Jet Ski News
Don't bother pointing out to Renee Hill that she's old enough to be the mother of many of her competitors. She'll be the first to tell you she doesn't care.
After all, age is just one of the obstacles this Riverside resident has overcome en route to picking up a second-place trophy last month in the Pro-Am Women's Runabout race at the International Jet Sports Boating Association World Finals at Lake
"It's fun to go out there with 16-year-olds and give them a run for their money," said Hill, who has accomplished an awful lot on the circuit the past few years despite racing without a sponsor.
She won last month's event despite racing on a fractured ankle.
"We've worked our way up," said Hill, who started jet skiing with her husband, Jeff, seven years ago.
The couple got a pair of bottom-end Sea-Doo jet skis and began riding around on Lake Havasu. They were the runabout style, which means riders sit on them, rather than stand, as the vehicle flies through the water at 65 to 70 miles per hour.
A friend suggested they enter some local races, and Renee and Jeff competed throughout the winter and summer series.
Before long, they had joined the IJSBA and began competing in the 800cc novice-class western regionals, racing all over Southern California. Renee won a world championship in that class in 1999 and then moved up to the next level, the pro-am, where she's been racing for the past four years.
The first year I said I wanted to finish in the top 10, then I'd work my way up," she said. "This year I wanted first place, but it was quite an honor just to stand up on the podium at this level."
Jeff Hill said that if his wife's first-place finish in the 800cc class had come a few years before 1999, back when the sport was peaking in popularity, she might have come away with a lot more.
"We might have had two new boats, and a mechanic," he said, but then explained that the sport has been slumping in recent years. "You have a machine that goes 65 mph out of the box, and if you put a 15-year-old kid on that or someone who's not educated, people get hurt."
So it's just been Renee and Jeff, traveling around, going to events, racing, having fun, without any sort of corporate sponsorship. The summer IJSBA series culminated at Lake Havasu, where racers from 37 nations competed. Kellie Skelton, a 21-year-old New Zealander, nudged Renee to take first place.
"She races for Factory Kawasaki and has a lake in her backyard," said Hill. "I have three children, so I was happy just to be there. It was a great end to four years of hard work."
These four years of hard work almost went unrewarded when Hill hurt herself while riding a quad at Lake Havasu in August. She thought she had just sprained an ankle, but then, after a race in Pahrump, Nev., she found out that the ankle was fractured, only seven weeks before the world finals.
"I was pretty proud to go from sitting on the couch, or being on crutches or in a wheelchair, to racing so quickly," she said.
The next step, Hill said, will be to move away from runabouts and into stand-up competition.
"We'll do it all over again," said Hill of the long road from beginner to standing on a podium, being awarded a trophy. "I'll start in the novice class, then work on a national or world title."
But isn't she worried about injuring herself again?
"Sometimes we say we're done," said Renee Hill. "But we've made a lot of friends and had a lot of fun, so we don't want to give this up."
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