Centre for Maritime Safety


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Being towed

Whether you’re wakeboarding, waterskiing or tubing, there are a number of rules that you need to know about.

If you’re the person being towed, you must do the following:

  • Wear a lifejacket
  • Be at least 7m behind the boat
  • Keep the minimum distances-off
  • Return to shore safely
  • Not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.


Tubing can be a lot of fun, but there are few things you need to keep in mind.

  • As a tube rider, you have little or no control over your direction. You cannot steer from side to side
  • If you’re the observer or driver, you need to make sure the riders are safe from any hazards above or below the water
  • When you’re towing tube riders aim for a slower speed. If you travel too fast the tube will slide or whip out when you turn and may collide with banks, trees or other hazards
  • Make sure you choose waterways with plenty of room and not too much boating traffic.
  • Some tubes are designed to carry two or three people. When you have more than one person on a tube there is a risk of banging heads, so protective headgear is a good idea
  • Remember, you cannot tow more than three people at any time.

Communication and hand signals

If you’re involved in tow sports, you should know the basic hand signals:

Towed person down - observer signal


The observer holds one arm straight up to tell other vessels that a skier, wakeboarder or tuber has fallen off and is in the water.

When you see this signal, keep a lookout for the person in the water.

Towed person down - OK signal


The towed person clasps both hands together above their head to show they are ok after a fall.

If the observer doesn’t see this signal, they should tell the driver straight away so they can return to check on the towed person as quickly as possible.

Return to shore - towed person signal


The person being towed pats their head if they want to return to shore.

Turning the boat around


The driver or observer does a helicopter motion above the head to tell people the boat is turning round.

Change speed - towed person signal


Thumbs up or thumbs down signals are for going faster or slower.

Cut motor - towed person, observer or driver signal


A hand across the throat means stop the boat immediately.


For more information on towing visit our FAQs.