Sports are not exempt from the ever-changing tide in popularity. Downhill skiing used to be the de facto number one outdoor winter sport, while snowboarding was considered taboo. These days, snowboarding has taken over slopes around the world. As for jet skiing, the watersport was at one time extremely popular. However, a rise in other water activities put jet skiing on the backburner.
That’s where Krash Industries owner Nick Barton comes in. The Australian and former professional freestyle jet skier is doing his part to bring jet skiing back to the forefront. By investing years of his life and more money than he’d probably care to admit, Barton has developed a wide range of performance jet skis that cater to all kinds of potential participants. Read along to find out how one man intends to jump-start an entire industry.
Tumultuous Times in Jet Skiing
The stand-up jet ski industry peaked in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the water sport converted water skiing enthusiasts. Jet skis, with their self-propulsion technology, were fun to use and didn’t require a buddy to tow by boat. Then, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the sport made an about face and pivoted toward extreme sports. From wakeboarding to wake surfing, attention was pulled away from stand-up jet skiing. Of course, it didn’t help that the larger jet ski manufacturers didn’t realize the paradigm shift until it was too late. Stand-up jet skiing took a dive in popularity (no pun intended).
Fortunately, jet skiing hit a renaissance period, so to speak. Diehard riders started developing high-performance jet skis in an effort to push the sport to new heights. Designs improved, as did the engines. This was largely pushed by the necessity to be capable of doing flat-water flips and stratosphere-reaching barrel rolls in the suddenly revamped sport of freestyle stand-up jet skiing. Piloting a 130-horsepower engine strapped to a sub-310-pound jet ski compares to mashing the throttle on a Formula1 car. Those types of adrenaline-pumping experiences attracted the extreme sports crowd, as they yearned for an alternative to other water sports.
Nick Barton explains, “Engine technology has taken this sport to the point where we have a unit that’s more accessible to the thrill seekers. Wakeboarding is great, but you may be one of a dozen guys sitting in the boat waiting for your turn. After you ride for 10-15 minutes you’re back in the boat and waiting 1-1/2 hours to go again. Then there’s your buddy flipping on a jet ski and having fun the whole time. You have the dirt bike guys who watch Nitro Circus and want to do backflips, but they don’t want to get hurt. They come to find out that doing a flip on a jet ski provides the same thrills and sensations, only they’re landing in water instead of on hard dirt.”
That’s where Krash Industries comes in. A name derived from the idea that you can shake off a crash and try again, Krash Industries operates by the mantra that you can go big, and still go home without risking life and limb. The idea for Krash Industries was born.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
Nick Barton and his friends used to rely on the Yamaha SuperJet, which has been around since 1990. Thanks in part to his surfing background, Nick soon realized that the SuperJet was limited. Essentially, the unit’s design wasn’t able to do what the professional freestyle jet skier demanded.
“The SuperJet is a straight, square unit that doesn’t have much rocker,” states Barton. Trying to run it in the waves is like riding a longboard in surfing. The ski didn’t turn the way I wanted it to, and it struggled in the waves. I needed to find a competitive advantage, so that’s when I started modifying my SuperJet.”
One of Nick’s friends was a surfboard shaper, who spent decades working on shapes, lines and curves. We started to integrate that surfboard knowledge into my SuperJet. Those modifications helped me win a title in 2012. That, of course, drew the attention of other freestyle jet skiers. They wanted what he was using. That’s when Barton had an idea. What if he took the plug that had been developed, make a mold out of it, and sell purpose-built hulls? Enter the first JB1 model, which was the catalyst for the eventual decision to make custom-built jet skis.
Competing Through Manufacturing
The road to success is often long and winding. Nick Barton’s journey was no different. He realized that breaking into the jet skiing industry would take a unique approach. Barton was selling his purpose-built hulls, but it wasn’t as easy as slapping on the part and jumping the nearest wave. His customers had to spend $7000 on the hull, $3000 on a pump, $1500 on a pole, and then drop around $11,000 on an engine. After that, they had to assemble the custom creation. The total amount reached upwards of $30,000. Barton was pricing himself out of the game.
The alternative for a customer was to save money by purchasing an older Kawasaki jet ski, remove the running gear, and install a new pump. However, with old equipment came reliability issues and a slew of down days as a result of broken parts. Some customers spent more time working on their jet skis than riding them, mainly because the running gears were 20 years old.
Nick Barton’s success was hinging on whether he could secure a manufacturing facility capable of building reliable and cost-effective parts. Enter the first manufacturing facility for Krash Industries, which was built in Barton’s parents’ backyard. That evolved into a factory, where Nick, his father and sister made the units. The demand became so high that Krash Industries started their own facility in Thailand. Fortunately for Nick, his father had experience through his wetsuit brands in the 1990s, called Wavelength and Piping Hot. The Barton’s went to Asia in order to achieve competitive price-points on international platforms.
In 2017, after several years of research and development, Krash Industries took the plunge by introducing their very own line of ready-to-perform jet skis.
The Heart of the Matter
Nick Barton could have easily purchased jet ski-purposed engines from a manufacturer and saved a lot of time and money. However, that’s not Barton’s style. Just like Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel, a masterpiece takes time and patience. For Barton, the result was the Kavinci 997, or KV997–the cornerstone of the Krash Industries platform.
Barton fully invested himself in the project. He earned a mechanical engineering degree along the way, and spent 4500 hours over 18 months designing the whole drivetrain, which included the engine, pump and all other necessary parts. In total, the KV997 contained 700 components. The juice was worth the squeeze, because Barton came up with a powerful and broad engine that could stand up against the harshest surf, yet was user-friendly enough to be taken out on the lake.
From concept to completion, the KV997 had its share of hurdles. “The most difficult part was the porting, and taking what I wanted in an engine and making it work,” explains Barton. “We even made our own carburetors. There were a lot of refinements along the way. We got down to about zero to 0.5 of a thousandths run-up across the whole crank. We went for a bore-to-stroke ratio of 1.76 in order to prevent excessive sidewall wear. In 60 to 70 hours of running time we were only getting about half a thousandth piston-to-bore wear. There were so many aspects of the combustion engine that I had to take into account.”
Ever the perfectionist, Barton intended on making the KV997 the gold standard in jet ski engineering. Using knowledge, loads of research, a meticulous trial and error approach–not to mention his experience as a professional freestyle jet skier– he created a monster of a two-stroke engine. The fact that the KV997 is a two-cycle engine is something that Barton is very proud of.
“Not a lot of people spend a lot of time on two-stroke technology, because everyone seemed to move toward four-strokes. However, there’s so much merit on a two-cycle engine, because of its power-to-weight ratio. We really have a strong belief that we can make a two-cycle engine more efficient with direct injection. It can be such a small and compact engine.”
Once the KV997 was designed and developed, Krash Industries hit another snag. The plan was to outsource the cylinder, but the tolerances came back wrong. Instead, they opted to purchase the raw castings from a reputable company that manufactures a lot of Harley-Davidson parts. Krash Industries also has their own machines, with in-house machinists who do everything from research and development to production. As Barton states, “That way we hold the tolerances, along with the metallurgy and everything else. We want the engines to be stable and work every time.”
Customized Wiseco Pistons
The KV997 engine has four auxiliary ports, one boost port, two auxiliary exhaust ports and one main exhaust port per cylinder. Needless to say, Barton was very focused on making sure that everything was sealed at top dead center in order to keep the gases out when the pistons are driving back down to bottom dead center. The job required a very specific 88mm piston, with a modified skirt to do the job.
“Wiseco came through in the clutch for us,” explains Nick Barton. “What’s also great about the Wiseco piston is that it’s forged. It can take a lot more compression and fuel as you start to ramp up the engine. We also tested several Wiseco pistons with the coatings on the skirts, which improved longevity and added a gain in performance.”
Barton was also impressed by the professionalism of such a major piston company. “It has been great how we can show Wiseco a design and quickly get that product in hand. Generally, when you’re dealing with larger companies and you’re a smaller company, it can be a real nightmare. Big manufacturers normally don’t want to sell you products. Wiseco has been the complete opposite. We showed them a piston design and our engine. They had no problem working with us. They didn’t make us buy 7000 pistons, either [laughter]. The pistons have been fantastic.”
A Perfect Powerband for Everyone
Another intriguing part of the Krash Industries KV997 platform is that the user can choose from three different power settings, thanks to the Capacitor Discharge Ignition (CDI) system. The three pre-set maps offer 70 horsepower, 115 horsepower, or a whopping 130 horsepower with the push of a button. This was accomplished through ignition timing and rev limiting.
Barton recognized that jet ski users come in a variety of skill levels–from neophytes on up to big-wave aerial masters. Power management is a major component for having a good experience. By offering three different maps, a Krash Industries jet ski can handle all comers.
Nick Barton explains, “Let’s say you’re experienced on a jet ski and want to do flips. Now your friend, who is a beginner to competitions, wants to try it out. All of a sudden, he can’t get the right throttle control, because the ski is stuck on one setting. We tamed down the timing to mellow out the bottom end. Then we brought in a rev limiter at a certain rpm to limit the output. The beginner map is right at 70 horsepower. The engine is still burning fuel, but if you give it a handful the jet ski won’t shoot straight out of your hands. All you do is flick a button to change the map selection. Then you have 130 horsepower at your disposal.”
Looking ahead, Barton intends on making the KV997 powerband even more customizable. He hopes to develop an application for smartphones that allows customers to make their own mapping changes. The goal is to make real-time adjustments. Eventually, he hopes to bring together different watersports communities through technology. That’s straight-up cool.
For the Love of the Sport
Nick Barton has big plans to revitalize the jet ski industry. He’s doing his part by making three distinct watercraft models aimed at attracting adrenaline junkies and even motocross enthusiasts. The 50Cal stand-up is made for aerials; the Predator stand-up is intended for carving turns; the Reaper is a ski with the ergonomics of a dirt bike. Each model retails for $12,599, which is amazing considering that these are turn-key packages ready to perform right off the showroom floor. These models will also be available at major dealers in the U.S., making it easier than ever to get your very own Krash Industries jet ski and also have after-sale support.
Barton believes that if he can just get more people to try out jet skiing, they’ll instantly be converted. “People are looking for a thrill. Sit-down jet skis aren’t challenging enough anymore. People don’t want to jump on something and feel like an expert in two seconds. They’re looking for something more, and I want to pass on that passion for stand-up jet skiing. This sport is very social, and you’re hanging out at the beach or river. You’ll fall in love with the water, the sunshine, and you’re out on a jet ski feeling like a hero. It’s just good fun.”
For more information on Krash Industries to view all their models, visit www.krashindustries.com, or follow them through their social media channels.