As one of the most popular water sports in the United States, water-skiing is subject to specific regulations to ensure the safety of the skier, other boat passengers, and the surrounding area.
Due to the dynamic nature of towed water sports, boat operators must always consider the path of the towed participant, as the operator is in control. It is imperative that the operator maintain a safe distance from other boats or fixed objects so that the participant does not unintentionally come in contact with these hazards.
Operators of vessels towing persons on water skis or similar devices must meet specific equipment and observer requirements.
Several provisions have been enacted regarding the time of day towing persons are not permitted. Many factors contribute to this decision, including the darkness, which limits the ability of the operator and additional passengers to monitor the skier’s progress. As a result, no skiing must occur after sunset or before sunrise.
There is a high risk associated with towed sports due to the strong forces generated by the participants. Consequently, each boat must maintain a specific distance from the skier. According to the regulations, a “ski corridor” must be 200 feet wide, meaning 100 feet on each side of the boat and behind the skier.
Tremendous forces can be exerted upon the towed participants while being towed as well. The vessel operator must travel at a speed which will not cause physical harm to the participants should they fall or encounter waves. The operator should be aware that the rate at which they turn can greatly increase these forces. They must be aware of the length of towline and the age of the participant and operate their vessel accordingly.
Towed watersport devices may have recommended tow speeds and participation capacities, as well as age and weight ranges. States have specific laws addressing life jacket wear, ski-flags, observers, distance from shore and other boats for safe operation, length of tow line, etc.
While waterskiers cannot verbally communicate, hand signals are used to confirm to the spotter and driver that they are okay, ready to go, and any other information.
Forming a circle with the arms around the head while holding hands above the head
Tapping the head with a hand
Making a motion across the neck with a hand as if slicing the throat with it