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.


New safety requirements are being trialled, which will allow tow-in surfing to be conducted in an appropriate environment and manner, providing that the conditions of the exemption are adhered to.

Under the trial, personal watercraft (PWC) being used for the sole purpose of tow-in surfing will be exempted from the following regulations in the Navigable Waters Regulation 1958:

  • Regulation 48(2): Towing of water skiers only should occur in gazetted water-skiing areas.
  • Regulation 49: The driver of a speed boat towing water skier must be accompanied by another person to keep watch over the skier.

This exemption is valid until 31 August 2017 and may be subject to an extension.

However, operators of PWCs towing water skiers must still comply with the safety requirements in the Western Australian Government Gazette published 30 August 2016 (available below on page 3689) and all other applicable marine laws.

Opens in a new window Western Australian Government Gazette: 30 August 2016
Opens in a new window Western Australian Government Gazette: 5 April 2013
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.
  • Towing is limited to only one person at one time.

For operation:

  • 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 vessels.
  • A minimum distance of 45 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 sunset and sunrise.

  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.
  • Lifejackets: A PFD Type 1,2 or 3 within 400 metres of shore and a PFD Type 1 between 400 metres and 5 nautical miles (nm) must be worn at all times. Between 400 metres and 5 nm from shore an inshore distress flare kit is also required.
  • An EPIRB must be carried between 2 and 5 nm. A PWC over 3.75metres in length may travel beyond 5 nm but must carry 2 parachute distress flares.
  • 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.
  • Two kill switch lanyards, one to be worn on the wrist or attached to the lifejacket of the handlebars of the PWC.
  • A marine band radio which has an effective range of coverage for the operation.
  • A suitable quick release floating tow rope.
  • A suitable bow tow line.
  • A suitable first aid kit.
  • Dive fins, mask and a safety knife in a readily accessible location.

Download, print out, laminate and display this checklist.

Opens in a new window Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII): Navigable Waters Regulation 1958

  In an emergency

A 24-hour, seven-day a week service operated from the Water Police Coordination Centre in North Fremantle monitors marine radio channels 27 MHz channel 88, VHF channels 16 and 67 distress and calling frequencies.

Emergency call from a phone is 000.

  Before you go out

  • Inform a friend of your site and your estimated time of return.
  • Check equipment is operationally sound and PWC has sufficient fuel.
  • Consult weather and swells reports and rules that apply to the waterway in the area.
  • Evaluate the wave conditions you are entering.
  • Establish what aquatic activities are being conducted around you.
  • Agree on the course you are following.
  • 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: Thu Apr 26 2018 10:19:50 AM