With winter storms sweeping across much of the nation, and the post-Christmas lull sending PWC enthusiasts everywhere in search of the couch, I thought now might be a great time to look back at two classic PWC videos that have recently been re-released, this time on DVD.
Turn up the heat, pop the popcorn, and settle in…it’s movie night.
Jet Dreams (1989)
In its day, Jet Dreams was a groundbreaking flick, a video that took four of the sport’s coolest and most talented riders — Scott Watkins, Larry Rippenkroeger, Chris Fischetti, and Harry Goatcher — and let them strut their stuff in MTV-influenced style.
Scott Watkins was the star of the video’s vague plot, which followed along as Watkins chased after the girl of his “jet” dreams. Most of the time Watkins and the crew just rode, accompanied by an ‘80s soundtrack. The quality of the movie was a knockout when it was released, with slow-mo and underwater footage capturing the four as they did all those moves and tricks most of us were only dreaming of matching. Director Gary Shlifer gets the credit there, and it’s Shlifer who re-released the movie last year as a 20th Anniversary edition.
No, the tricks don’t compare to the amazing things you see freeriders doing today. But Jet Dreams more than makes up for it with enough neon to melt your eyeballs, moves by arguably two of the most talented riders in the sport’s history, and all those wacky fashion statements that made the ‘80s so cool at the time, and so ridiculous now.
Don’t stop the video at the credits; beyond you’ll find a humorous commercial for Watkins own signature ski, sold at the time by the now defunct R&R Jet Tech. It features Watkins as a nerd who transforms into a Jet Pilot-clad star, just by buying the ski.
If it was only that easy…
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Jet Dreams is available at www.directorcameraman.com/jetdreams.html.
Jet Ski Fever (1984)
Ready for some real old-school action? Jet Ski Fever is a surprisingly well-done documentary chronicling the 1983 World Cup series in Florida. Sound familiar? I featured it as one of my top-five Christmas gifts for 2010.
For many of us “old-school” types, this video was the first glimpse of real stand-up Jet Ski racing. Larry Rippenkroeger was in his prime, Flyin’ Brian Bendix was pushing him hard for the crown, and a talented roster of other riders add to the fun.
Fever has numerous highlights. The Rippenkroeger/Bendix duel is certainly the focal point, but we also get to see up-and-coming rider Dave Gordon (he’d go on to become a champ in both racing and freestyle), Celeste Peterson taking on the guys in their own class, and a great five-ski jump over the Cypress Gardens water-ski jump. It’s also fun to watch how the series progressed as it moved throughout Florida. We can only wish the DVD version had a behind-the-scenes section to capture some of the off-water hijinks of riders literally creating a sport.
Of course, the movie is also good for some laughs. This is the period before factory rides, when small sponsors put out skis with haphazard sticker jobs and riders often wore cut-off jean shorts instead of stylish neoprene. (Those shorts were also a little, well, short by today’s standards, and it seems nearly every male sported some kind of Tom Selleck-inspired facial hair). And then there’s the movie’s own title song, which is a must hear.
Think of it as equal parts retro documentary, entertainment, and Hot Tub Time Machine. Just don’t dismiss it. This is our sport’s history. Thankfully someone was there to capture it.
Jet Ski Fever is available at http://www.jetskifever.com/.