image of stand-up PWC

Stand-up PWC

State & Federal law has a lot to say about how you operate your Jet Ski.

Keep 100 feet apart

Many people don’t realize there are legal ways and some NOT so legal ways to operate a PWC or jet ski.

Beyond the usual title and registration that everyone expects, there are specific laws that apply to PWC’s.

Who can operate a jet ski?

In Wisconsin, a person younger than 12 years of age, may not operate a PWC or jet ski.

12-15 years olds may operate a pwc ONLY If they have completed a boating safety course. The Wisconsin DNR must accept the course. Sorry, you can’t substitute parental supervision for this course.

A person at least 16 years old may operate a PWC only if they have completed an accepted boating safety course.

Were you born before Jan 1, 1989?

You are exempt from the course requirement.

No one under 16 years old may rent or lease a PWC.

Remember if you have taken the proper courses, you must carry a copy of the certificate with you and make it available to law enforcement officers when requested.

In addition to the U.S. Coast Guard, Wisconsin conservation wardens, county sheriffs, and municipal police enforce the laws.

image of Boat Safety Rule #3- Don't get a visit from him

Boat Safety Rule #3- Don’t get a visit from him

Just like driving a vehicle, it is illegal to: 

  • refuse to follow the instruction of a law enforcement officer.
  • A pwc operator must slow to “no-wake” or “slow” and give way to a patrol boat if it’s emergency lights are on or if they signal you to stop.
  • You must stop when requested or signaled by a law enforcement officer or patrol boat.
  • Furthermore, you must reduce speed to “slow” or “no-wake” and stay at least 100 feet from a patrol boat with its emergency lights activated. It’s similar to pulling into another lane when you see an emergency vehicle on a roadway.

You must have the legally required equipment on board at all times including:

image of Boat Safety Rule #1- Everyone needs one

Boat Safety Rule #1- Everyone needs one

  1. PFD (personal flotation device or life jackets) even on canoes and kayaks.
  2. Kids under 13 must WEAR their PDF while underway on a pwc on federally controlled waters.
  3. EVERY person on a pwc MUST wear an approved PDF.
  4. You must wear the proper size PDF, and it must be in good and serviceable condition. No tears, rips, broken straps, or snaps.


Do I need a sound-producing device (Horn) on a PWC?

No! UNLESS you are on federally controlled waters like Lake Michigan.

Are we done?  Not Really!

It is against the law to operate a vessel in a negligent or reckless manner such as in a manner that causes danger to life or limb.

Here are some examples:

Operating a vessel within 100 feet of the shoreline, a raft or pier at speeds higher than “no-wake” or “Slow.”

Jumping the wake of another vessel that is towing someone;

Operating a pwc within an area which is marked off for swimming;

Weaving your craft through congested waterways;

Causing hazardous wave or wake conditions while passing another vessel;

Steering toward another object or person and swerving at the last moment; or chasing, harassing or disturbing wildlife.

Overloading your vessel

If you have a pwc rated for two people, that is the maximum number you can have on it at any time regardless of weight or age.

These are just some of the laws you must follow.

Think of operating a vessel like you would a car. If it’s not legal in a car or truck, don’t try it on the water. Example – Do NOT drink and drive!!

Visit the DNR website at and enter “boat safety” to find acceptable boating courses. Also, look for

To read part one of this series go to 

Keep us all safe, and we’ll all enjoy the water more on a PWC.

Do you have a friend that might be interested in this post?  Please forward it to them.

Pier & Waterfront Solutions

PWS is located at 7325 St. Hwy 57. That’s 1 mile North of County MM (Hwy 42) and 3 miles south of Sturgeon Bay at the Idlewild Road intersection.  Or – for more information, you can call Jerry @ 920-493-4404.