp into the water until its near free floating and its end is jirating in the sea ready to flow. I use my safety chain from the ski to the trailer and secure the handle on my winch so it doesnt just keep wheeling off. go Anchor the ski. Winch the trailor back up the ramp by hand onto my ball. Park the car/trailor.

    same goes when I retrieve in reverse process. I left out minor details but its slick or a mossy ramp to do without the falling down if you hold the winching cable or hold on tight to something else beside yourself or someone you brought with you to take down with you. my Car wheels never get in the water, it does take a few minutes longer, but its a piece of cake.

    Note; ALwalys lock off the trailer winching cable so it doesnt disapear off the ramp into the deep while your setting the anchor especially in big surf on spring tide with a sheer drop off on the ramp. LOL did this once and had to dive for the trailer on the ramp while evry one was tuning for the championship off the ramp…. I was show Baker at the start of the races diving for my trailor and towing it with the ski back to the ramp..,

    Luckily it never made youtube, ive checked…or you would now me by now. Take it easy I am sure yamaha are great machines too, but i have a spark and its the spark in my eye, and I’ve met poeple on islands and they ask how i got there and from where who have skis and the are off thier head wondering how i made it there and back on a tank a fuel and they came by boat because they never imagined a ski would get thier and back again.

    I am a small guy and i take my daughter with me shes six and drives it now with me on it. The spark is light, nimble, and quick and likes being in the air as amuch as the water. If I was a bigger guy, with bigger POB onboard or in tow, and older than I am already, had a truck, bigger wallet, I would have considered the Yamaha perhaps.

  2. Hello Steve
    Looking at getting into Jet skis! We are a motocross family but have never passed a chance to get on the water with friends. Its time to get our own!! We like the older style. More nimble and fun when playing on the lake with 2. Looking at the new Trixx and Yamaha EX or ???? The Trixx seems exactly what we want but researching seem to be hard on shafts or electrical issues. Any help would be appreciated.

    • If you like motocross then the Trixx is the best ski for you. I have a 2014 Sea-Doo Spark, the very first one from the dealer shown in the pictures in this post, and I’ve had no issues with it. The picture is even as recent as a week ago when I took it out and beat on it. For what it is the Spark can really take a beating. I don’t know about the shaft thing you’re talking about and the only electrical thing I heard about was when we had to zip tie wires to another wire just to be on the safe side. Not a big deal.

      When looking online keep in mind the FEW people who do have problems have plenty of time to complain about them while the MAJORITY of people with NO problems don’t have time to complain because they’re too busy having fun on their machines.


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