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Vessel operators towing a person(s) on water skis, aquaplanes, kneeboards, inner tubes, or any similar devices must obey these laws also.

PWC towing wakeboarder
If towing a skier with a PWC, the PWC must be rated for at least three people—the operator, the observer, and the retrieved skier.
  • 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. The observer must:
    • Continuously observe the person(s) being towed and …
    • Tell the vessel operator when the person(s) is no longer being towed and …
    • Display a skier down flag whenever a 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. The flag should not be displayed when the person is skiing or is out of the water.
  • Every person being towed behind a vessel on water skis or other devices must wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved personal flotation device (life jacket). Inflatable PFDs and most Type II life jackets are not approved for persons being towed, and are not designed for impact at higher speeds.
  • 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. Reckless operation includes cutting close to another boat, a dock, a person, or the shoreline.
  • 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.
  • If towing a person on water skis or other devices, the vessel must be rated to carry at least the number of persons on board plus those being towed. You may not exceed the vessel’s safe carrying capacity.

Requirements Specific to Paddleboards

The U.S. Coast Guard classifies paddleboards as vessels. When using a paddleboard beyond the narrow limits of a swimming, surfing, or bathing area, certain requirements apply.

  • Paddleboard users must comply with recreational boating laws and rules.
  • Paddleboards must have:
    • A life jacket for each person on board
    • A sound-producing device such as a whistle
    • Navigation lights when used between sunset and sunrise—this may be a flashlight or headlamp with a white light
    • Visual distress signals when used on coastal waters