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PWC towing a wakeboarder

Vessel operators towing a person(s) on water skis, aquaplanes, surfboards, inner tubes, or any similar devices have specific equipment and observer requirements.

  • All persons being towed behind a vessel on water skis or any other device must wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD. Ski belts are not approved PFDs.
  • In addition to the operator, a competent observer must be in the vessel in a position to observe the progress of the person being towed (on a PWC, this means the observer must be seated facing toward the towed person). A competent observer is a person who knows and understands the water-skiing hand signals and can relay these signals to the operator.
  • If towing a person behind a personal watercraft, the PWC must be rated for at least three people—the driver, the observer, and the retrieved skier.
  • Persons may be towed behind a vessel on water skis or any other device only during daylight hours (sunrise to sunset).
  • The length of the tow line must not exceed 75 feet.