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Old 04-28-2015, 11:51 PM
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Default Clayton Jacobsen the Creator of the Jet Ski

Do you know whom the founding designer is of Personal Watercraft? No? Well you should know your sports heritage, here is something to bite into for a good read #‎JetSki‬ inventor Clayton Jacobsen has a story to tell you at the age of 81!

Jet Ski inventor with ties to Parker recounts adventures

Clayton Jacobson II pictured in a brochure promoting personal watercraft.

Posted: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 12:01 am
Joan Travis Parker Pioneer

The inventor of the Jet Ski, Clayton Jacobson II, has a strong personality one won’t readily forget. He has his own point of view and he likes to do things his way. He’s tall, owing to his Viking heritage, as he calls it.

Come Oct. 12, Jacobson will turn 81. But, he doesn’t look like he belongs in that age bracket. He might be better suited for one 15 years younger.

“I’m at an age, where taking care of yourself is important,” he said. “I feel strong and healthy, you can’t ask for much more.”

He attended the Lake Havasu Jet Ski Championships in 2013, which happened to fall on his birthday. He was taken by boat, waved to fans, and over a loudspeaker the announcer said, “Today is Clay Jacobson’s birthday, the inventor of the Jet Ski.”

The crowds cheered and sang “Happy Birthday” to him.

“It was surprising and fun,” Jacobson said. “When I returned to the area where I was selling my book, all these young girls in bikinis wanted to have their picture taken with me. I enjoyed that!”

In his book, “Jet Ski Inventor Autobiography Clayton Jacobson II,” Jacobson had a footnote: “Raised in the introduction, ego is defined as ‘appropriate self worth.’ This is a good thing, mine is about the size of my Ford F250 pickup truck.”

In the 1960s, Jacobson was in the banking world, made money, had fun, lived in Malibu and loved building and racing motorcycles in Southern California.

He said he liked to socialize and network, “No matter what, every Thursday evening with the Manhattan Beach crew, we’d have dinner, drink and talk.”

He added, “Eventually, some of the Manhattan Beach people moved to the Parker Strip.”

He is the inventor of the personal watercraft—it was called jet ski (before Kawasaki copyrighted the name) or wet bike. He formulated one of water recreation’s best-known activities.

Jacobson was in Parker recently and sat down to talk about different aspects of his life. He lives in Australia and likes to come home to Parker to visit relatives and friends on the Parker Strip.

He explained how he got the idea for a personal watercraft.

“I had been racing dirt bikes as a hobby. It was a form of stress relief for me. However, as you do know, when you crash a dirt bike, the ground isn’t very forgiving. That’s why and how I came up with the idea for a personal watercraft, what I was looking for; sort of a motorcycle for the water.”

According to his book regarding the design of the jet ski he stated, “I built it with the materials, which I was familiar aerospace, and from aluminum, the first jet ski in my garage in Rolling Hills. My first engine was a Yamaha motorcycle engine that I adapted by sawing off the transmission, putting a propeller in a tube in the back. Nothing worked well; eventually I got it so it operated.”

It was the first stand-up PWC.

“The first sit-down personal watercraft I built in my studio in Los Angeles. Because of the size, the 320cc Rotax engine that Dauoust (president of Bombardier’s Sea-Doo company) sent me required that the hull have a large planing surface than my prototype. The air-cooled engine also needed sufficient air induction; these were the two primary factors that contributed to me developing the first sit-down model.”

Jacobson applied for a patent on the sit-down personal watercraft Feb. 19, 1968 and nearly one year later was issued the patent.

Jacobson Engineering continued into the joint work of Sea-Doo. He was not happy with the partnership. He had given his patent to the company and when problems arose in development Jacobson’s input was ignored. The licensing contract ended in 1971 and Kawasaki signed an agreement to license his invention.

In a published report Jacobson stated, “My agreement with Kawasaki was to give them an option period at which time they could study what I had done and what I had built.”

In 1973 Kawasaki introduced the first production stand-up personal watercraft—the Jet Ski. In published reports it was called “power ski.”

In 1976, Jacobson received a letter from Kawasaki informing him they were canceling the agreement. This began several years fighting in court between Jacobson and Kawasaki.

He received an out of court settlement from Kawasaki and the amount was not published.


The book is full of accounts of his travels, stories about the Parker Strip, especially when it was “wild and wooly” back in the late ‘70s. He’s extremely honest in his views and adventures.

Jacobson stated, “I’ve spent 40-plus years on the Parker Strip and part of that is 20 years in Australia. I like Australia, where I live the weather is cooler, cool, warm and warmer.”

He is an engaging person and can talk about the history of the Parker Strip for hours and it will not be sugar coated. He is direct.

Jacobson and wife, LeeAnne, have been married for 30 years; both are pilots.

Jacobson II and Jacobson III constructed homes on the river. This includes his home on the river, which has a sod roof.

“I’ve had my taste of big houses, I got a nice, smaller home near here on the ranch and the house in Australia. I don’t have many complaints about life,” he said.

Any long time Parker residents will recognize the characters in Jacobson’s book. It’s a good read and definitely part of the Parker Strip history.

The book is available for $49 at Parker Office Supply, Roadrunner, Fox’s and amazon.com.

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