Tow-in surfing

Find out about tow-in surfing in Western Australia, including exemptions, equipment, preparation and what to do in an emergency.

  What is tow-in surfing?

Tow-in surfing is a technique by which a person operating a personal watercraft (PWC) (sometimes referred to as jet ski) tows a surfer onto a breaking wave. This activity is becoming increasingly common in Western Australia.


There is an exemption in place that allows tow-in surfing to be conducted in an appropriate environment and manner, providing that the conditions of the exemption are adhered to. These conditions are listed in 'Tow-in surfing rules' and 'Tow-in surfing equipment' below.

Under the exemption, whilst being used for tow-in surfing, personal watercraft (PWC) are exempt from the following regulations of the Navigable Waters Regulation 1958:

  • Regulation 48A(2): Towing of water skiers must only occur in gazetted water-skiing areas (note that water skiing includes towing surfers).
  • Regulation 49: The driver of a speed boat towing water skiers (which include towed surfers) must be accompanied by another person to keep watch over the skier.
Opens in a new window Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII): Navigable Waters Regulation 1958

  Tow-in surfing rules

For people:

  • The personal watercraft (PWC) operator and the person being towed must each hold a Recreational Skippers Ticket.
  • The PWC operator must be aged at least 17.
  • The person wears a kill switch lanyard on the wrist or attached to their lifejacket.
  • Towing is limited to only one person at one time.

For operation:

  • The tow-in surfing is not in protected waters, any gazetted water ski, PWC restricted or prohibited areas.
  • The tow-in surfing activities must not impede the safe passage or navigation of any craft and must give right of way to all other aquatic activities such as swimmers and paddle craft.
  • A minimum distance of 50 metres from any other tow-in surfing activity is to be maintained, as well as a 200 metre distance from all other aquatic activities.
  • Tow-in surfing activities may only operate between the hours of sunrise and sunset.

  Tow-in surfing equipment

Each personal watercraft (PWC) participating in a tow-in surfing activity in any area is to be equipped at all times with:

  • All safety equipment as required under the Navigable Waters Regulation 1958.
  • A rescue sled with the minimum size of 90 cm width, 1.2 metres length and 7 cm thickness equipped with a minimum of 5 grip handles. The use of the sled is not to exceed the load capacity recommended by the manufacturer.
  • A kill switch lanyard, which is wrapped around the handlebars of the PWC.
  • A marine band radio which has an effective range of coverage for the operation.
  • An effective quick release floating tow rope.
  • An effective bow tow line.
  • A suitable first aid kit.
  • Suitable dive fins, mask and a safety knife each in a readily accessible location.

  In an emergency

A 24-hour, seven-day a week service operates from the Water Police Coordination Centre in North Fremantle which monitors marine radio channels.

  • HF - 4125, 6215, 8291 and 8176.
  • VHF - 2, 16 and 67.

Emergency call from a phone is 000.

  Before you go out

  • Inform a friend of your location and your estimated time of return.
  • Check equipment is operationally sound and the PWC has sufficient fuel.
  • Consult weather and swell reports.
  • Check the rules that apply to the waterway.
  • Evaluate the wave conditions you are entering.
  • Establish what aquatic activities are being conducted around you.
  • Agree on the course you will follow.
  • Decide what to do if separated.
  • Discuss what to do in an emergency.

  Further information

For further information contact your nearest Department of Transport Office. Go to contact us.

Image of boarder being towed by boat

Page last updated: Wed Oct 19 2022 9:04:36 AM