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Personal Watercraft

The term "personal watercraft" is used to define a category of vessels that have grown in popularity as well as numbers. Personal watercraft are small (usually 8 feet or less) one or two person motorized craft. These vessels are highly maneuverable and capable of speeds in excess of 35 miles per hour. They are also called jet skis, wet bikes, etc.

Because of their small size and low profile, operators of other boats may not see them as readily. Operators of personal watercraft should exercise "defensive driving." These craft are highly responsive and capable of quick turns. In fact, this is what they are designed for and is part of the fun. However, this kind of operation is considered reckless if done in congested areas of boat traffic.

In addition to being governed by some of the laws that apply to other boats, the following laws apply to personal watercraft:

  • Each person operating, riding on, or being towed behind a personal watercraft must wear an approved non-inflatable Type I, II, III or V personal flotation device. Inflatable personal flotation devices are prohibited.
  • The operator of a personal watercraft must attach the engine cutoff switch lanyard (if equipped by the manufacturer) to his/her person, clothing or PFD.
  • Personal watercraft may not be operated from 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise.
  • Maneuvering a personal watercraft by weaving through congested vessel traffice, jumping the wake of another vessel unreasonably close or when visibility around the vessel is obstructed, or swerving at the last possible moment to avoid collision is classified as reckless operation of a vessel (a first-degree misdemeanor).
  • A person must be at least 14 years of age to operate a personal watercraft in this state.
  • A person must be at least 18 years of age to rent a personal watercraft in this state.
  • It is unlawful for a person to knowingly allow a person under 14 years of age to operate a personal watercraft ( a second-degree misdemeanor).
  • Anyone 21 years of age or younger, is required to either have successfully completed a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) approved boating education course or have passed a course equivalency or temporary certification examination and have in their possession a boating education ID card and a photo identification card before operating a vessel with a motor of 10 HP or more in Florida. Identification cards for persons completing the course or the equivalency exam are good for a lifetime. Temporary Certification exams are made available to the public thorugh contractors. The temporary certificate is valid for a period of 12 months from the issue date.

For more informtion on safety rules regulating personal watercraft, visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website.