DREAM COME TRUE FOR LOCAL JET SKIER

July 29, 2003 12:00 am
TOP DOG: La Grande's Jason Harmon won the International Jet Sport Boat Association Northwest Regional Tour Championship this month and is headed to the world finals in October as the No. 1 qualifier. (Submitted photo).
TOP DOG: La Grande's Jason Harmon won the International Jet Sport Boat Association Northwest Regional Tour Championship this month and is headed to the world finals in October as the No. 1 qualifier. (Submitted photo).

By Raenelle Kwock

Observer Staff Writer

La Grande's Jason Harmon started jet skiing when he was 35. He recalled at that time people telling him he would not be able to win or race.

Five years later, he has proved them wrong.

Harmon won the International Jet Sport Boat Association Northwest Regional Tour Champion for Region 3 this month and is the No. 1 qualifier for the world finals in Lake Havasu, Ariz., Oct. 5-12.

"This is my first year as the top dog after five years of trying," Harmon said.

In 2002, Harmon was the state champion. He lost the state championship by one point in 2001.

Harmon earned enough points in this eight-race series to qualify for the regional championship.

He participated with other racers from Washington, Idaho and Oregon in this two-day event called a moto. He did eight to 12 laps, depending on the race track.

He races a Yamaha 1200 GPR and it skis 70 mph. It is a 1200 cc limited, meaning there is no internal work.

In 1990, he started renting jet skis before buying one in 1995. He watched the tour in 1996.

The tour stopped racing in 1997 before starting again in 1998.

Harmon loved to race motorcycles, dirt bikes and radio controlled off-road trucks since he was little.

"I loved it," he said about racing. "I wanted to do it."

However, that did not satisfy him enough.

"It was not a big enough thrill, so that's why I started jet skiing," Harmon said.

Harmon's father, who was in the Army, raced Volkswagens in Germany. Harmon has been living in La Grande for five years.

Jet skiing is expensive. Harmon's ski cost $1,100. He also needs a wet suit, life jacket, helmet, gloves and other items. The entry fee is $100, and Harmon spends a lot of money on fuel.

"It's a little dangerous," Harmon said. "Every once in a while people get hit."

Once a rookie hit Harmon's ski and caused $1,500 in damage. The rookie came around a corner and lost control, hitting the side of Harmon's ski and leaving a big hole.

At the regional championship, Harmon got into a wreck. A skier turned sharply and hit his leg. The next day, the same skier spun out and hit him on the hip and leg, and he got a good bruise. Harmon said the wreck was an accident.

"There are no brakes on the ski," Harmon said. "You don't want to lose control."

Harmon has jet skiing friends from Seattle to Spokane to Portland to Vancouver, British Columbia.

"It's kind of like one big family," Harmon said.

He said everyone is real nice and helps each other out if they can.

Harmon said a lot of people have helped him over the years — Slippery wet suits, Hydroturf traction mats, Anderson Construction, AC Power Sports, Denny's, Eagle Carriage and Machine, Napa Auto Parts, Rock and Sons, Les Schwab, Sirius Satellite Radio, Tomorrow's Communication and Panna Pacific Corp.

Harmon works at Eagle Freightliner and races snowmobiles. He is a promoter for Anthony Lakes snow races. There will be five races next year beginning in January.

He said he will continue to race until the world finals to keep in shape and be ready. He will race in Washington Sept. 13-14, and there are races in Canada.

Harmon's pit crew consists of Wallace, Dusty and Becky Blakely and his wife, Chris, who is the camera crew.

Chris tapes his races so Jason can see where he made mistakes and learn not to make them again.

"There is a lot of rider technique," he said. "You got to feel it. You got to learn it."

He said in a tight corner he needs to square off the corner and get through fast.

For more information, go to jet skinews.com or ijsba.com.

The world finals will be televised on ESPN and on the Speed channel.