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Requirements for Towing Water Sports

Vessel operators towing a person(s) on water skis, aquaplanes, kneeboards, inner tubes, or similar devices have additional laws they must follow.

Every vessel towing a person(s) on water skis or other devices must have on board, in addition to the operator, a person capable of observing the person(s) being towed and reporting their progress to the operator.

When Towing Water Sports


The observer must observe the person(s) under tow continuously and display a skier-down flag whenever the person is in the water after falling or while preparing to ski. The flag must be displayed so that it is visible from all directions.

Life Jackets

Every person being towed behind a vessel on water skis or other devices must wear a USCG–approved wearable PFD (life jacket). Inflatable PFDs and most Type II wearable PFDs are not approved for persons being towed.

Safe Conduct

Everyone engaged in water-skiing—the operator, the observer, and the towed person(s)— must conduct themselves in a safe manner that does not endanger other persons or property.

Daytime Only

It is illegal for vessels to tow a person(s) on water skis or any other device during the period from one hour after sunset until one hour before sunrise.

Vessel Rating

If towing a person on water skis or other devices, remember to include them in your vessel’s load capacity. Law enforcement can require you to return to shore or mooring if you exceed the vessel’s safe carrying capacity.

Hand Signals for Skiers

Knowing proper hand signals will help the skier(s) communicate with their boat operator or the observer.

Skier OK

Hand Signal – Skier OK


Hand Signal – Stop

Skier Down, Watch!

Hand Signal – Skier Down

Hand Signal - slow down

Hand Signal – Slow Down

Hand Signal - speed OK

Hand Signal – Speed OK

Hand Signal - speed up

Hand Signal – Speed Up

Hand Signal - turn left

Hand Signal – Turn Left

Hand Signal - turn right

Hand Signal – Turn Right