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Articles / Riding the Wave / Bob Phares: A Pioneer Who Shaped the Jet Ski World

Bob Phares: A Pioneer Who Shaped the Jet Ski World

24 April 2024
Article Bob Phares: A Pioneer Who Shaped the Jet Ski World
From the banks of Southern California rivers to the corporate corridors of Kawasaki, Bob’s journey with jet skis spans over decades, weaving his legacy into the fabric of this thrilling sport. Here is a tale of passion, innovation, and community—a true legend of the jet ski world.

Early Years: The Seeds of a Pioneer

Bob Phares, a Southern California native, grew up immersed in the vibrant outdoor culture of Lakewood. His academic pursuits led him from local schools to Long Beach State, but his professional journey truly began at the crossroads of recreation and innovation. Initially stepping into the corporate world with IBM and later managing a juice bar, Bob's true calling did not emerge until he joined Kawasaki Motors Corp. in 1970. It was here, amid the hum of motorcycle parts and the camaraderie of like-minded enthusiasts, that Bob found his home.


The Jet Ski Epiphany
One serene morning in 1972 by the Colorado River, Bob’s life changed forever. The distinctive buzz of a two-stroke engine drew his gaze to a peculiar sight—a small, snowmobile-like craft skimming across the water. This was the "Water Jet," a prototype of what would soon become known as the jet ski. Captivated, Bob secured a test ride that would set the course for the rest of his life. He was hooked, and there was no looking back.

This is Doug in the photo from the inaugural Jet Ski race in San Diego, showcasing our trophies from that memorable day back in 1977. Interestingly, Doug's role wasn't as an R&D test rider for Kawasaki. He actually served in the accessories division and later transitioned to the Jet Ski marketing division as part of the Tropical Blend Tour Team. However, it was Doug's brother, John, who took on the role of test rider for Jet Ski. Doug himself made waves in the Jet Ski community by becoming the very first National Champion Jet Skier in the Lightweight Division in 1979. Throughout the 80s, Doug continued to dominate, clinching several more National Championships. Eventually, he followed his brother, John, to Bombardier, Seadoo Corp.

The Test Pilot
Bob, alongside Steve Stricklin, began rigorously testing these early jet skis every chance they got. Their feedback was crucial, shaping the development of both flat-bottom and V-bottom hull designs. This period of intense experimentation and adventure took them from Lake Havasu to Carlsbad, marking the prelude to Kawasaki’s official launch of the jet ski market.


Building the Jet Ski Market
By 1976, Kawasaki was ready to release the jet ski to the American public, and Bob was pivotal in making this happen. As the District Sales Manager for Northern California, he not only boosted sales but also helped foster a growing community of jet ski enthusiasts. His efforts culminated in co-founding the Northern California Jet Ski Association, cementing his role as a community builder and promoter.

The Corporate Champion
Bob's influence expanded when he joined Kawasaki’s newly formed Jet Ski Division. Throughout the late 70s, he travelled across the United States, orchestrating promotional events and participating in boat shows from coast to coast. His work helped to popularize jet skiing, turning it from a niche hobby into a mainstream sport.

Racing and Beyond
Despite his busy schedule, Bob remained deeply involved in jet ski racing. He competed, organized events, and even sat on committees that shaped the sport's competitive structure. His expertise was not limited to sales and promotions; it also extended into the very heart of jet ski racing culture.


Honouring a Legend
In recognition of his significant contributions to the sport, Bob was involved inducting John Youings into the International Jet Sports Boating Association (IJSBA) Hall of Fame in 2007. This prestigious honour reflects his pivotal role in promoting jet skiing and his lasting impact on the sport's community and culture.

Bob Phares had the honor of inducting John Youings into the Wake of Fame Awards in 2017, held in Morro Bay, California.

Legacy and Continuation
After years of dedication, Bob chose to step back from the frontline of corporate promotion but never from the sport itself. He continued to ride, competed occasionally, and eventually took over as the general manager of a jet ski dealership, further contributing to the sport's growth and accessibility.

Today, Bob Phares is remembered not just for his early adoption and promotion of jet skis but for his enduring commitment to building a vibrant and sustainable community. His story is a testament to the spirit of innovation and community that defines the jet ski world. Bob Phares is not just a pioneer; he is a legend, whose waves continue to ripple through the hearts of jet ski enthusiasts everywhere.

As we celebrate the legacy of such a remarkable individual, it is clear that the jet ski community thrives on the passion and dedication of its pioneers. Bob Phares’ journey from a curious onlooker on the banks of the Colorado River to a celebrated leader in the industry embodies the spirit of adventure and community that makes the world of jet skiing truly exhilarating. His story, etched in the annals of jet ski history, continues to inspire new generations to take the helm and ride the waves of their own epic stories.


Thank you, Bob, for your invaluable contributions and tireless efforts. Without your pioneering spirit and dedication, the jet ski industry as we know it today might have taken a very different course. Your passion has not only shaped this thrilling sport but also inspired countless enthusiasts to pursue their own adventures on the water.


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