After inventing the personal watercraft market 37 years ago with its original stand-up Jet Ski, Kawasaki’s single-person PWC is going extinct at the end of the year due to market demand and environmental concerns. So if you’re a thrill seeker looking to experience the ultimate visceral rush on the water than look no further than the 2011 Kawasaki Jet Ski 800 SX-R as it’s the last of a dying breed, literally.
The 800 SX-R represents the final evolution of Team Green’s first 400 stand-up Jet Ski released in the early ‘70s. Although it’s essentially the same since its last major redesign eight years ago, the SX-R is still a fun, capable and surprisingly easy-to-ride water rocket. The SX-R is powered via a pre-mix burning (60:1 ratio) 781cc twin-cylinder two-stroke engine stuffed in a relatively large fiberglass hull. The hull measures 7.55 feet long and just 2.4 feet wide, which allows it to fit in the back of a pickup truck, though I wouldn’t want to be the guy hoisting it.
The water-cooled engine is equipped with twin Mikuni carburetors fed from a 4.5-gallon fuel tank mounted in the nose. Power is transmitted to a jet pump that provides nearly 700 pounds of thrust and is manipulated via a forefinger-actuated right-hand throttle trigger and a boom handlebar-type steering arm. With a full load of fuel the ski weighs nearly 400 pounds, which makes it a three-person job to lift in and out of a truck or trailer.
Compared to its predecessors the SX-R is a much easier to operate. Its larger hull design along with generously sized and well-padded rider tray facilitates a high-level of stability that was previously unheard of. This makes it incredibly secure whether blasting across calm or choppy water. Another bonus is that it is easier to stand-up and/or re-board when you inevitably crash. Fortunately, tipping over in water is far more forgiving than the ground.
(Left) It’s simply astounding how well Kawasaki’s 800 SX-R carves into a corner. (Right) The Jet Ski 800 SX-R responds best to handlebar input rather than body lean when turning.
An experienced rider will discover the balance point immediately while less experienced pilots become acclimated with its handling attributes after just a couple rides. It turns predictably with minimal steering effort though it responds to handlebar input rather than body lean which could be a good or bad thing depending on preference; either way it’s simple and effective. During cornering maneuvers the SX-R carves turns with an astounding level of traction akin to that of a fresh race tire on pavement. It is also adept at holding a trajectory regardless of lean angle. An auto bilge-pump system purges water from the inside the hull whenever the ski is being ridden in a straight line.
The engine starting procedure is simple; turn the gas switch to “on” or “reserve,” plug in the lanyard (designed to stop the engine in the event the rider falls off the ski) to the run/stop switch, thumb the starter button and give the throttle lever a slight tug. The first start of the day usually requires momentary use of the choke regardless of air or water temperature. A large maintenance-free battery ensures plenty of starting juice.
This is the final year (2011) Kawasaki will produce the stand-up 800 SX-R Jet Ski due to low demand and environmental concerns.
The engine heats up almost immediately and full throttle acceleration can be achieved right away with zero bog or hesitation. Vibration is minimal at virtually all engine speeds (except for idle) and power is smooth and devoid of any kind of “hit” that usually categorizes two-cycle engines. Noise isn’t so loud to overwhelm the cockpit and doesn’t compromise overall ride comfort. On flat water its top speed of roughly 48 mph is relatively easy to achieve, however, extended full-throttle operation increases fuel consumption considerably. A small reserve provides another few minutes of use, though you’d better get to shore quick. When done riding a drain plug located on the rear of the ski makes it easy to empty any water from the hull and a garden hose adapter toward the nose of the ski allows the rider to flush the cooling system with fresh water if the ski was operated on the ocean.
Considering this is the final year of the stand-up Jet Ski, they’re in extremely high demand. Kawi has no plans of building a more environmentally friendly four-stroke version. If you want to own a piece of history it’ll cost $7899 and a trip to your Kawasaki dealer, if there are any left.