Boating | New breed of jet-ski for a new millennium | Mark Rothfield

VERSATILE: The new breed of jet-ski is designed to do almost anything the reliable old tinnie can do with much more style. Whether it's fishing or relaxing, Sea-Doo's 2018 range has you covered.
VERSATILE: The new breed of jet-ski is designed to do almost anything the reliable old tinnie can do with much more style. Whether it's fishing or relaxing, Sea-Doo's 2018 range has you covered.

As a newly-inducted jet-ski owner and now the butt of every joke about mid-life crises, gold chains, mirror sunnies and hirsute chests, I can say one thing – the personal watercraft of today is a far different beast from those the Hoff and Heff drove in the ’80s.

Forget being loud, brash and boorish. Contemporary craft are far milder and more refined, designed to serve a myriad of family boating roles and provide irresistible value compared to small tinnies and inflatables with the same ticket price.

You can fish from them offshore, ski behind them on the lake, or cruise up estuaries with three people aboard and lunch in the locker. Pound for pound, their speed and seaworthiness is without peer.

Sea-Doo’s model line-up for 2018 is a classic case in point.

With modular seating that enables you to relax aboard, audio system and an attachable icebox, they close the gap even tighter on the modern family runabout.

Here you find a new hull platform called the ST3 that’s available on seven models across the GTX, RXT and Wake Pro ranges.

Replacing the long-serving S3, it has a higher beam-to-length ratio and lower centre of gravity for more stability underway and at rest.

This gives the rider more confidence in rough water, especially when carrying three people, and when reboarding from the sides.

There’s extra vee in the underwater sections as well, softening the ride and improving cornering.

But the real breakthrough is the modular seating pioneered by builder Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP).

It allows the passenger seat to be relocated via a snap-in mechanism at the transom, thereby creating a sociable lunch setting for two. Or you can leave the second seat off altogether, then you and your partner can laze on the open aft deck – it’s so big that Sea-Doo has taken to calling it the “living room”.

Alternatively, the rear brackets can accommodate a factory-supplied cooler or auxiliary fuel container with a storage bag clipped on top.

A generous 70-litre storage bin fills the foredeck and is accessible directly from the helm, with the hatch lifting on gas struts.

Adding to the onboard experience with the GTX Limited, RXT-X and Wake Pro is a sound system that bluetooths with your smartphone.

It’s apparently the industry’s first manufacturer-installed system, pumping out 100 watts from waterproof speakers.The skipper can scroll through playlists, jump tracks and change the volume with a deck remote, while your phone is cradled in a waterproof, shockproof compartment furnished with a USB charger.

It all encourages owners to spend more time aboard this mini runabout rather than heading into the beach.

The new 2018 GTR-X and RXP-X sport a race-style handlebar with an adjustable riser, along with new iControl function toggles and other tweaks.

The Wake Pro Tow shows its intent to seriously target the towsports arena by offering a pop-up ski pole.

BRP’s senior vice-president of global product strategy, Bernard Guy, sees it as taking Sea-Doo's personal watercraft to the next level.

“Everything was ingeniously designed and built to enhance the consumer experience on water. Riding a Sea-Doo watercraft is fun, with this new platform, we extend the exhilaration,” he says.

This exhilaration extends to the new-season colours, whether that’s grey metallic, equestrian brown or a bold yellow that goes nicely with a gold chain.

For the budget-conscious or first-time buyer, meanwhile, a new Sea-Doo Spark Trixx 3-up model is now available with extended seat and its own bigger rear platform.