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 and safety equipment requirements

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.
  • Wear a kill switch lanyard on the wrist or attached to their lifejacket.
  • Give right of way to all other aquatic activities such as swimmers and paddle craft.

Safety equipment requirements

The PWC must be equipped with:

  • A rescue sled -
    • of a minimum size of 90cm width, 1.2m length and 7cm thickness equipped with a minimum of five (5) grip handles;
    • the load on which does not exceed the load capacity recommended by the manufacturer;
  • An additional kill switch lanyard, which is wrapped around the handlebars;
  • A marine transceiver as defined in the Navigable Waters Regulations 1958;
  • An effective quick release floating tow rope;
  • An effective bow tow line;
  • A mask and a safety knife, each effective and each in a readily accessible location; and
  • A suitable first aid kit.

When tow-in surfing, you must:

  • Only tow one person at a time.
  • Ensure the person being towed must hold a Recreational Skippers Ticket.
  • 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 other craft.

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 Dec 8 2023 9:12:35 AM