Understand the rules of the water and etiquette when it comes to riding your jet ski or PWC.

Jet skiing is exhilarating, but even the most extreme sports have their rules and protocols.The following guide aims to give you a few safety tips as well as the lowdown on jet skiing rules and etiquette — which will ensure you operate your jet ski in the correct manner and stay safe while you enjoy yourself. 



Keep Safe, Stay Right

Approaching vessels head on
Each vessel alters course to starboard (right) and passes port to port (left). This applies in both narrow channels and open waters.

Keep out of the way of the vessel being overtaken and pass safely either side.

Give way (powered vessels)
Give way to vessels approaching from your starboard (right) side, they have right of way.

Give way (non‑powered vessels)
Give way to sailing vessels, canoes and other passive craft.

Check out the Roads & Maritime Personal Watercraft Handbook for more rules of the water.

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Be Aware & Lookout

You should always keep a good lookout, using both your eyes and your ears. You need to be fully aware of the boating environment you’re in, especially in bad weather or restricted visibility. Look all around you – even behind you.

You shouldn’t confuse the lookout duties of the driver with those of the observer when a PWC is towing a person. As a driver, you are responsible at all times for keeping a lookout for danger.

Sadly, collisions are the most common type of accident when jet skiing — so pay particular attention to what other craft are around you and where they are going.


No matter what vessel you’re in, you must always travel at a safe speed. A safe speed is one where you can stop the vessel in time to avoid any sudden danger.

To gauge a safe speed, you need to take a number of factors into account. These are visibility, other vessels, navigation hazards, wind, waves and currents, along with the manoeuvrability of your vessel. For your safety and the sake of everyone else using the water, don’t exceed set speed limits.

Speed limits are usually set by local regulations or by-laws, so follow the limits, whether they are posted or not. It is your responsibility to know the local speed limit, and failure to keep to it could end up with you facing a fine — or worse still, being involved in an accident.

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Wear Safety Equipment

Wear an approved life jacket and eye protection to prevent water spray from obscuring your vision. Surf booties or deck shoes and gloves offer better control of your machine, while a wet suit provides protection from the elements. A whistle attached to your life jacket can be used to summon help in the event of an emergency situation.

If extreme jet skiing is your thing, a helmet is highly recommended. 

Safe Distance

If you’re driving a PWC at 10 knots or more, you must keep a minimum distance of:

  • 30m from any powered vessel (including other PWC), any riverbank or shore and any structures such as jetties or moorings or if that is not possible a safe distance
  • 60m away from people or non-powered vessels (sailing and passive) or if that is not possible a safe distance.

Whether it’s a vessel, person or in fact any object, you should always make sure you keep your vessel at a safe distance. By doing so you reduce the risk of causing damage or injury. When you’re gauging a safe distance, you need to think about a number of safety factors like weather conditions at the time, visibility, speed of your vessel and any obstructions to navigation that may be present.

Obey the Signs

In some areas, you might be prohibited from operating a PWC or have speed restrictions. These areas may be appropriately marked by signs or notices either in, or in the vicinity of, the area concerned, like the PWC exclusion zone in Gunnamatta Bay (Port Hacking) for example.

Use a Safety Lanyard

It is strongly recommended that a kill switch lanyard, connected to the PWC and the drivers wrist or lifejacket, be worn at all times.

If you fall off a PWC, the kill switch lanyard will disconnect once you enter the water, causing the PWC’s engine to shut down and the machine to stop.

You should never operate your jet ski without the safety lanyard attached to you. This safety feature can help to prevent bad accidents — so always use it!

Noise Pollution

Be conscious of the noise your craft makes. The best way to avoid noise complaints is to avoid operating at high speed near to the shoreline, waterfront properties and other boaters.

You should also reduce noise early in the morning.

In addition, always start the jet ski engine in the water, and warm up the engine before you set off.

Protect the Environment

It shouldn’t need saying, but don’t spill fuel, oil or leave litter or other pollutants where they don’t belong. Also, don’t operate your jet ski close to wildlife or aquatic vegetation. This will minimise the impact your craft has on nature, as well as spare the craft’s machinery from unnecessary damage.

The Community

Jet skiers must share the waters with boats, fisherman, swimmers, surfers, and water skiers. You should keep your distance and respect their rights to safety, access and use of the water.

Just like our road rules, these waterway rules & etiquette should always be observed to help ensure the safety of riders and people in other vessels. It's all about enjoying our great waterways. Remember, always apply care, courtesy and common sense when riding your PWC.