Water skiing and towing

Find out about water skiing, parasailing, and towing inflatables or boards in Western Australia. Here you can find out about your responsibilities, safety, reporting incidents and location of water ski areas.

28/08/2016: The Department of Parks and Wildlife advises that access to the boat launch area at Potters Gorge on Wellington Dam is still temporarily closed until September 2016. The camp ground, picnic area, toilets and dam access for other activities, other then boating, is now open.

  Introduction and definition of water skiing

Water skiing involves towing people behind a boat at a speed of more than 8 knots on:

  • Skis.
  • Bare feet.
  • Inflatable toys.
  • Boards.
  • Parasailing.

All kinds of boats are used for water skiing, mainly dinghies, ski boats and personal watercraft (jet skis).

All rules and regulations that apply to power boats also apply to boats that are towing skiers. The prevention of collision rules still apply in ski areas, this means a ski boat has no priority over a boat that is passing through the area.

Please refer to signs before skiing as they will tell you important information such as times when skiing is permitted and if/where the take-off and landing areas are located.

  Wellington Dam: Potters Gorge temporarily closed until September 2016

28/08/2016: The Department of Parks and Wildlife advises that access to the boat launch area at Potters Gorge on Wellington Dam is still temporarily closed until September 2016. The camp ground, picnic area, toilets and dam access for other activities, other then boating, is now open.

For further information on accessing Wellington Dam please contact the Department of Parks and Wildlife on (08) 9735 1988 or visit the following links.

External Link Department of Parks and Wildlife: Parks for People Caravan and Camping initiative
External Link Department of Parks and Wildlife: Potters Gorge
External Link Department of Parks and Wildlife: Potters Gorge (Camp Finder)

When open for water skiing and towing

The Department of Transport has carried out a comprehensive review of the skiing area, including two hydrographic surveys and a study of dam water levels to determine the best location for user safety.

Skippers should note that the majority of the dam remains closed to motorised vessels and there is a 200 metre exclusion zone to all vessels from the dam wall. In addition, a five-knot speed limit applies from the launching ramp and for waters around the ski area north of the southern boundary.

Freestyle driving of personal water craft, also called jet skis, is prohibited on all waters of Wellington Dam.

Please note that Department of Transport marine compliance officers patrol the area.

MAC_G_Boating_WellingtonDam.pdf icon Wellington Dam boating guide Kb
MAC-M-WellingtonDamSkiArea.pdf icon Wellington Dam water ski area guide Kb

  Water ski areas and permitted times

Gazetted areas and permitted skiing times

You can only ski in a gazetted ski area and only between times allowed for that area. Ski areas are marked by signs on the foreshore and at each public boat ramp adjacent to the ski area.

As of October 1 2013 new speed restrictions and other changes have been introduced at increasingly busy parts of the Swan Canning Riverpark to improve safety for al water users.

New restrictions have been introduced for crabbers in the Canning River. The restrictions have been developed to minimise any inconvenience between skiers, rowers and crabbers.

Ski boundaries and direction of skiing

Ski area boundaries may be marked in the water by buoys but the signs will show you the extent of the area you must remain within. The signs also provide information on the direction (clockwise or anti-clockwise) you must follow.


Before planning a trip to inland lakes and dams, make sure the skipper checks with the local authority that the dam/lake has not been closed for skiing due to depth or condition.

Inland water ski dams and lakes status - August 2016

Location Current status regarding water skiing
Glen Mervyn Dam Open
Lake Poorrarecup Open
Logue Brook Dam Open
Waroona Dam Open
Wellington Dam Access to the boat launch area at Potters Gorge on Wellington Dam is temporarily closed until September 2016

Ski areas

Please download the following maps.

MAC-M-BelmontWaterSkiArea.pdf icon Belmont water ski area Kb
MAC_G_Boating_CanningCrabbingRestrict.pdf icon Canning River crabbing restrictions (Information sheet) Kb
MAC-M-WaterSki_InlandWaterDamsLakes6.pdf icon Inland water ski dams and lakes Kb
MAC-M-LowerSwanWaterSkiArea.pdf icon Lower Swan water ski area Kb
MAC-M-MtPleasantRowingCourse.pdf icon Mount Pleasant rowing course Kb
MAC-M-MtPleasantWaterSkiArea.pdf icon Mount Pleasant water ski area Kb
MAC-M-NarrowsPWCArea.pdf icon Narrows personal water craft Kb
MAC_P__ski_safe.pdf icon Safety guidelines: Ski safe water ski craft safety Kb
MAC_G_Boating_SwanCanningRiver.pdf icon Swan Canning Riverpark: Boating guide Kb
MAC-M-WellingtonDamSkiArea.pdf icon Wellington Dam water ski area guide Kb

  Know your responsibilities

The owner/driver (skipper) of the boat is responsible for the safety of others and has a general safety obligation to:

  • Make sure the boat is safe and is capable of towing skiers.
  • Take all the right safety equipment for the skiers and passengers.
  • Operate the boat as safely as possible and check the area is safe for skiing by noting the depth of water, width to make turns safely and any hazards.
  • Review the water skiing hand signals and plan where you will go once the skier is behind the boat.
  • Discuss how you intend to pick up a downed skier and give instruction on how to re-board properly.
  • Don't ever leave the motor running while a skier is attempting to re-board and never use the engine or propeller as a step.

Rules for boat crew

To go skiing there must be a minimum crew of two in the ski boat:

  • The skipper: the skipper faces forward to maintain a proper lookout and concentrate on the boat's course within the ski area.
  • At least one observer: the observer faces towards the skier at all times and communicates to the skipper.

The skipper

To be the driver of a boat engaged in water skiing you:

To find out more about the responsibility of the skipper refer to You're the skipper.

The observer

To be an observer you:

  • Must be at least 14 years of age.
  • Have the prime responsibility of observing the towed people and reporting matters affecting them to the skipper.
  • Alert the skipper about other vessels approaching from behind.
  • Should be familiar with the standard hand signals.

Rules for skiers

The skier can be of any age however it is recommended that they wear an approved Type 2 or 3 (50s or higher) lifejacket while skiing.

  Required distances and right of way

Distance behind a skier

You must not drive any closer than 45 metres directly behind a skier or any other boat.

Distance from shore

Stay at least 45 metres (or as gazetted) from the shore except when landing or taking off in a gazetted take-off and landing area.

Right of way when landing a water skier

The skipper of a boat about to take-off a skier shall give way to a ski boat coming in to land a water skier.

  Towing skiers

Towing trick skiers

The skipper must drive a speed boat towing a skier/s engaged in the exercise of trick skiing so as not to approach within 90 metres of any landing or take-off areas.

Towing skiers near landing or take-off areas

You must not drive a power boat towing water skiers within 30 metres of the shore or any landing or take-off area, except for when you are landing or taking off water skiers.

  Ski lines and ropes

Ski ropes

The skipper shall not permit a ski rope to trail within 30 metres of the shore of any area set aside for water skiing, unless the rope handles are held by a skier.

Ski line to be retrieved

After landing a water skier, the skipper shall continue to a distance of not less than 60 metres from the point of dropping the skier, where he shall stop and have the ski line retrieved. If coming to shore, he shall then drive the boat at a speed not exceeding 8 knots and in a manner so as not to interfere with or obstruct any other boats towing a water skier.

  • Skipper of a power boat shall not to approach shore where skier has landed.
  • The skipper of a speed boat landing a water skier shall not approach within 25 metres of the shore where the skier is to landed.
  • Sitting on gunwale or back of driver's seat is prohibited.
  • The skipper shall not sit on the gunwale or on the back of the driving seat while driving a speed boat.
  • Water skis are to be retrieved immediately.
  • The water skier shall, immediately upon losing or intentionally discarding a ski, ensure the ski is retrieved.


Waiting to take off with a skier-driver signal

When waiting for a safe opportunity to take off with a skier, the skipper should signal to vessels dropping off a skier that you do not intend to move until it is clear. This is indicated by holding both arms in the air showing that they are not on the boat controls.

Skier down-observers signal

The observer only should hold one arm straight up in the air to indicate to other vessels that the skier has fallen off and is in the water. Vessels seeing this signal should keep a good lookout for the skier in the water.

Skier down-skier is OK signal

A fallen skier that has sustained no injuries should indicate that they are OK by raising both arms into the air. If the observer does not see this signal, they should inform the skipper to return to the skier as quickly and as safely as possible.

Dropping off skier-driver signal

When returning to the shore, the driver should indicate this by the raising and lowering of a hand above the head.

  Restricted areas of navigable waters

The document below contains the details of all restricted areas in navigational waters across Western Australia. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Areas where maximum speed limits are imposed.
  • Areas where swimming is prohibited.
  • Areas for water skiing.
  • Areas closed to motorised vessels.

The document is organised by Local Government Areas.

MAC_P_RestrictedAreasNavWaters.pdf icon Restricted areas of navigable waters Kb

  Restrictions on slalom skiing and ski-jumping

A person shall not use any navigable waters for the purpose of a slalom course or ski-jump unless prior approval in writing has been obtained from the Department of Transport.

  Safety tips and navigation aids

  • The tip of the ski must always be showing before the boat starts.
  • After a fall, a skier should always clasp hands over head if unhurt until seen by the observer and boat driver.
  • A fallen skier getting into a boat should leave their skis in the water and swim towards the boat.
  • The driver should always stop the engine(s) before picking up skiers in the water.
  • Skiers should enter a boat over the stern whenever possible.

Find out about navigation aids, including upgrades to Navigational aids on the Swan River. Go to Navigation aids.

  Reporting marine incidents

Many minor and more serious accidents occur that involve water skiers and people being towed behind boats on a variety of devices.

It is essential marine incidents are reported so that problem safety areas can be identified.

It is the owners or skipper's responsibility to report these accidents within seven days.

For more information refer to Warnings, emergencies and incidents.

  Water skiing related links

  Boating safety campaign related links

  Boating safety equipment related links


Page last updated: Fri Aug 26 2016 11:47:37 AM