PWC Buyers Guide

2015 Buyers Guide for Offshore (Ocean) Personal Watercraft (PWC/JetSki)

 We receive many emails and questions asking us “what is the best craft for riding hard in the ocean?”  The intent of these observations is to provide you with PWCOFFSHORE’s unbiased assessment of:

Personal Watercraft / Jet Skis that we believe are best suited for enthusiasts and racers who are riding aggressively, at high speeds in the ocean in straight lines (not lakes, not glass water, not closed course, not for waterskiing, not for doubling up).  The ocean/offshore riding denotes riding aggressively in chop, rough water and waves at higher speeds for long distances. 

There is absolutely nothing scientific about how we generated the information, feedback or the observations you see on this page.  These observations, the pros and the cons of each craft are strictly our opinions.  We could be wrong and if you read this page, you’re welcome to take our input at your own risk.  We base our opinions on riding these watercraft in the ocean and/or subjective feedback we hear from other aggressive offshore riders and racers.  Candidly, we don’t have any brand loyalty whatsoever.  It’s very simple; we will purchase the craft that gets us across the ocean as fast and as reliably as possible.  These opinions will change as the products, time on the water and the aftermarket evolves over time.          

Please note that we will only mention the watercraft that we believe are best suited for aggressive offshore use.  If the PWC is not on the list and you want to ride hard and fast in the ocean, we believe that your money is better spent on a craft that is on the list.  If it were our money, we will buy the craft that reflects as #1 on the list.    Note – just being on this list is quite an accomplishment!


Congratulations to the Yamaha SVHO and the Kawasaki ULTRA 310 for getting the nod from PWCOFFSHORE.COM for aggressive offshore riding and racing; The Kawasaki ULTRA 310 Series rated as #1 for 2015! 

Special congratulations are in order for the 2015 Kawasaki ULTRA 310 series for being selected as PWCOFFSHORE.COM’s 2015 #1 craft to own for aggressive offshore and endurance racing and rates as PWCOFFSHORE.COM’s “First Choice!”  The comparison was closer again this year due to improvements in Yamaha’s  SVHO which is our “Second Choice.”  Yamaha has picked up ground in closing the gap with the ULTRA with its powerful and well-made 1812 cc engine’s upgrades, larger 160 mm 8 vein pump (now matching the size of the Kawasaki pump at 160 mm) and aggressive scoop grate, but the Kawasaki still comes out on top and is the recommended purchase for offshore riding and racing.  There is no third place again this year.  It is our opinion that you have only two "best" options; the Kawasaki ULTRA 310 or the Yamaha SVHO.   

mark gerner

We are defining offshore as salt water riding and racing beyond break walls piloted at high speeds where there is a minimum of two and a half foot chop and ocean waves.  Our methodology was either to ride the craft and / or solicit feedback from very experienced riders & racers who have ridden all of the models and were selected to provide a review.  Stability, hookup, average speed, recovery time, the ability to fly straight when the craft was out of the water combined with the least amount of nose hunt possible in the rough is the name of the game in aggressive offshore riding and the basis of our selection. 

Weight matters and the ULTRA’s heavier weight (Kawasaki’s 1047 lb. curb weight vs Yamaha dry weight of 836 lbs.), aggressive intake grate, heavy deep V hull, larger fuel tank and the 310’s horsepower differentiates the ULTRA in rough water compared to the lighter, potentially faster top speed of the Yamaha SVHO.  Yamaha has upgraded their pump to the 160 mm pump which is now the same size as the Kawasaki and has resulted in improved performance and hookup in rougher water.  The length of the Yamaha SVHO is 140.2 inches and the width is 48.4 inches.  The Kawasaki’s length is 132.7 inches and the width is 47 inches.  Although the Yamaha is longer and the specifications reflect that it is wider than the ULTRA, the Yamaha appears to have less hull in the water at higher speeds than the ULTRA does.  This lends to the craft’s higher speed potential in flatter water but inhibits the craft from achieving the ULTRA grabbing hookup, stability and high average speed in rougher water that differentiates the ULTRA platform. 

Both craft are limited to around 67.5 mph.  That said, the racer who plans on doing significant modifications to these two craft will find the ULTRA is peaked out at 76 to 77 mph with significant modification investment on the ULTRA 310 (while still maintaining good hookup) while the Yamaha SVHO can be fairly easily modified to achieve 80 mph and can achieve over 90 mph with significant investment and modification.  Remember that the craft must remain “hooked up” in the ocean so even with all that top speed, average speed wins offshore championships and it is yet to be determined if the SVHO can take all that modified speed and stay hooked up and beat the ULTRA in rougher water - Race results and Championships matter; note that the Kawasaki ULTRA Platform has dominated the historic LB2CAT Offshore race (and offshore PWC proving ground) for years, including owning the podium and overall wins in 2014 and 2015 LB2CAT.  The SVHO is more to hang on to when the water roughs up and I have found myself wanting to be on the ULTRA hull when the water is at three feet or more. Regardless, the SVHO is a substantial improvement from previous year’s models for offshore and endurance racing.      

The Kawasaki remains a 1500cc engine while the Yamaha is a 1800 cc engine mounted in a lighter craft (The SVHO is approximately 200 lbs lighter).  There is no replacement for displacement; many have said the Yamaha SVHO engine with its power and smooth acceleration is the best PWC engine ever produced.  Again, the quality of the engine in the Yamaha SVHO is a differentiator.  For offshore, the key differentiator between these two craft remains the Kawasaki’s king of the hill 310 horsepower and superior hull for rough water and the primary differentiators that resulted in the ULTRA being awarded our first place and PWC / JetSki to own.  If its rough water, you want to be on the Kawasaki ULTRA 310, currently there is no replacement for the 310 in the rough.  With all of that said, Yamaha continues to close the gap on the Kawasaki ULTRA platform.  We look forward to Kawasaki's innovation and taking the ULTRA to the next level.  Should that innovation not take place, it is very possible the Yamaha could find itself on more offshore podiums in the future.  

Congratulations to both of these craft, especially Kawasaki! 

So if we had blue sky to make changes to the current models?  Here is what we’d do:
1) Kawasaki – Increase displacement from 1500cc to a 1800 or ideally a 2000 cc under boosted engine 
2) Kawasaki - Do not change the hull
3) Kawasaki – More timing in the 310’s ECU 
4) Kawasaki & Yamaha - Adjustable handlebars that can be adjusted UP higher than what the current models allow
5) Yamaha - Great engine, upgrade the hull to something deeper, wider and heavier.
6) Yamaha – Increase the size of the fuel tank to 22 gallons 
7) Yamaha – Create a “R” for “Race” version of the SVHO with no clutch and replaced with a stock turbo model for the Yamaha
8) Yamaha - round hand grips vs the molded grips 
9) Kawasaki - the "R" model should be more than a different color scheme, handlebars and lighter smaller seat.  Give it more power  

#1 Kawasaki:
Kawasaki:   Length 132.7 inches / width 47 in / Curb weight 1047 lbs.
#2 Yamaha:
Yamaha Length 140.2 in / width 48.4 in / Dry weight 836 lbs.


Need prices?  Click here for Nada Reviews