El Salvador Hosts Havasu PWC Community For Exhibition Race

El Salvador Hosts Havasu PWC Community For Exhibition Race
Claire Cornelius / 23 Feb 2024 / No Comments » Comments

By Claire Cornelius

The Central American country of El Salvador is looking to grow its personal watercraft racing scene and recently recruited 10 Lake Havasu locals to perform in an exhibition race to aid in popularizing the activity.

So, Havasu racers Ty Smith, Taylor Smith, Sebastien Girello, Ryder Wildeboar, Jett Wildeboar, Charles Anderson, Josh Simon, Ryder Bliss, Mark Gomez, Sadie Mir and Harley Ritchie all traveled to El Salvador to help with that endeavor.

El Salvador paid for each racer’s skis to be shipped to the country prior to the race. Initially, it was hard to gather a large enough group to volunteer, just because each racer would have to be without their skis for four months while they were in transit.

It was an all-expenses paid trip for the racers with food, airfare and transportation covered.

“They did a lot of work, finding us houses and finding us food and everything,” Jenni Bliss said.

El Salvador Lake Havasu City jet ski race

The Havasu racers line up at the start before their race in El Salvador. Photo Courtesy of Jenni Bliss

There were several special events during the trip including meetings with congressmen, members of the military and an air show. All of the excitement was geared toward bringing excitement to the El Salvadoran locals.

The Havasu riders were there to represent the international jet ski scene while El Salvador and other Central American countries hosted a race of their own.

“The local riders were super nice people,” Ryder Wildeboar said. “They were asking lots of questions and trying to learn more about (PWC) racing. They were all stoked to see us.”

The local riders asked Ryder Wildeboar technical questions like how to pass someone on the water and how to conduct a start. He mentioned that one of the local riders said the last time the country had a (PWC) race was about 30 years ago.

“We all rode Kawasaki 1500s (a stand up ski) at the same time, just to show how we race in America and what our different racing classes look like.”

In the third race, Ryder Wildeboar and Taylor Ritchie slowed down for each other and did some “side by side action for the fans to show them what it’s all about,” Ritchie said. “They loved it. We had all sorts of people coming up and saying how amazing it was.”

Jett Wildeboar, Ryder’s brother, said his favorite part of the trip was talking to the locals.

“It was great, I loved racing over there,” Jett Wildeboar, 13, said. “It was something new. I tried my best down there.”

Lake Havasu el Salvador jet ski race

The Havasu PWC crew arrives in El Salvador for their all-expenses paid trip. Photo Courtesy of Jenni Bliss

In the last race, the Havasu racers did a Le Mans start – a nontraditional start to the race where riders start on the beach, run towards their jet ski being held in the water, hop on, start it, and go. Ryder Bliss really liked the Le Mans start and had a lot of fun with it.

There was a total of six races, three on each of the two days of the exhibition. The races were 10 minutes plus two laps, a bit longer than the Havasu riders are accustomed to, and back-to-back.

When the group wasn’t out on the water racing, they were exploring the region. They went on a volcano hike, enjoyed local cuisine, and even be-friended some dogs that hung around the villas they stayed at.

Eleven-year-old Ty Smith said El Salvador was a trip that he will never forget, and never thought he would be able to do something like that.

Ty and his 15-year-old sister Taylor have been racing jet skis for about three years.

“It was my first time out of the country ever, so it was a really good experience,” Taylor Smith said. “I’m really glad it was with my (PWC) family.”

Mir shared the sentiment of being there with the close-knit Havasu group.

“Spreading the word about (PWC racing) was super cool, just because most of them didn’t even know what (PWC) were,” Mir said. “And sharing, the group that we all went with is super close and we’re like family, so it was good to share that we had a friendly side with our competitors.”

Mir mentioned that a local rider asked her on the start line for some advice on how to race better. Mir told her to hug the lines closer to the buoys, and it was really rewarding to watch the local rider put her words into action.

Havasu El Salvador jet ski race

Taylor Smith rides the Kawasaki 1500 in El Salvador. Photo Courtesy of Jamie Smith

“I expected a lot less people to be there,” Girello said. “It actually turned out to be a good crowd with lots of energy. They were mostly stunned at how fast we were going. I haven’t seen that in a while, because here in Havasu it’s an everyday thing.”

Girello’s best moment was when he started the first race and hole-shotted about five seconds in front of everyone, despite some mechanical issues the day prior.

“Then the crowd saw Mark Gomez do some flips and their mind was blown.”

In between races, freestyle rider Mark Gomez had coordinated a numbered set of tricks with the Spanish-speaking announcer.

“I laid out a set list and wrote it down on my (PWC), so I remembered where I was. I would hold my finger up with the number of the trick I was doing.”

Another feature of his show was interacting with the crowd, where he had people who wanted to be sprayed with water hold up their hands, and he proceeded to “annihilate” the crowd with water sprays.

Afterwards, Gomez and the rest of the Havasu crew hung around to sign autographs, take photos and chat with the fans.

“The kids really saw the bigger picture, they weren’t just racing to win first place,” Gomez said. They played with each other back and forth and made it an exciting race for people to see because we were putting on a show of not just skill and ability but to show what a race is about.

El Salvador jet ski race

Jett Wildeboer, Sebastien Girello, Harley Ritchie, Sadie Mir, Ryder Bliss, Ty Smith and Taylor Smith pose on the beach of El Salvador after one of their Moto races. Photo Courtesy of Jennis Bliss

Havasu El Salvador jet ski race

Sebastien Girello rides the Kawasaki 1500 in El Salvador. Photo Courtesy of Christophe Girello

Lake Havasu el Salvador jet ski race

Ryder Wildeboer rides the Kawasaki 1500 in El Salvador.

Havasu race jet ski El Salvador

Ty Smith turns a corner in an El Salvador race. Photo taken by Salvador Reyes. Photo Courtesy Jenni Bliss.

Lake Havasu jet ski El Salvador

The Havasu PWC crew at the exhibition race in El Salvador. Photo Courtesy of Jenni Bliss


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