PWC Muscle Reviews the Explorer Pro: A Sea-Doo Adventure to St. Augustine

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This adventure starts with an email: an exclusive invitation for an extended ride hosted by BRP Sea-Doo on their brand new machine, the Explorer Pro. I’m told my group will be 3 other riders from various media, taking on the same trek. The mission, should we choose to accept, is traveling roughly 150 miles from the Florida/Georgia border at Fernandina Beach, down to St. Augustine, spend the night in the historic city, then head back in the morning. With that much riding, it would be ample time to get to know the Explorer Pro.

I eagerly accepted, and before I knew it, the date came to begin my 4 hour car ride across the state of Florida, from my home base of Tampa, to our starting point in Fernandina Beach. While the calendar tells me it is a Monday, it’s hard to think of it as anything but the start of a weekend. I arrive to meet our hosts, members of the Sea-Doo staff, and fellow riders. This evening we will receive a dinner brief on the Explorer Pro over regional food. The watercraft is their latest foray into yet another niche market segment, the adventure rider, and this journey is set to illustrate the key features on the new Sea-Doo.


The first thing you notice about the Explorer Pro is rather jarring and completely unique for a PWC…the wind screen. It instantly reminds you of a snowmobile, and looks out of place. The reason it looks strange is simple; we’ve never seen it before. BRP’s goal for the next two days will be getting us to move past this initial shock, and learn the ins and outs of this new model. With enough to digest this evening, both in our minds and stomachs, we retire for the night, anxiously resting in wait for our morning.

On-water adventures are always best embarked at sunrise. With gas tanks topped and coolers filled, the 6 of us launch from Fernandina Beach. From here we set off to get to know our Explorer Pros, and enjoy some scenic and leisurely riding.


Our first stop is a little out of the way, but we are told it’s a worthy sight. We head just north, right to the mouth of the St. Mary’s River. On the north bank, we beach on an island on the Georgia side where we see wild horses running free. Even though they are in the distance, the hoof prints in the sand paint a picture for our imaginations of them freely galloping through the surf. Crossing the river and heading toward the bank of the Florida side, we idle past Fort Clinch, a fort from the 1800s. Right when we settle, we hear a loud siren sounding just to our east, from the Atlantic. We look to see an escort of Navy ships and helicopters bringing home one of their nuclear submarines. Giving it a plenty wide berth, we watch in awe as it glides by on the surface and disappears down the St. Mary’s River. This trip is already proving memorable!


We leave to head down the Amelia River, and pass by the cute and quaint little Florida town that played host the night before. With us all riding in a group, I can start to appreciate just how much gear we are bringing with us. We were instructed to bring soft-sided luggage for our overnight stays, and we each stored all of our bags in the front storage compartment of our respective PWCs. The Explorer Pros are additionally loaded with a combination of gas cans, dry bags, and coolers on the large transom platforms. BRP has packed us a full lunch, plenty of drinks, and gas to make a real adventure out of our ride.

And the ride is beautiful. With the Florida sun beaming across the water and relatively mild 80 degree weather, it’s the perfect riding day. Cruising down the river, at this segment, we are spoiled by unsoiled lands, where the salt marshes part to create curving and twisting lanes that beg us to play. The hull of the Explorer Pro is based on the GTX, with the ST3 hull, which makes it nimble enough to be able to handle well, while also being stable enough to give you confidence. Although the prospect of racing through those salt marsh tracks is quite attractive, I stay focused on keeping with the group heading south. We ride for a couple hours along these scenic banks, observing a multitude of bird species, dolphins, and good weather.


As the Amelia River comes to an end at the Atlantic, we are greeted by the Fort George Inlet, and we venture through. The seas aren’t particularly calm, and the inlet gives rise to 6-8 ft waves. Normally this is where I would grab a handful of throttle and see what the ski is capable of, but with this much gear on board I’m hesitant. We proceed at a slower pace along each wave’s crest, up and down, up and down. I become bored of this quickly and can’t help but encourage the hull to accelerate to speeds that have it leaving the water….and it doesn’t require much encouragement. The 170hp engine is more than enough to get plenty of air. Impressively, all the gear stays secure with its Linq attachment points. The windscreen does deflect most of the smaller water spray, yet I more than welcome the cooling waters that are allowed to come over top from the harder wave jumping. Once past the inlet, the waves calm and we do a short run on the “outside”, riding in the Atlantic Ocean.


There is only a moment for enjoying open water before taking a hard right and entering the mouth of the St. John’s River. We progress into the inlet and beach our Sea-Doos along the north side, at the Huguenot Memorial Park, adjacent to the Mayport Navy Base. With Blackhawk helicopters rhythmically circling above, it’s hard to forget this is a strategic area for the Navy. At the park we unload our coolers and head to a pavilion. Here we communally prepare and enjoy a surprisingly elaborate taco lunch, and discuss the trip thus far. Before long, we all clean up and pack the skis to continue on our expedition.

Picking up where we left off, we head south from the St. John’s River and into the Intercoastal Waterway. At this point, the ICW straightens out for miles, and it’s time to cruise. With what can best be described as wetlands to our right, and multi-million dollar homes on the left, this stretch of about 13 miles really allows you to relax and just “be”, rather than “do”.


The tranquility from the surroundings allows my mind to wonder, and yet I start to remember the reason I’m here: to critique the Explorer Pro. At this point, several hours in, the benefits from the windscreen start to make sense. Distance riding can be exhausting, and a lot of the fatigue comes from the wind in your face. Wind noise, wind burn, wind resistance…all these play a part in wearing down a rider. With the windscreen, the noise and wind burn are greatly reduced when riding. Moreover, in an armada of Explorer Pros, it even starts to look proper. Outside of possibly not applying enough sunscreen, I feel great. Even my legs and torso have benefitted from the ski being equipped with a slightly more cushioned seat.

And while I am quite comfortable, the skies start to look less and less comforting. Storms begin to threaten from the west, and the winds pick up. For several miles, we push into choppy waters. The Explorer Pro takes it in stride, and I find an agreeable pace around 35 mph, bridging the tops of the waves and balancing between speed and harshness. Luckily, it isn’t long before we approach the north bridge into St. Augustine, and just in time to beat the storms as they pass behind us, allowing the skies to clear. At last, we have our destination in sight: the fort of St. Augustine!


Properly named Castillo de San Marcos, this well-preserved fort stands as a monument to the Spanish empire’s three hundred year occupation of Florida. It is the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States, completed over three hundred years ago. We idle past the seawall of the imposing fort, and pause as we gaze in wonder. Just to the other side is our destination, the docks of the Marker 8 Hotel & Marina, situated next to the famous Bridge of Lions. We tie up and secure the Sea-Doos for the night, then head inside to our rooms for a chance to freshen up before dinner.


A quick shower, quicker nap, and into the Historic District of St. Augustine we head for some local cuisine. After a great meal and a digestif or two, we spend some time strolling along the cobblestone streets, taking in the ambiance. Famed as the oldest city in America, and home to Ponce de Leon’s fabled Fountain of Youth, St. Augustine is as charming as it is extraordinary. It is full of spectacles, with a rich history, art galleries, and enough tourist traps to keep you busy for weeks. All too soon, we head back to our rooms. I sit on my porch, which overlooks the Sea-Doos gently bobbing at the docks, and take down a few notes before retiring for the night. Despite the day’s excitement, it doesn’t take much convincing to fall deep asleep following our full day of riding and exploring.


Breakfast at 7:30 AM comes quickly, and we are back on the water again by 8:30. Although we did come prepared with extra gas cans, none of us had to tap into the reserves. We top off our tanks at the local marina, and the group is ready to proceed North. I hang back for one last chance to admire the old fort before blasting off for our 75 mile return trip.


If day one riding was whimsical, day two took on a more driven pace. The winds were calm, and the water flat. We upped our speed and pushed the skis a bit more this time. Despite little more than half the might of its 300 horsepower big brother, the 170 horsepower engine found in the Explorer Pro still easily thrusts it on plane, and quickly to a top speed in the mid/high 50s. And with the windscreen up, sustaining the higher limits of this Sea-Doo is effortless.

Cruising back, I contemplate a choice…continue exclusively enjoying the surroundings, or put on some music to set the mood. While getting lost in one’s own thoughts has its merits, the best-in-class sound system by Sea-Doo fills in the gaps to prevent boredom. I soon discover another major advantage to the windscreen. By blocking the wind noise, even at higher speeds, the music stays crystal clear. These are the same speakers introduced on the 2018 SeaDoo GTX, and they make up the most powerful and clear sound system available from the dealer.


This part of the voyage also affords me time to examine some of the other technological features on the Explorer Pro. The same Garmin Fish Finder/Nav system found on the Fish Pro has been added to this ski. With full charting capabilities, the intricacies are far more than I can teach myself while riding at 40mph on our trip back. However, I’m told that beyond the usual system, there will be additional bluetooth apps that allow you to share your location with friends, plot or save trips, and much more. For these details, you’ll need to consult the dealer.

Instead of again heading out to the Atlantic, we stay on the inside, and pass by another Naval yard. This time, as we are passing Fanning Island, we see one of the Navy ships out of the water for maintenance. It isn’t often you get to look at one of these vessels on the hard, and several areas are concealed from our view. One can only fantasize about what classified technologies are obscured from public eyes.


We cruise for about an hour or so, before we encounter a bridge that we passed before, but this time the current is absolutely ripping through at a staggering rate. The way the river bottlenecks forces massive volumes of water under the narrow passage. Despite the “No Wake” warning signs, the current is so strong that it can’t be overcome without nearly coming onto plane! While it is fun to surf it for a moment, we eventually throttle up to pass through, and I can’t help but be reminded how truly powerful the force of water can be.

It seems like only a bend or two later and we are passing by our sleepy little town from two nights before, with its tiny marina and colorful houses. Just beyond, we meet with the rest of the BRP staff at the boat ramp to load the Explorer Pros onto the quad trailer. With each Sea-Doo that is navigated onto its bunk, it sets in a bit more that our adventure has come to an end. As the last to load, I take one more rotation to survey the surroundings and cement in the experience.


With the conclusion of the ride come our parting thoughts: the Explorer Pro is pretty neat. BRP did a good job compiling a ride to showcase its potential, making it easy to dream about the possible expeditions you can undertake with this Sea-Doo. It is comfortable, yet playful. Fuel efficient, yet strong. And by bundling reliability, technology and more than ample storage, they have created the perfect adventure craft. BRP has done it again, and introduced a new model to a brand new segment; the Sea-Doo Explorer Pro is sure to make waves in the industry.
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