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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Jet Skis: 'We Would Destroy Them'

It was a recent sunny Sunday morning and some three dozen rubber-clad windsurfers soundlessly plied the waters of Moscow's Strogino bay.


Suddenly a deafening roar shattered the quiet, as a menacing jet-skier appeared from nowhere and started making tight circles around the windsurfers, creating a wake big enough to capsize several of them. The young rider continued to show off her 80-horsepower Kawasaki machine, rearing it up, moving in leaps and bounds and making sharp U-turns at a fast clip. Dogs barked and people on the shore made loud, sometimes angry, comments.


Finally, Nastya Khavzhu, 15, approached perilously close to the shore, jumped off the brand new jet ski and alighted on land, wet and trembling from the chill. Her proud father, Dmitry Khavzhu, 37, was waiting.


"Can you believe that today is Nastya's first time?" asked Khavzhu, who bought the machine some two months ago after getting hooked on the thrill of jet-skiing during a visit to New York. "It's terrific fun!"


The jet ski, or gidrotsikl in Russian, is all the rage this summer. One jet ski salesman estimated that by the end of the year, Moscow's seven dealers will have sold some 250 of the machines, which cost about $9,000 and up, compared with 150 sold last year.


Some people ride on Moscow's waterways from last ice to first ice. Others dig deep, circular water-filled ditches at their dachas to practice in. But not everyone has the same boundless enthusiasm for the latest toy to make an appearance in Moscow.


"We would destroy them! Piracy on the waters has increased as a result of the New Russians' invasion," said Vladimir Shevchuk, head of the State Inspectorate of Small Vessels for Moscow.


Shevchuk said jet ski owners usually operate their machines without a license or registration, are a menace to shipping, and sometimes run over swimmers.


"We fight with them. They zoom right over the swimmers' heads and easily run away from us -- our boats only go 50 kilometers per hour -- and make fun of us," said Shevchuk, noting that the fine for such infractions is just 37,000 rubles ($6.91). "Only our joint raids with the water police, who have guns, are successful."


At least some jet-skiers wish there were more regulation, because, they say, it would make them less vulnerable to the whims of law enforcement authorities.


"In America you have to attend special courses and get a sort of water driver's license," Dmitry Khavzhu said.


"But here no one knows where to find such courses and register the jet ski, so any water inspector can come up and fine us," he said, adding that he was once detained by an officer but won his release with a bottle of vodka.


However, Shevchuk said jet-skiers can obtain a license and registration from the Inspectorate at 9 Tverskaya Ulitsa. He said there was no evidence of any serious injuries resulting from reckless jet-skiers, but some disgruntled windsurfers claimed that in the last month alone Moscow's jet-skiers had killed two people and injured eight others.


One windsurfer at Strogino, a popular place for water sports, said of jet-skiiers: "These are not people. These are suicides."


Despite the high price tag, Muscovites of relatively humble means have found ways to enjoy the thrills of the jet ski, which can reach speeds of up to 105 kilometers per hour. A group of five students reportedly each put up $2,000 to buy a machine, and Strogino and the reservoirs offer occasional rental of the vehicles for 13,000 rubles a minute.


Not everyone confines their jet-skiing to sufficiently large bodies of water. One jet ski salesman related the story of a recent customer who was so eager to use his new purchase that, in a tiny pond next to his dacha, "he attached [the jet ski] to a weak footbridge, where his wife usually rinses the laundry, and lurched forward. The poor footbridge was pulled out like a bad tooth."