Tow-in surfing

Find out about tow-in surfing rules and safety equipment.

Tow-in surfing is when a personal water craft (PWC) tows a person on a surfboard onto a breaking wave.

To take part in tow-in surfing you must follow the rules and carry the required safety equipment listed below.

  Tow-in surfing rules

Tow-in surfing is not permitted in protected waters, any gazetted water ski area, PWC restricted or prohibited areas.

Tow-in surfing is only permitted between the hours of sunrise and sunset.

The PWC operator must:

  • be at least 17 years old
  • only tow 1 person at a time
  • wear a kill switch lanyard on the wrist or attached to their lifejacket
  • carry the required safety equipment
  • give right of way to all other aquatic activities such as swimmers and paddle craft.

When tow-in surfing, you must:

  • keep a minimum distance of 50 metres from any other tow-in surfing activity and 200 metres distance from all other aquatic activities
  • not impede on the safe passage or navigation of any craft.

Both the PWC operator and the person being towed must each hold a Recreational Skipper’s Ticket.

  Safety equipment requirements

Each PWC participating in a tow-in surfing activity must carry:

  • all safety equipment required for using a personal watercraft.
  • 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 manufacture.)
  • safety lanyard (kill switch) which is wrapped around the handlebars of the PWC.
  • marine radio which has an effective range of coverage for the operation.
  • an effective quick release floating tow rope.
  • an effective bow tow line.
  • suitable first aid kit.
  • suitable dive fins, mask and a safety knife in a readily accessible location.

  Before you go out

Before you leave home:

  • Check the latest weather update and tide information.
  • Check all your safety equipment is in date and in working order.
  • Check your PWC is safe and in working order and has sufficient fuel.
  • Check the rules that apply to the waterway.
  • Agree on the course you will follow.
  • Decide what to do if separated.
  • Discuss what to do in an emergency.
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you intend to return.

Download the Deckee app for safety, weather and location-based information to help you stay safe on the water.


There is an exemption in place that allows tow-in surfing to be conducted in an appropriate environment and manner, as long as the conditions of the exemption are adhered to. 

These conditions include following the tow-in surfing rules and safety equipment requirements listed above.

Under the exemption, PWC are exempt from the following regulations of the Navigable Waters Regulation 1958 while being used for tow-in surfing:

  • 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
Page last updated: Fri Jun 16 2023 10:51:34 AM