Waterworld Revisited, this side of Catalina

By Chris Kostman

Originally published in Buzz in 1997 or 1998, but they went out of business before they actually ran it

It was just like Waterworld: twenty-some maniacs on personal watercraft blitzing across the open ocean. At speeds over 50 miles per hour, the riders cut one another off left and right, shower their wakes across each other's entire boat, and occasionally find themselves ejected from their mount and sailing through the air before disappearing beneath the sea. And don't even mention the sharks; they were nothing compared to this riff-raff.

Forget cruising your personal watercraft, commonly known as Sea-Doos and Wave Runners, at the marina, along the beach, or in local reservoirs. The truly fearless (and sometimes foolish) take these craft far from shore and over the horizon, adventuring out to Catalina and the Channel Islands on multi-day excursions. It's all in the name of that great ultra endurance credo: "the further, the better!"

It's a new sport, so the entrance requirements are minimal: some type of personal watercraft, a cell phone, hand-held GPS (global positioning system), and a membership in Vessel Assist, so that someone will come get you when you break down. Oh, and don't forget a lifejacket, just to make it legal. Since this kind of craft has only enough cargo room for about two small bottles of Evian, you'd best enjoy traveling light.

If you're not the lone shark type, and don't like traipsing through restaurants and hotel lobbies in a wetsuit, then hook up with one of the renegade groups that make these forays across the ocean en masse. They'll have a "real" boat to carry all their gear, spare fuel (most craft have just enough fuel for a straight shot to Catalina, or about 30 miles), food, gallons of sunblock, and a GPS system that is actually legible at speed. Then you and your friends can make a weekend of it, provide a safety net for one another, and have the opportunity to pound your body into oblivion for days on end.

That's right; this IS a workout. You don't just sit there and squeeze the throttle. It's serious exercise to soak up the bumps (i.e. waves), carve up the ocean surface, spin 360's, and otherwise go crazy at freeway-legal speeds. Says Dave Waugh, who recently made his 100th roundtrip to and from Catalina, "Some people go to the gym for their workout. I ride my SeaDoo to Catalina. Of course, I do have a definite disease as far as speed and performance are concerned."

As for me, I was baptized into this sport as a willing participant in the recent "Catalina for Kids," a fund-raiser for Childrens' Hospital of Los Angeles sponsored by Yamaha. The recreated scene from Waterworld described above featured yours truly, along with a group of celeb's that included Donna D'errico and David Chokachi from Baywatch, Mark Steines from Entertainment Tonight, and 1993 Miss America Leanza Cornett, among others. We made the trip over Saturday, September 20, then went scuba diving, toured the island, attended a special dinner concert featuring up-and-coming band Venice, then made the return home Sunday. It was awesome fun, and all in the name of a good cause.

Extreme sports adventurers, you heard it here first!