Towing a person – safe speed, safe distance and turning

Know these rules to keep everyone safe for water skiing, parasailing, wakeboarding and other towing activities on NSW waterways.

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Safe speed

You must always drive at a safe speed when towing.

You must not drive faster than:

  • 10 knots if you're aged 16 or under (unless exempt as part of an organised event)
  • 60 knots when the person being towed is aged under 18
  • 60 knots when anyone on the vessel is aged under 18.

Always travel at a safe speed when returning the person to shore. When a person returns to the shore with a 'fling finish' or 'whip turn' too fast it can be extremely dangerous, especially if the person is less experienced. This has led to death and serious injuries. To do this safely, both the driver and the person being towed need considerable skill and experience.

If it's safe, it's recommended that you stop the vessel and bring the person on board.

Safe distance

As the driver, you must keep the vessel, towed equipment and person being towed a minimum distance of:

  • 60m from people in the water, including swimming and surfing areas
  • 60m from the boundaries of designated swimming areas and surf zones (marked by signs)
  • 60m from a dive flag or float
  • 30m from other vessels, the shore and structures when driving faster than 6 knots or more.

If these distances are not possible, keep a safe distance and safe speed.

Structures include jetties, bridges and navigation markers. Other vessels include both moving and moored or anchored vessels.

Illustration showing minimum distance from other vessels and people
You must keep a minimum distance from other vessels and people in the water.

If towing aerial equipment – for example, for parasailing – you must keep a minimum distance of 200m from:

  • other vessels
  • cables, wires and pipelines
  • bridges and other structures.

You must keep these distances when approaching other vessels or people from any direction. This includes when following another vessel.

Always keep a safe distance between the person being towed and the shore.

When towing with a PWC, you do not have to follow the distance restrictions for driving in an irregular manner.


When towing near other vessels, make sure you have enough room to turn so the person being towed does not collide with oncoming vessels.

Take extra care when turning. The person being towed will go wider, and they may have no control over the towing equipment, especially if they’re riding on an inflatable inner tube, raft or biscuit.

This is very important when towing on narrow rivers, when there are trees or snags in the water, and when towing children.

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