It’s the week of Fourth of July. And while we appreciate you being here, we really hope it’s from some stretch of sand or some body of water relaxing enough that your problems can be put on the same kind of ice as the booze in the cooler next to you. If not, throw on your shades anyway, and join us for our weeklong package, “Life’s a Beach,” a celebration of all things sand, sun and summer. Of course, if you’re already on vacation, you’re welcome, too — just be sure to reapply another layer of sunscreen, as these pieces burn bright. Read all of them here.
When the world went into quarantine two years ago, some people started baking bread or doing puzzles. But Kevin Eves, a trained electrical engineer in North Carolina, decided to tinker with the natural order. “A few years prior, I’d seen a YouTube video of a kid in Florida riding a jet ski up and down the street as a scooter and knew I could build one better than that. I just never had time,” he tells me. “So when COVID hit and there was nothing to do, I set out to build the ‘jet ski thing-y’ — I didn’t have a name for it back then.”
Fusing together two natural but completely different vehicles — one for land, one for sea — was a recipe for pure chaos, but Eves threw all caution to the wind. Without any semblance of an instruction manual or someone to guide him, he bought “an old 50cc scooter off Facebook Marketplace for cheap.” “Then I went and bought somebody’s broken jet ski they were trying to give away,” he says. “I started working on it that day, and a couple of days later, I was done.”
Again, only a madman would ever consider riding a jet ski on land or a scooter by sea. But Eves — along with the other brave soul on YouTube who had inspired him — dreamt big. Then Eves dreamt even bigger: He didn’t want to just take to the sidewalk, he wanted to take to the highway. And so, he abandoned the 50cc scooter, which could only top out at 35 miles per hour, for something with a bit more (horse)power.
To make it happen, he says, “You cut a big hole in the bottom of the jet ski, remove all the plastic and handlebars from the scooter, fit the jet-ski shell on top and figure out what stuff is hitting or rubbing,” he explains. “Then you cut off the frame rails or brackets until the jet ski sits down far enough in the right position. Next, you fabricate some new brackets for the scooter, bolt them to the jet-ski shell and you’re all set.”
Naturally, Eves compares riding the “ScootSki” to riding a motorcycle, only a bit more unwieldy. “You’ve added another 100 pounds so it feels really weird, and at low speeds, it’s not stable at all. If anything, it’s kinda sketchy, so it’s not for everyone,” he says. “It’s too wide to put your feet out when you come to a stop like you would on a motorcycle; you kind of have to scoot your butt over and put a leg out, which takes some getting used to. But as soon as you’re going over five or 10 miles per hour it feels like any other scooter.”
In the last two years, Eves says the ScootSki movement has grown exponentially. “After I built my first one, I reached out to Nick Stemple, who had the first YouTube channel for ScootSki stuff and had been doing it for a while. I messaged him and another guy in Florida, and for a while, it was just us three in a group chat talking shop,” he tells me. “Then I decided to make a Facebook group, and that grew and grew and grew to about 1,300 people in just over a year or so.”
The Facebook group, “ScootSki – Jetski Scooters,” is flush with questions about how to engineer the vehicles along with pictures of people showing off their latest ScootSki creation.
These days, Eves has gotten so accustomed to riding his ScootSki around town that he forgets he’s on it. “Sometimes I just want to get from point A to point B and not have all the attention, but it catches people’s eye to see a jet ski driving on the road, like it’s not supposed to be there,” he says. “So people are always pulling out their phones, or at traffic lights, they’ll be like, ‘I was following you last weekend!’”
All of the attention is something of an inside joke in the Facebook group, too. “We like to joke that if you’re in a hurry, the ScootSki is terrible,” Eves tells me. “You can go fast enough, but if you have to stop anywhere, you have to add another 30 minutes to your schedule. Like every time you get gas someone is going to come up and ask questions. It’s always the same questions, too: ‘Does it float?’ (It doesn’t.) ‘Have you been pulled over?’ (No.) And, ‘How fast does it go?’ (Fast enough!) It’s cool because people are interested, but you answer the same questions over and over again for two years straight and eventually you’re just like, ‘I’m just trying to get to work.’”
Although Eves never intended for his ScootSki to be anything more than a quarantine hobby, he’s embraced his role in showing the world that the ScootSki is anything but an abomination of nature. “I recently rode it up to Times Square,” he says. “The New Yorkers didn’t flinch. It was just another weird thing happening, which they’re used to. The cops couldn’t have cared less either; they even let me do a burnout. But all the tourists loved it and were taking pictures.”
Having now built roughly seven ScootSkis, with more in the works, Eves is particularly proud of his latest — a 650cc scooter fitted with a 1989 SeaDoo XP. It is, without a doubt, the biggest and fastest ScootSki on earth. “Its top speed is 119 miles per hour,” he says, casually adding that reaching 86 miles per hour in a quarter-mile made him the Guinness World Record holder for fastest jet-ski motorcycle.
Long distances don’t faze him either. Earlier this year, Eves took his ScootSki to Daytona Beach and drove two laps around the Daytona Speedway. And just a couple weeks ago, he rode it for five hours from North Carolina to Tennessee along the “Tail of the Dragon,” a total of 718 miles. “It’s this mountain road with a bunch of tight turns and corners. So I rode the ScootSki there, did that and rode it all the way back,” he says. “It was exhausting, but the experience is what it’s all about.”