Centre for Maritime Safety


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Tow safe

Here you can learn the “do’s and don’ts” of tow sports to help make sure you enjoy a great day out on the water.

For many people, boating is a social activity and that is particularly the case with tow sports such as water skiing and wakeboarding. These activities typically involve families and or friends getting together to enjoy the thrill of being towed on skis, boards or tubes.

A great day on the water however is a safe day and every skipper has a responsibility for the safety of their vessel and all those onboard – or those being towed. The best way to maximise the enjoyment of a day out on the water is to take time to plan and prepare, and of course, to observe the rules for safe navigation once you are out on the water.

Check the waterway

You should always inspect the waterway before you start towing. Make sure you check for debris, sand banks, hidden shallows and moorings. A collision can seriously injure the person being towed and damage your boat.

You should be aware that waterways are constantly changing. Make sure you know the tides, river flows and changing water levels.

Ask yourself:

  • Has it rained lately?
  • Have the water levels changed?
  • How will the waterway respond to the weather?

Keep your distance

It’s important you stay a safe distance from people, boats and the shore.

Distances off

No matter what speed you’re towing at, always make sure you keep the boat and the person being towed at the required distance:

  • 30 metres from powered craft and the shore
  • 60m from non-powered craft like kayaks and sailing boats
  • 60m clear of swimmers
  • 300m clear of bridges, cables, wires, pipelines or structures if you’re towing aerial equipment like paraflying.
  • You must make sure the people being towed are at least 7m from the boat.
  • You only allowed to tow up to 3 people at once

No towing areas

In some areas tow sports may be prohibited and signs may be displayed. In other areas, you may not be able to maintain a safe distance from hazards and so tow sports may not be possible.

You are not permitted to tow or ride a PWC in general between sunset and sunrise.

Taking it easy

For everyone’s safety and enjoyment on the water, try to make sure you take it easy.

  • Avoid towing where people are swimming or fishing
  • Watch your wash, especially near fragile banks or where there are people on the shoreline.
  • Only use power turns in an emergency.
  • Keep your engine and onboard noise down. Sound can travel a long way and disturb other people and wildlife.
  • Take your rubbish back to shore and dispose of it properly.
  • Don’t cut blind corners. Give other craft plenty of room to manoeuvre.
  • Steer your boat or PWC on smooth steady lines that other waterway users can read easily.
  • Take extra care early and late in the day when the sun can be blinding.
  • Don’t overload your boat or PWC. The safety label shows you how many people you are permitted to carry.
  • Know the system of the navigation markers that are there to guide you safely through the waterway.
  • As for drinking alcohol, the .05 limit applies. So save your drinking for the end of the day.


Getting ready




Taking it easy


Driver and observer




Keep your distance