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Florida Water Skiing

There's Great Water Skiing in Florida
Water skiing in Florida is enjoyed on freshwater lakes and inland waterways as well as the Intracoastal Waterway. Along with being towed on a tube or kneeboard, water skiing is very popular with boaters. These activities are both fun and challenging.

Central Florida is a popular water skiing destination. Cypress Gardens, Florida's first theme park was set beside a huge cypress tree-lined lake and calls itself the water ski capitol of the world. The park offered breathtaking and dramatic shows. Cypress Gardens is now a part of Legoland Florida and although the water skiing shows have been removed the beautiful botanical gardens are still available to enjoy.

Official Water Ski Regulations from the FWC.

Water Skiing Safety

  • Have a second person onboard to act as an observer.
  • Review hand signals with the skier to ensure proper communication.
  • Make sure the skier is wearing a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD designed for water skiing. Keep in mind that ski belts are not U.S. Coast Guard approved. A PFD with a high impact rating is recommended.
  • Be familiar with the area. Be aware of any hazards such as shallow water or objects such as rocks or bridge pilings in the water.
  • Keep the skier a safe distance from hazards and the shoreline - a safe distance is at least twice the length of the tow rope.
  • Make sure the tow lines are of the same length if towing multiple skiers.
  • Never ski at night. It is both hazardous and illegal.

While towing a skier, the operator should:

  • Start the engine, making sure that no one in the water is near the propeller.
  • Start the boat slowly until the ski rope is tight. When the skier is ready and there is no traffic ahead, take off in a straight line with enough power to raise the skier out of the water. Once the skier is up, adjust the speed according to the signals given by the skier.
  • Avoid congested areas, beaches, docks, and swimming areas. Water skiing takes a lot of room. Some areas may have designated traffic patterns.
  • Maintain a sharp lookout for other boats and obstructions in the water. Let the observer watch the skier.
  • Always respond to the skier's signals. If you need to turn the boat, signal the skier of your intentions.
  • Once the skier has dropped or fallen, circle the skier slowly either to return the tow line to the skier or to pick the skier up. Always keep the skier in view and on the operator's side of the boat. Some states require a red or orange flag to be displayed to alert other boats that a skier is down.
  • To avoid propeller injuries, always shut off the engine before allowing the skier to board the boat. Once the skier is onboard, retrieve the tow line unless pulling another skier.

When in the water, the skier should:

  • Wear a PFD. You never know when a fall will knock you unconscious.
  • Learn to use hand signals.
  • Never ski under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This is illegal and extremely dangerous because of the damage to your judgment and reflexes.
  • Never spray swimmers, boats or other skiers. Such activity is illegal, dangerous, and discourteous.
  • Never wrap any part of the tow rope around your body.
  • Always hold a ski up out of the water after falling or after dropping the rope so that the boat operator and other boats can see you.
  • Never approach the back of the boat unless the engine has been shut off. Otherwise you could be seriously injured by the boat's propeller.
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Hand Signals for Skiers

Back to dock

Skier OK

Skier down - watch!

Speed Up

Slow Down

Speed OK


Turn Left

Turn Right

More Skiing Safety
The operator of a vessel towing someone on skis or another aquaplaning device must either have an observer, in addition to the operator, on board who is attendant to the actions of the skier or have and use a wide-angle rearview mirror.

No one may ski or aquaplane between the hours of 1/2 hour past sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise.

No one may water ski or use another aquaplaning device unless they are wearing a USCG approved type I, II, III or non-inflatable type V personal flotation device. Inflatable PFDs are prohibited.

No one may ski or use another aquaplaning device while impaired by alcohol or other drugs.

The operator of a vessel towing a skier may not pull the skier close enough to a fixed object or another vessel that there is risk of collision.

After Skiing
Towlines should be inspected for wear, fraying, cuts and unnecessary knots before and after each use.

The rope should be replaced if it shows wear before it breaks.

Some text on this page provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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