Chapter 4: The Legal Requirements of Boating
Requirements Specific to Personal Watercraft (PWCs)
In addition to adhering to all boating laws, PWC operators have requirements specific to their vessel.
As an owner of a PWC, you are legally responsible if you allow your PWC to be operated by others in a way that violates South Dakota law.
- Every person on board a PWC must wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved Type I, II, III, or V personal flotation device (PFD).
- If the PWC is equipped with a lanyard-type ignition safety switch, the lanyard must be attached to the person, clothing, or PFD of the operator at all times while the PWC is being operated.
- A PWC may not be operated between one-half hour after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise unless the personal watercraft is equipped with the required navigation lights.
- No one under the age of 14 may operate a personal watercraft unless there is a person 18 years of age or older on board the PWC. An exception to this law may be made in the case of an emergency.
- It is illegal to operate a PWC at greater than “slow, no wake speed” within 150 feet of:
- A dock
- A swimmer
- A swimming raft
- A non-motorized boat
- PWCs must be operated in a responsible manner at all times. Maneuvers that endanger people or property are prohibited, including:
- Weaving a PWC through congested waterway traffic
- Jumping the wake of another vessel unreasonably close to the other vessel or when visibility around the other vessel is obstructed
- Waiting until the last possible moment to swerve and avoid collision
- It is illegal to chase, harass, or disturb wildlife with a PWC.
- It is illegal to operate a PWC through emergent floating vegetation at greater than “slow, no wake speed.”
Be Part of the Action!
Learn more about operating a PWC with this interactive animation
Towing a Person With
a Vessel Legally
Vessel operators towing a person(s) on water skis, a surfboard, or other devices must obey these laws.
- A person may not be towed on water skis, a surfboard, or other devices between one-half hour after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise.
- When a vessel is towing a person on water skis, a surfboard, or other devices, there must be a means to observe the person being towed. The vessel must have either:
- A competent person on board, in addition to the operator, to act as an observer or...
- A wide-angle (at least 160 degrees) rearview mirror positioned so that the operator can view the towed person.
- Those towing skiers on water skis, a surfboard, or other devices and those being towed must act in a safe and prudent manner. It is illegal to operate the vessel or manipulate the towing rope, water skis, or other devices such that the towed device or person collides with any other person or object.
- If towing a skier with a PWC, the PWC should be rated for at least three people—the operator, the observer, and the person being towed.
- Water-skiing is prohibited in harbors or near swimming areas, docks, landings, piers, anchorages, anchored vessels, and fishing boats.