Guidelines For Newbie Ski Boat Skippers

23 June 2016
 Categories: Travel, Blog


This summer you might be considering hiring a boat and taking your friends and family water skiing.  As skipper of the boat, it's your responsibility to ensure that your passengers have fun safely and within the law.

Read on for some important information all would-be Aussie ski boat skippers should be aware of.

When and where to ski

There are certain gazetted areas in which you can legally ski.  These can vary depending on water and weather conditions, so be sure to check with the location before you plan your trip.

In areas where skiing is permitted, you'll see buoys and signage designating the area in which you can legally and safely tow skiers, together with instructions as to the direction of traffic you must follow.

Suitability of your boat

It's essential that your boat is safe and suitable for towing skiers.  Make sure that all the communication devices on board are working correctly and that you have a fully-equipped first aid kit on board.

If you are intending to sail in areas where you may encounter fallen skiers in the water, it's also a good idea to have a prop guard fitted.

Your crew

As a bare minimum, you must have a crew of two in your boat, consisting of yourself as skipper and a designated observer.

As skipper, it's your job to pilot the boat safely and within the designated ski area.  In order to legally tow a skier you should have a Recreational Skipper's Ticket (RST), which can be obtained from the Australian Department of Transport.

Your observer must face the skier at all times and keep you up to date with what's happening to the person being towed.  They should also alert you to other boats that are nearby. 

Basic piloting rules

There are a number of rules that you should observe when landing or towing skiers.  Some of the rules are as follows:

  • you should not tow skiers before sunrise or after sunset
  • neither you or any of your passengers should be under the influence of alcohol or drugs whilst on the water
  • you must always give way to a ski boat coming in to land a skier
  • you must not sit on the back of the pilot's seat of your boat or on the gunwale while driving
  • if a water ski is lost, you must stop to allow the skier to retrieve it
  • when turning to approach or leave a take-off area, you must manoeuvre your boat anti-clockwise
  • you must remove trailing ropes or skis before moving into a take-off area
  • you must not travel directly behind someone who is towing a skier

Make sure that you're aware of all these rules, together with the hand signals that are used to advise other skippers and skiers of your intentions whilst on the water. 

As a newbie ski boat skipper in Australia, make sure that you are fully conversant with the legalities and etiquette surrounding towing water skiers, before you venture out onto the water.  Use the guidelines given above as a starting point and have fun!