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Know and understand state PWC rules

NSW PWC Operating Rules

Avoid costly fines by following the PWC riding rules which apply on NSW waterways.

Know the rules

  • Carry your PWC licence with you at all times.
  • Operating a PWC in exclusion zones is not permitted.
  • Irregular driving (other than a straight line) is prohibited in exclusion zones or within 200 metres of the shore near residences.
  • Obey speed restrictions.
  • Comply with PWC state rules. Learn the collision regulations. Know how to signal and pass other vessels, which vessel has the right of way, and how to read aids to navigation.
  • Wear a PFD - Level 100+ (Type 1) offshore, Level 50 (Type 2) or Level 50s (Type 3) on enclosed waters.
  • Remember and adhere to the safe distance rules. Many PWC accidents occur due to riders not allowing enough space between each other.
  • Avoid offensive behaviour and keep away from residences or areas where noise may annoy.
  • Riding a PWC between sunset and sunrise is prohibited.
  • Don't drink when operating a PWC.
  • A PWC is considered to be a power-driven vessel and the relevant steering rules apply to its operation.


When operating a PWC on narrow rivers keep to starboard, travel at a safe speed and adhere to the safe distance rules. If that is not possible, maintain a safe distance and speed.

Get to know your personal watercraft (PWC)

If you are using a carbureted 2-stroke PWC, the key is to keep your PWC well-maintained for minimal smoke emission (there is probably not much you can do about noise). Manufacturers have been addressing both smoke and noise pollution with the new breed of low-decibel 4-strokes. Today's modern jetski's are equipped with the latest technology and features such as: learner key, tilting seats, fold down reboarding step and on water brakes. See the latest line up offered by Seadoo.

Safety equipment

Life jackets must be worn by each person riding the personal watercraft. The driver must wear the Safety Lanyard. Often referred to as the "kill chord" This chord operates the kill switch which will deactivate the motor if you fall off. Its also a good idea to carry a towing pack.

Know your abilities

Develop operation skills that promote safety and courtesy. Learn to use the throttle and steering properly (many beginners let go of the throttle when they are heading at another boat or obstacle, thus losing steerage), practice high-speed stopping and steering manoeuvers. Practice boarding and re-boarding your PWC. If you are a learner rider, use the manufacturers programmable "Learner Key" which allows you to limit the performance of the PWC based on rider skill-level. Scan the horizon constantly for other vessels and passive craft (kayaks, canoes, dinghies and small yachts). Get to know other experienced and enthusiastic riders through clubs and organisations such as the The Jetski Club and the Australian Jet Sports Boating Association.

Keep speed under control

You can compare a jet ski on the water to a motorcycle on the roads. They have been designed to accelerate fast and get to high speeds. Going fast can be dangerous on the water, especially if the rider is not fully aware of the the capabilities of the PWC. So, remember to comply with the safe distance rules and slow down in heavy traffic areas or bad weather.

Use common sense

One of the most important parts of boating safety is to use your common sense. This means operating at a safe speed at all times, adjusting your speed according to the conditions and maintaining distance off rules (especially in crowded areas), staying alert at all times and steering clear of large vessels and vessels that can be restricted in their ability to stop or turn. Be respectful of advisory signs, buoys and other navigational aids, all of which have been placed there to ensure your own safety. Slow down and reduce your wake near moored or anchored vessels. Don't do donuts in front of other boats, waterfront homes or near public launching ramps. Always allow room for stopping.

Situation awareness

Avoid dangerous activities such as jumping wakes of other vessels. The angle and height can be easily misjudged and cause you to fall off. The key is to be aware of the associated risks and of others while out on the water. Always look behind over both shoulders before making a turn. Remember, accidents can happen fast!

Know your PWC operating area

Be aware of PWC restriction areas and environmental concerns. Stay clear of nesting grounds and fragile ecosystems. Keep a good lookout, watch for swimmers. Areas around bays, beaches and marinas can fill up quickly with people who might want to swim, so before you decide to accelerate, scan the area for potential problems.

Have effective communication tools on hand

Take the precaution of putting your mobile into a water-proof pouch and carry it with you.

Avoiding accidents

  • Learn everything you can about how your PWC works and how it operates before heading out on the water. Read the owner's manual from beginning to end!
  • Seek advice from a dealer about the best model for you. If you are beginner you need an easy-to-handle model equipped with breaking and reverse systems.
  • Maintain your PWC properly. Have it serviced regularly by an experienced mechanic.
  • Wear a suitable life jacket, one you feel comfortable will support you in the water. Wear it every time you go out. Ensure your passengers do as well.
  • Many PWC accidents, just like car accidents could have been avoided if the people involved had not been drinking.
  • Speeding is a factor in many accidents involving PWC's. So, play it safe and slow down!
  • Be aware when performing stunts and wave jumping you are taking serious risks.
  • Make a habit of checking the weather forecast before heading out and make sure there is plenty of time left in the day before sunset.
  • Ensure you have all required equipment and accessories, know all the PWC rules and be prepared if you plan on towing anyone behind your PWC.
  • Get practical training. By doing this you will be able to operate your PWC more competently and safely.
  • If you do get in an accident it's important that your PWC is insured.


Safe distance rules

When driving a PWC - including towing a person or people - you must keep the PWC, any towing equipment and anyone being towed, a minimum distance of:

  • 30 metres from any other vessel, land structures, moored or anchored vessels when driving a PWC at a speed of six knots or more, or if that is not possible, a safe distance and safe speed.
  • 60 metres from people in the water, or if that is not possible, a safe distance and speed.
  • 60 metres from a dive flag on the surface of the water, or if that is not possible, a safe distance and speed.
  • 200 metres from vessels and people in the water when tow-in surfing.
  • 200 metres from any vessel, bridge, cable, wire, pipeline or structure when towing aerial equipment.(para-flying)
  • 500 metres from the shoreline at a surf beach between surf patrol flags or signs. You also need to keep 60 metres clear of either side of the surf patrol flags or signs. (PWC restriction zone)
  • 60 metres from the shoreline at a swimming area between the signs for the swimmers. You also need to keep 60 metres clear of either side of the swimming flag or signs (PWC restriction zone).

Exceptions to these rules apply when you are supporting swimmers or divers in the water; or your vessel is human-powered, such as a canoe, kayak, surf ski or rowboat; or it is a sailing vessel under 5.5 metres long without an auxiliary engine or, you are launching or, removing it from the water taking care to avoid injuring people or damaging property.

An on the spot fine of $250 may apply if safe distance rules are not adhered to.

pwc close to swimmers in water

In New South Wales PWC's are not permitted to be used for 'irregular driving' within 200 metres of a river bank or shore when operating in a designated restriction zones. Penalties apply.

Learn more

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