Texas is home to many things – big hair, open spaces, and people who love to waterski, wakeboard/wakesurf, and tube. Not everyone has a state-of-the-art boat to waterski behind so many who want to try their hand at watersports resort to skiing behind their personal watercraft (PWC), or put more simply their jet ski. But what are the rules for towing someone behind a jet ski? Are there only certain hours you can do it? How many seats/how big does your jet ski need to be? And if you’re caught breaking the rules, what is the punishment or fine? Continue reading to discover the answers to these questions and much more.
Who can drive a PWC in Texas? And is there an age requirement?
The first thing we need to do is lay the foundation for who can drive a jet ski. In the state of Texas, no children under the age of 13 can operate a PWC unless they are accompanied by another person who is 18 years of age or older. While there is an age limit on driving, there is no age requirement to be on a jet ski.
A few other high-level notes for those on a jet ski:
- Everyone that is riding on the PWC needs to have a US Coast Guard-approved life jacket
- If there is a killswitch for the PWC, it must be attached to the driver
PWC (Jet Ski) Requirements
Most jet skis have the ability to tow someone, but we recommend reading your owner’s manual for the watercraft before trying anything new.
Some states require you to have a spotter on board with you when you are towing someone. Texas is not one of them, but we recommend having a rearview mirror at the very least to help the driver know when someone falls.
There needs to be a seat for everyone that is on or being pulled by the PWC. If you have a three-seat jet ski and one person driving, you can have two people being towed behind. You can also have one person being towed and two people on the jet ski. Once a fourth person is involved, you need to find a bigger jet ski or move to a boat.
According to state law, during what hours is it legal for a PWC to tow a person on water skis?
All personal watercraft must be operated between sunset and sundown, but that timetable shrinks when towing someone. Towing someone behind a jetski is only allowed 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset. This excludes any tournaments, exhibitions, or competitions that are adequately lit.
What else should I know about towing someone behind my jet ski?
There are a bunch of other rules that you should consider when operating a jet ski and towing someone behind. Below we will talk through the most common laws that people on jet skis break:
- It’s illegal to drive your PWC in circles around other boats
- If you do end up anchoring, make sire you are away from the main thoroughfares that other boats are using. The police can stop you or ask you to move if they think you are in the way.
- Some jurisdictions require you to use a “skier down” flag when the person you are towing falls
- Be on the lookout for “No Wake” signs and buoys where you are required to move at slower speeds. They will look something like the below:
What are the penalties if I don’t comply and were to break the law?
If you are caught operating your PWC in a way that disregards your safety and the safety of others at a speed that may endanger yourself or others, the state of Texan can fine you up to $2,000 and send you to jail for 180 days. Stay safe out there and have fun, but operate your watercraft within the laws of the state.
The state of Texas takes boating while intoxicated seriously. Like many states, the legal limit to operate a watercraft is a blood-alcohol content of 0.08. Your first conviction surpassing this limit is a fine of up to $2,000 and 180 nights in jail. The second conviction is a fine of up to $4,000 with jail time of up to a year. And the third or more conviction is up to a $10,000 fine and between 2 and 10 years in jail.
The moral of this story should be pretty clear – If you have had a couple of adult beverages, don’t drive or operate a boat!
Wakeboarding, wakesurfing, waterskiing, and tubing behind a PWC or jet ski make each more accessible to people in Texas. And knowing the rules of how you can tow someone behind a jet ski in a lawful way not only keeps you out of trouble but also keeps everyone safe on the waterways.