There’s more to being safe on the water than wearing an appropriate life jacket. Knowledge and responsibility are just as important. Learn more about how to be a good citizen of water by reading the watersports safety code below.
Watersports Safety Code
Before you get into the water
- Skiing or riding instruction can help reduce risk of injury.
- Know the federal, state and local laws that apply to your area.
- If you are not familiar with a waterway, ask someone who is.
- Wear a properly fitted and rated U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
- Inspect all equipment prior to each use. Do not use if damaged.
Preparing to Ski or Ride
- Always have a person other than the driver as an observer to spot the skier/rider.
- Be sure the driver is aware of the experience and ability level of the skier/rider.
- The driver, observer and skier/rider need to agree on hand signals before skiing or riding.
- Signals should include READY, STOP, SPEED UP, and SLOW DOWN.
- Don't start the engine until making sure no one in the water is near the propeller.
- Turn engine off while people get in or out of the craft, or are in the water near it.
- Always make sure the tow rope is not wrapped around anyone's body.
- Start the watercraft and move slowly to remove slack until the tow rope is tight.
- When the skier/rider signals READY and there is no traffic ahead, take off in a straight line.
- Adjust the speed according to the signals given by the skier/rider.
- A knowledgeable, responsible driver is the most important safety factor.
- Never operate a watercraft, ski or ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Never exceed the passenger or weight limitations of the watercraft.
- Never allow anyone to hang off the craft or sit outside the normal seating area.
- Never allow water to overflow the bow or gunwales of the watercraft.
- Uneven weight distribution may affect the handling of the craft.
- Be sure your rope is suited for skiing/riding and is in good condition.
- Never use a rope that is frayed, knotted, unraveling or discolored from use or being left in the sun. Replace tow ropes with any sign of damage.
- Never use a tow rope with elastic or bungee material to pull skiers or riders.
- Attach rope to the craft in an approved way with hardware designed for towing.
- Keep people and ropes away from the propeller, even when idling. If rope gets tangled in a propeller, shut off engine and remove key before retrieving the rope.
- Tow ropes should be neatly stowed in the boat when not in use.
- Exhaust from a watercraft contains Carbon Monoxide (CO) — a colorless, odorless and poisonous gas. Excessive exposure can cause injury or death.
- Make sure the engine is properly tuned and running well.
- If you smell engine exhaust, move.
- Go to uscgboating.org for more info on how to help protect yourself from CO.