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Vessel operators towing a person(s) on water skis, a surfboard, or any other device must obey these laws.

  • It is illegal for vessels to tow persons on water skis, a surfboard, or any other device between sunset and sunrise or during inclement weather.
  • The towing vessel must be able to observe the towed person(s). The towing vessel must have either:
    • A person at least 12 years old, in addition to the boat operator, on board observing the towed person(s) or…
    • The required number of wide-angle (170-degree field of vision) rearview mirror(s).
      • If the towing vessel is a PWC, the PWC must be equipped with two wide-angle rearview mirrors.
      • If the towing vessel is a boat (other than a PWC), the boat must be equipped with at least one wide-angle rearview mirror.
  • All persons being towed behind a vessel on water skis or any other device must wear an adequate and effective life preserver, buoyant vest, or life belt. If the device worn by the skier is not USCG–approved, an approved wearable PFD must be on board the towing vessel.
  • The operator of the towing vessel and the skier must not operate in a manner that endangers the safety of persons or property. A safe speed and distance from other vessels, persons in the water, docks, piers, and shorelines must be maintained.

Requirements for Paddleboards and Other Paddlecraft

The use of paddleboards on lakes and rivers is growing in popularity. The USCG classifies paddleboards as vessels.

All navigation laws apply to paddlecraft.

Paddleboard users must comply with recreational boating laws and rules.

The minimum requirements are:

  • A wearable PFD for each person on board
  • A sound-producing device such as a whistle
  • A white navigation light ready at hand, which must be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent collision
  • VDSs when used on federally controlled waters (not required in Tennessee)