Next time you're on the water and see a jet ski launched into the air in a triple twist, look for Alexander Petrovic, the best freestyle jet skier in the U.S. and fourth best in the world.
Watch the above video to see him go insane with water tricks in Biscayne Bay.
The Miami Beach resident, who was born in Belgrade, is a partner in an IT/design company by day and a world-class adrenalin junkie on the side.
We spoke to Petrovic, a former superbike and car racer, about why he decided to test speed and gravity on the open ocean and whether it was worth 9 stitches in the head.
Favorite place to jet ski in South Florida?
Wherever it's legal to make wake, go fast, and do tricks. For casual riding, I prefer South Beach -- the area is magnificent, plus yachts, speedboats and tourists ready to have fun on the water. For practice, I prefer isolated lakes where the water is calm, so I can concentrate on execution and improvement of each trick.
How did you get involved in freestyle jet ski?
A few years ago, we were on a boat here on South Beach, when a big yacht went by, creating a massive wake. Out of nowhere, 3 stand-up jet skis showed up, rode up that massive wake, and jumped several feet in the air. That was it -- I was in love.
Immediately after that I bought my first stand-up, a new Yamaha SuperJet for $7,000. The dealer who sold me the ski told me that a trick called "submarine," where you jump with the ski and then go under water, takes at least 6 months to learn. For some reason that pushed me to prove I could do it more quickly.
It turned out riding stand-up jet skis is indeed tricky -- it took a week just to be able to relatively comfortably ride in a straight line and take simple turns. But I kept practicing and after three weeks, I did my first submarine.
For another year I kept on riding as much as I could, with no particular goal in mind, just having fun. Once I realized I was getting better I hired an ex freestyle champion to train me. Then in 2011 I became AM National Champion and placed 4th in the World Finals.
What are some of the tricks/stunts you can perform on your jet ski?
As a competitor I need to be able to do pretty much any trick out there -- barrel rolls, back flips, helicopters, flares, etc. I am also one of only three people in the world to have done "super flip," the most dangerous trick.
Have you invented any new tricks?
Yes. In "X-jump," I jump as high as possible, while simultaneously turning to the audience, releasing the ski, and holding it just with one foot.
In "X-stab," I jump vertically, rotate 180 at the highest point, release one leg and one hand, dive under water nose-first, and if everything went fine, ride out in one smooth motion.
Sometimes a new trick is planned -- I'd be at home examining videos and thinking how a trick can be created/improved. And sometimes a new trick simply grows out of an earlier mistake -- in mid-air, I'd realize I screwed up an existing trick, but the sensation would be something new, which then I would use for a different trick.
Ever been injured while doing it?
One day when they called for a hurricane warning and, naturally, I had to go out and try to ride in those conditions. The water was very choppy and during a jump my foot slipped, and when I landed I hit the top of the ski (part of which is coincidentally called "chin pad") with my chin. A quick trip to the emergency room, several stitches later and I was fine.
Then when time came to learn more serious tricks a helmet became necessary. Even so, during my very first barrel roll attempt I didn't rotate enough, hit the water at a weird angle, my foot feel out of the footwell and I hit the ski with my helmet. Even with a helmet on I cut my face above the eye and needed stitches.
Any advice to those wanting to do this?
Try it. Riding a stand-up jet ski, even without doing any tricks, is by far the best exercise I've ever tried. So, even if you don't become a world-class freestyler you are guaranteed to have a healthy and fun workout.
A bunch of us from Miami are working on a site called xjetski.com which, once opened next month, will be a hub for new talent to come and learn about competitive freestyle.