Watercross is closed course buoy racing on personal watercraft, where as many as 18 watercraft compete on the same course at the same time with each one trying to cross the finish line first. This type of racing provides for an intense viewing experience for the spectators as well as the racers themselves! The action starts with the snap of a band at the starting gate near the shoreline where each racer has 2 holders who lift the rear of the watercraft out of the water. With the sound of racing engines and water flying the band snaps and every racer flies off shore to race for position at the first buoy. For racers, this can be the most intense moment as this is when the most water is churned up and can lead to a complete white out of blinding spray off the other watercrafts. The bravest and fastest racer wins the drag race to the first buoy and the running order begins to take shape. From this point the racers begin to space out and you can begin watching the competing racers battling each other for position on the course.

What makes watercross different than many forms of racing is the ever changing course. When you add in natural waves, especially at our ocean venues, waves from other racers and the constant spray hitting the racers faces, no two laps around the 30 buoy course will be the same! Add to this an “option” which is another set of buoys located within the course, which can be either slower and more technical, or open and faster. Sounds confusing!? It can be! A racer will typically use the option when they are trying to pass another racer and can’t get by due to close racing conditions. This can be very exciting to watch as both competitors get some distance from each other in hopes of crossing the end buoys a head of each other! It’s a complete gamble which can payoff or jeopardize the ground the race has already made up in order to attempt a pass.

The races last on average 10 laps, with the leader board changing the entire race, the winner is the racer who crosses the start/finish buoys first! The racers are scored and assigned a point value for their finishing order. A second race occurs in the afternoon portion of the day. The points from both races are totaled and the top 3 racers receive a trophy for that round of racing. Points are also totaled for a season overall ranking.

As stated above, the race event is sanctioned by the IJSBA, who require each racer to become a member. They must follow and adhere to the strict rulebook, which covers not only the rules of racing, but the rules governing what modifications to the watercraft are allowed in each class. Racers must wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket, and DOT approved helmet. Most racers you will see wear a motocross style helmet with googles, and a wetsuit. Additional safety gear can also be worn to protect their bodies from potential injury during a miss hap. Race venues will have local EMS on site, and 2 on water Course Marshalls who assist in running a safe race as well as help aide fallen or injured racers. Additionally, some venues will have local police or environmental police on site to further aide in the safety of the event.

start procedure

What to expect as a spectator

No matter what venue you choose to attend space will be limited, so it’s suggested you arrive by 10am. You will want to bring comfortable chairs, food, and beverages which are allowed by the local municipality (please check local regulations before visiting). Racers will begin their day with a racer’s meeting where the starting lineup is given, the course is outlined and rules and regulations are covered. As soon as this brief meeting is complete practice laps for each class begins. This is when you will begin hearing the engines, smelling the race fuel and seeing racers leave shore for their first lap on the race course!

Racing will typically begin around 10am, which can vary due to tides at Ocean races. There will be an announcer who will help you understand what class of watercraft is racing at that time, who the racers are and who their sponsors are. This is a great time to figure out who your favorites are and see who is most fun to watch. The good thing about picking a favorite…. You as a spectator will have complete access to the pits and racers when they are off the course. This is another unique thing about watercross racing, your direct access to the professional racers! Racers are more than happy to talk with you and your children, show off their race machines and can even explain a little more about racing to you. Approaching racers is strongly encouraged. Make sure to get a picture for your social media with your favorite racer and add #eastcoastwatercross!

Racing will typically conclude by 3-4 pm for the day. On Sunday following the conclusion of the racing, the course will be taken out of the water and racers will begin packing up their watercraft, gear and trailers. It’s a mad dash for them to get on the road for their long drives home, so make sure to stop by early to catch the final 2 races of the weekend!

Typical Classes at an event:

X2

Ski Stock Spec

Youth Ski

Youth Sport

Vintage Ski

Ski Open

Sport Spec

Sport GP

Super Chicken ( Kawasaki SC650)

Runabout Stock

Runabout Open

Freestyle

Classes can change slightly per event due to participation. In an effort to open our doors to the broadest range of watercraft, we will typically run any class made of up of 3 or more tech/safety inspected watercraft, so if you don’t see your machine on the list, grab at least three of your buddies and come race with us!