Local man makes waves on jet ski circuit

Special Photo: McDonough resident, Michael Ratti, does a flat-water back flip on his standup jet ski in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Special Photo: McDonough resident, Michael Ratti, does a flat-water back flip on his standup jet ski in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

McDonough resident, Michael Ratti, regales friends with stories of his experiences riding all-terrain vehicles across sand dunes along the Arabian Peninsula, where he encounters trains of camels roaming the desert.

“It’s definitely been a long adventure,” said Ratti, who works as a stunt and acrobatics jet ski instructor in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Ratti recently returned from the Persian Gulf — a 17-hour flight — to visit friends and family who live in the Southern Crescent area.

In Dubai, he hits the shallow waters of the gulf, five days a week, to help instruct the novice riders in the Arab country on the controlled use of jet skis. On other days, he enjoys long trips through the desert on all-terrain vehicles.

“I was always interested in action sports,” Ratti said. “I was introduced to water sports at a very young age.”

The 24-year-old professional jet skier said he is living a dream that began in childhood, watching his father participate in watercraft sports. His mother, Cathy D. Ratti, a region (13) director for the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services, said she only gets in the water “on a float.”

Ratti said his father, Peter Ratti, grew up on the beach in Bradley Beach, N. J.

“He had always been a surfer — in and around the water a lot,” said Ratti, who himself grew up in a land-locked suburb of Atlanta.

It is a short drive, however, to Jackson Lake in Butts County, where the watercraft enthusiast took his father’s past-time to the next level.

“I instantly fell in love with riding [jet skis],” said Ratti, who began entering races and freestyle competitions professionally a few years ago.

Ratti said he has been riding standup jet skis for about 10 years, but has collected some top-place finishes in regional and national competitions in that time, including a U.S. National Title for Amateur Freestyle in 2007, and a U.S. National Title for Pro Freestyle in 2008. He is sponsored by Team X Scream, Inc., based in Tampa, Fla.

“As part of my future plans, I would love to hold a Supercross-style jet ski event in Henry County that would thrill the community,” said Ratti.

For now, the Henry County native advocates for watercraft sports wherever he can gain an audience. Ratti produces his own jet ski magazine, called Pro Rider Watercraft Magazine. He published his first issue this fall.

Since that first issue in September, the professional jet skier and his staff have produced three online issues — two of which have appeared in print editions. He said the magazine distributes about 4,000 copies through subscriptions and jet ski dealers around the world, including in countries such as Australia and Great Britain.

Ratti’s publishing experience stems from his education locally. After graduating from Union Grove High School in McDonough in 2005, he earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Clayton State University, in Morrow.

The young publisher won an internship with H Magazine in Henry County, which he later parlayed into a managing position at the magazine.

“Michael started with me as an intern when he was at Clayton State,” said Lisa Kinchen, owner of H Magazine. “Once he graduated, he became my managing editor. I encouraged him to start his own magazine, because I could see that in his own industry, there were no publications [for jet skiing].”

Kinchen acknowledged that her protégé was cautious about embarking on creating his own magazine. “But the longer he was with ‘H,’ the more he learned, and his confidence grew,” Kinchen said. “He’s young and smart. He’s a great businessman, a great person, and a great athlete. We miss him, but I’m very proud of Michael.

“It’s a beautiful publication,” she continued. “I know his magazine will continue to be successful. His success, absolutely is my success.”

Ratti said he is now more optimistic about expanding the reach of his magazine. “I would like to use the magazine, not only as a vehicle for personal success with my jet-skiing career as a competitor,” said Ratti. “But I would like to become a factor in the jet-skiing industry itself, and push it to the level that you see with some other extreme sports.

“That’s another goal of Dubai,” he added, “to have a versatile water-sport industry.”

Ratti is helping train several Dubai citizens to become efficient watercraft operators. He said some of the novice jet skiers are students at the Critical National Infrastructure Authority (CNIA), a naval college in nearby Abu Dhabi.

The college, he explained, is similar to the Coast Guard branch of the U.S. military in UAE. The CNIA, established in 2007, is the government authority tasked with handling the protection and security of Abu Dhabi’s vital assets and infrastructure, while promoting economic stability.

Ratti, who was contracted as an instructor by Showtime Entertainment Productions and RedFilo, said his students are starting to learn basic, free-style tricks.

“The riders that we were sent to train, almost all of them had never seen a jet ski before, and maybe half of them couldn’t even swim,” said Ratti. “Now, they are performing advanced maneuvers.”

Ratti said his job is to prepare his students to help the CNIA with its plans to integrate the jet ski into service for the Arab nation. The water craft would be used for patrols. Until that happens, he said, the team of jet skiers will be acting as a acrobatics display team, similar to the storied Blue Angels of the U.S. Navy.

“We train the riders as if we’re going to be competing; some of these riders will be competitors who will represent Dubai,” he added. “Already, within two months into the training program, there has been a drastic change in them — in their physical conditioning and motivation.”

On the net:

Pro Rider Watercraft Magazine: www.proridermag.com.