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PA Boating Handbook
Water-skiing & Similar Activities
Water-skiing includes conventional water-skiing, as well as anyone towed behind a boat on aquaplanes, kneeboards, inner tubes, air mattresses, parasails, kite skis or any similar device. Participants in all of these types of activities are required to wear a life jacket. Persons engaged in barefoot, jump or trick skiing may elect to wear, at their own risk, a wetsuit designed specifically for that activity. A USCG-approved life jacket must be carried in the boat for each skier electing to wear the special water-ski wetsuit. Inflatable life jackets are not acceptable for anyone towed behind a boat.
Water-skiing hand signals
In addition to the operator, a competent observer must be in the boat in a position to observe the progress of the person being towed. A competent observer is a person who has the ability to assess when a skier is in trouble, knows and understands the water-skiing hand signals and is capable of helping a skier.
  • To prevent propeller-related accidents, turn off your engine before picking up any skier.
  • Skiing is prohibited between sunset and sunrise.
  • Skiers are also considered passengers and count in the boat’s total capacity.
  • Personal watercraft are not permitted to tow more than one skier.
  • Skiers may start from the shore or dock if boat traffic permits. Skiers may not return to the shore or dock under power.
  • Installation of ski ramps and jumps requires a permit from the PA Fish & Boat Commission. Mooring or drifting within 100 feet of a ski ramp or jump while it is in use is prohibited.
  • Kite skiing and parasailing are permitted only on waters where unrestricted skiing is permitted.
  • It is legal to tow more than one skier except when locally prohibited. Ski tow ropes may not exceed the following lengths (as measured from the boat’s transom):
Conventional water-ski- 80 feet Parasails- 300 feet
Nonreleasable kite ski- 50 feet Releasable kite ski- 500 feet
  • It is unlawful to operate a motorboat at any speed with a person or persons sitting, riding or hanging on a swim platform (teak surfing) or swim ladder attached to the motorboat, except when launching, retrieving, docking or anchoring the motorboat.
  • It is unlawful to operate a motorboat at any speed when towing a person on water skis or other devices using a tow rope of 20 feet or less (as measured from the boat’s transom). The minimum tow rope length does not apply to wake surfing.
  • Boats engaged in the activity of wake surfing are limited to slow, no-wake speed when within 200 feet of the shoreline, docks, launch ramps, swimmers or downed skiers, persons wading in the water, anchored, moored or drifting boats and other marked areas.
  • Motorboats propelled by an outboard motor, inboard/outboard motor or water jet are prohibited from towing a person in or on the wake of the boat.
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