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Water Skiing

Being pulled through the water on skis or other towed device can be a lot of fun, as long as everyone knows how to stay safe. Even if you never plan to pull a skier behind your boat, you need to know the rules for safe operation around other boats pulling skiers. Accidents involving skiers consistently rank in the top five types of boating accidents as measured by the total number of boats involved.

General Rules for Pulling a Skier

  • Only pull a skier during the daylight hours specified by the state (see Chapter 7).
  • If the weather or visibility deteriorates, stop skiing.
  • If you are operating the boat, most states require you to have at least one other responsible person on board to spot the skier and to pass the skier's signals on to you. A few states only require a rearview mirror. Check your state for specific rules and the minimum age required for the spotter (see Chapter 7). Tell your skier to hold up one ski after falling to increase his visibility.
  • To keep your skier safe, you must keep a safe distance between you and any other boat and any other object or person in the water. See Chapter 7 for the specific distances for your state.
  • If you are towing more than one skier at a time, use tow lines that are the same length for both skiers.
  • The skier must wear a PFD.
  • Do not ski in congested areas.

How to Pull a Skier

Once the skier is in position behind the boat and signals that he is ready, follow these steps:

  1. Check the area around and in front of the boat to be sure everything is clear.
  2. Slowly move the boat forward to remove the slack in the tow rope.
  3. Check again that the skier is ready.
  4. Take off in a straight line at a slow to moderate speed and then increase your speed.
  5. Your spotter will watch the skier's hand signals and tell you if he wants to go faster or slower or in a different direction. She will also tell you when the skier falls.
  6. When the skier falls, immediately slow down and circle back to the skier.

Wake boarders and tubers love playing in the boat's wake. As the driver of the boat, you are responsible for their safety, so be aware of the pendulum effect. You can swing a skier or wake boarder or someone tubing way outside the boat by driving at high speeds and turning at sharp angles. Make sure you leave plenty of room between where your skier, wake boarder, or tuber will be in relation to the shore, other boats, swimmers, and objects in the water.

Hand Signals

If you and your skier understand the following hand signals, it will be easier to let each other know what you need:

Slow Down Speed Up
Turn Left.
Hand points left.
Turn Right.
Hand points right.
Turn the boat.
Circle your hand over your head and then point in the direction you want to go
OK, I understand.
OK signal with your hand
Cut the motor (stop the boat).
Slashing motion in front of the neck
Return to the dock.
Pat your hand on your head
I've fallen and I'm OK.
Hands clasped over head

When You Are Passing a Boat Pulling a Skier

When you see someone skiing behind a boat, you need to give them as much space as possible in case the skier falls. Stay at least 100 feet away from either side of their boat.


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