Chapter 4: The Legal Requirements of Boating
Requirements Specific to Personal Watercraft (PWCs)
In addition to adhering to all boating laws, personal watercraft
(PWC) operators have requirements specific to their vessel.
Every person riding on or being towed behind a PWC must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (life jacket).
The operator of a PWC must be at least 14 years of age.
PWCs must be operated in a careful and responsible manner. It
is considered reckless operation if a PWC operator commits two
or more of the following acts simultaneously:
It is illegal to operate a PWC between sunset and sunrise or
during periods of restricted visibility unless the PWC is equipped
with the required navigation lights.
The operator of a PWC equipped with a lanyard-type ignition safety switch
must attach the lanyard to his or her person, clothing, or PFD when operating
at more than 5 miles per hour.
Towing a Person With a Vessel
Vessel operators towing a person(s) on water skis, a surfboard,
or any other device must obey these laws also.
- A person operating a vessel that is towing a person on water
skis, a surfboard, or any other device must be:
- At least 16 years of age or …
- At least 14 years of age and have on
board a person at least 18 years of age in a position to
supervise the operator.
- All persons being towed behind a vessel on water skis, a surfboard,
or other device must wear a USCG-approved
personal flotation device (life jacket).
- Every vessel towing a person(s) on water skis, a surfboard,
or other device must have on board, in addition to the vessel
operator, an observer who is:
- At least 14 years of age or …
- At least 12 years of age and another
passenger who is at least 18 years of age to supervise the observer.
- The observer must display an orange skier
down flag whenever the towed person(s) is in the
water preparing to be towed or waiting to be picked up by the
towing vessel. The flag must be 12 x 12 inches in size.
- It is illegal for vessels to tow persons on water skis, a
surfboard, or any other device between sunset and sunrise.
- If towing a person on water skis or other device, the vessel
must be rated to carry everyone in the boat plus everyone being towed.
- Some waters may have local regulations which limit or prohibit
water-skiing. Be sure to check local regulations before you go