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.
|Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII): Navigable Waters Regulation 1958|
Tow-in surfing rules
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
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.