A group of personal watercraft or “jet ski” enthusiasts began last year on the Mississippi Gulf Coast has been experiencing rapid growth throughout the state this summer and now includes many new members from the Jackson metro area.
Called “Mississippi Ski Riders,” the group was co-founded in March 2021 by Neil Scott and Cody Frierson from Ocean Springs.
“We saw that there were large groups of ski riders organized in Florida and other states but we didn’t have that in Mississippi so we decided to start our own group,” Scott said.
Over the past year, the group has grown from just a handful to over 1,200 members. “It continues to grow — we have an average of two to 15 new members sign up every day,” he said.
While the largest number of members still reside along the coast, the second largest majority now comes from the Jackson area, Scott said.
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That growth prompted the group to organize its first-ever central Mississippi event on a recent weekend at the Ross Barnett Reservoir, bringing together approximately 55 ski riders from throughout the region.
“We called it the Rez Ride. It was an awesome experience,” Scott said. “The weather was perfect.”
Departing from boat ramps at Tommy’s Trading Post on Route 43 in Rankin County, the group took a 21-mile trip through the upper Reservoir into the winding Pearl River to what is called the Low Head Dam. On the way back, the group stopped at a sandbar approximately 4 miles south of the dam for a group photo and a chance to socialize.
Group member James Bailey of Brandon said he was glad to see a ride of this type come to the area.
“I have been to rides in Alabama, Florida and other states but this is the first time one has happened here,” he said.
Asked how he initially became interested in jet skis, Bailey said, “I’m originally from the Delta, so I’ve always been around water.” The main attraction, he said, is the comradery of the group. “If anything happens or you run into trouble, somebody will be there to help you,” he said.
Scott said the rides are not formal competitions or races — just friendly get-togethers by like-minded enthusiasts.
The 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 later 1980s the sit-down, runabout style skis came into production, typically allowing up to three people to ride sitting down rather than a single person standing.
“Right now we have a massive majority of the sit-down jet skis,” Scott said. “Most casual riders want a larger, more stable ski today but the stand-up skis are still a niche.”
Although the term “Jet Ski” is often used generically, it remains a registered trademark of Kawasaki. Other manufacturers use different registered names for their personal watercraft, including the Yamaha Waverunner, the Bombardier Sea-Doo and the Honda AquaTrax. “We welcome them all,” Scott said.
The next scheduled event for Mississippi Ski Riders will be the Second Annual “Deer Island Takeover” set for Sept. 3. Members will take their own routes then all meet up on the island off the Mississippi Gulf Coast. “We will have giveaways, food and a live band,” Scott said.
For more information about the Mississippi Ski Riders, visit their Facebook group page: www.facebook.com/groups/mississippiskiriders.