Towing safety tips for ski boats

NSW Maritime is to target waterskiing, aquaplaning and wakeboarding over this New Year weekend, according to General Manager Recreational Boating Brett Moore.

Mr Moore said Operation Tow Safe would see NSW Maritime Boating Safety Officers carrying out an education and compliance campaign statewide.

“Towing activities are especially popular during the peak summer boating season and we want boaters to be aware of the rules and understand how they help safety and reduce accidents on our waterways,” he said.

“NSW Maritime records an average of 26 tow-related incidents each year in this State and all too often it involves a serious injury, like a propeller strike.

“If you are towing it is a legal requirement to have an observer on board assisting the licensed skipper and keeping watch the entire time.”

Mr Moore said most skiing or towing incidents often involve a combination of speed and a collision. 

“Many of these incidents could be avoided if the skipper kept their boat and the person being towed at least 30m clear of other boats, structures or the shore, and 60m clear of swimmers,” he said.

“It is also important for skippers of tow boats to be responsible when it comes to the waves or ‘wash’ their boat generates as it can be a hazard to other vessels and the foreshore.”

The following laws apply to safe towing:

  • The skipper is responsible for the safety of their boat, all on board and the person being towed;
  • The boat and device being towed must be kept at least 30m clear of other boats, the shore and structures;
  • The boat and device being towed must be kept at least 60m clear of swimmers;
  • The tow boat must carry an observer aged 16 years or older / or holding a young adult licence to keep watch over the people being towed;
  • No more than three people can be towed at the same time;
  • Anyone being towed, whether it’s in a tube, on skis or on a wakeboard, should also wear a lifejacket and the towing vessel must be registered and display a Safety Label;
  • The skipper, observer and person being towed must keep under the 0.05 alcohol limit; and
  • The skipper must always keep a proper lookout.

For more details on boating safety, go to