lightning tracker  
Pelican Waters QLD - Boating and Fishing
Water Skiing

Queensland’s waterways are shared by all types of boats used for water sports.
Maritime Safety Queensland website has further information.

Water Skiing

Water skiing involves towing people behind a boat on skis, bare feet, inflatable toys, boards and parasailing.

All kinds of boats are used for water skiing, mainly dinghies, ski boats and Personal
Watercraft (PWC).

If using a PWC to tow a skier you must obey PWC rules.

However, you may be exempt from certain PWC distance rules when skiing, 
i.e. 60 m from shore 6 knot rule.

The owner/driver of the boat is responsible for the safety of others and has a general safety obligation to:
  • make sure the boat is safe and is capable of towing skiers
  • take all the right safety equipment for the skiers and passengers
  • operate the boat as safely as possible and check the area is safe for skiing by noting the depth of water, width to make turns safely and any hazards.

Personal flotation devices for skiers
When water skiing, the skier must wear a PFD at all times:

  • PFD type 2, 3 or a wet suit with in built flotation approved as a PFD type 3 in smooth water limits.

  • PFD type 2 in partially smooth water limits. It is compulsory for all children under 12 years, in boats under 4.8 metres whilst underway, to wear an appropriately fitted life jacket at all times. (See safety equipment table on pages 28 & 29 for more details).

Water ski areas

Water skiing is prohibited:

  • in certain areas usually designated by signs
  • in all six knot zones including harbours and marinas
  • within 30 metres of people in the water, anchored boats, diver’s flags, jetties, pontoons or boat ramps
  • within 60 metres of people in the water if operating a PWC.

If using a PWC to tow a skier you must obey PWC rules.

However, you may be exempt from certain PWC distance rules when skiing, 
i.e. 60 m from shore 6 knot rule. 

Water skiing is permitted in all other areas.

However, it is the responsibility of the driver to ensure the area is safe and suitable for skiing.

The Gold and Sunshine Coasts have some designated water ski areas and times for operation. These are clearly marked by signs.

Restricted areas are outlined in the Waterways section of the
Maritime Safety Queensland website


A person must not operate a boat (including a PWC) towing a skier unless the skier is wearing a PFD type 2 or 3 and there is another person (an observer) on board.

The observer must be older than 12 years and competent to watch the skier at all times.

They must immediately tell the operator if:
  • there is a danger, or potential danger, to the skier
  • the skier signals the observer
  • the skier has a fall or mishap.

Direction of travel

When skiing in lakes, rivers and creeks, boats should travel in an anticlockwise pattern. In a few locations local customs and conditions may dictate the direction of travel.

Always check before skiing.

direction of travel

Skiing or Towing on a Personal Water Craft

When towing a skier on a jet ski you must obey personal watercraft rules.

The operator of the PWC must ensure there is an observer on board, and that there is sufficient seating capacity for both the operator and the observer.

For information on personal watercraft and their operation go to the Maritime Safety Queensland website.

Divers’ flags

Divers can surface at any time, sometimes a significant distance from where they enter the water. In the interest of diver safety, any boat is now excluded from operating within 30 metres of a diver in the water if a Code A flag is displayed.

It is legal for the boat tending the diver to operate within the 30 metres.

Breach of this regulation can incur a penalty.

divers flag

Safety tips

  • The tip of the ski must always be showing before the boat starts.
  • After a fall, a skier should always clasp hands over head if unhurt until seen by the observer and boat driver.
  • No signal from a fallen skier calls for immediate action by the observer and driver.
  • A fallen skier getting into a boat should leave their skis in the water and swim towards the boat
  • The driver should always stop the engine(s) before picking up the skiers in the water.
  • Skiers should enter a boat over the stern whenever possible.
Recognized Water Ski Signals
sign 1 sign 2 sign 3
Start: Nod the head. Faster: Open palm
facing  up – motion upwards or nod  head
if both hands in use.
Slower: Open palm facing down – motion downwards or shake head if both hands
are in use.
sign 4 sign 4b sign
Speed required: Use the number of fingers for km required. 
For example, 23 – first two fingers then three fingers.
Speed OK: Arm upraised with thumb and forefinger making
an ‘O’ – OK signal.
sign sign sign
Turns: Palm vertical, curving motion of
hand in direction required.
Whip off: Point to
direction and then give quick circular motions
with hand.
Stop: Hand up with fingers outstretched.
sign sign sign
Back to dock: Point
with downward swing of the arm.
Cut motor: Finger
drawn across throat
in cutting motion.
OK after fall: Skier should clasp hands over head if unhurt, until seen
by the boat driver.
  © Jasprit Design 2009 Disclaimer