Personal Safety
Anatomy of
Legal Requirements
Operating A PWC
Navigational Rules
Accident Prevention & Rescue
PWC Exam

& Links









If you are involved in an accident causing more than $500 in property damage or the loss of a vessel, it must be reported to the Division of Boating and Waterways within 10 days.

A formal report of a fatality or a missing person must be filed with the Division of Boating and Waterways within 48 hours.

Also, if an injury requires more than first aid, a formal report must be filed with the Division of Boating and Waterways within 48 hours.



You will learn:

Prevention of accidents

Common causes of accidents and injuries

What to do in case of a capsize or in case of fire

Accident Prevention and Rescue


  • Do not make sharp or erratic turns.

  • Do not operate your PWC in shallow water because the intake may pick up debris and clog the pump.

  • Be aware of other boat traffic and your abilities as an operator at all times.

  • Know how to right a capsized PWC and how to properly reboard.

  • Know the rules of the road.

  • Check the weather and water conditions before going out and throughout the day.

  • Do not carry more passengers or weight than the PWC's capacity.

  • Drink water, juice or soft drinks (non-caffeinated), not alcohol.

  • Prevent fire and environmental damage by following correct refueling procedures.

Causes of Accidents and Injuries

The most common causes of accidents with PWC include the following:

Operator Inattention or Lack of Experience

Simply not realizing limitations of your boating skill, not paying attention to the conditions, not looking out for other boaters or others in the water and/or lack of judgment are the major causes of PWC accidents. All of these are easily preventable by being cautious, using good judgment and staying alert.

Excessive Speed, Stopping Distance and Risk of Collision

PWC lack any means of stopping since they have no brakes. You will keep moving forward for several seconds after releasing the throttle depending on your original speed. Combine excessive speed and the lack of brakes and you have a dangerous combination. It is important to be alert to the fact that it will take time and distance to come to a complete stop in order to decrease the risk of a collision with another boat, people in the water or other obstructions.

Lack of Power and Loss of Steering

Power must be maintained to steer a PWC because the jet pump nozzle provides not only propulsion but also steering. If power is not maintained for any reason, the PWC will continue in the original direction of travel even if the operator turns the handle bars. Without power, the operator will lose steering control of the PWC. Therefore, it is important to be alert and always be prepared to leave enough time to carefully steer away from a person, vessel, or object.

Wake Jumping, Spraying and Other Dangerous Moves

Jumping the wake of a vessel within 100 feet of that vessel is not allowed. Dangerous moves are not only illegal, but they are also significant contributors to PWC accidents. See the Dangerous Moves section.

Alcohol and Drugs

Any use of alcohol or drugs will impair your judgment and physical ability to operate your vessel safely. Don't operate your PWC anytime you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs!

Dangerous Moves

Operators of PWC who engage in the following activities (perform the following dangerous moves) are in violation of the California Boating Law and can be cited for reckless or negligent operation. Citations may involve a fine and/or have a negative impact on your driving record. Local law enforcement may "terminate" your ride, this means you may be forced to leave the waterway for the day or longer.

  • Tag and turn. This involves sharp and erratic turns in close proximity to other vessels.

  • Overtaking another vessel at high speeds.

  • Wake jumping within 100 feet of another vessel. Not only is a collision a possibility, but you may not be able to see someone or something on the other side of the wake.

  • Spraying your friends, other vessels or people in the water.

  • Following other boats too closely. Leave a safe distance to allow time to maneuver and avoid a collision.

  • Riding too closely beside another rider. An unpredicted turn, unexpected wave action or other event could cause a collision.

  • Operating your PWC in the wake of another boat. The water may be aerated which can effect your steering and maneuverability.

  • Chasing another PWC in small circles.

These types of activities increase the risk of accidents. The potential danger and almost certain annoyance to others may leave them with a bad impression, and can lead to conflicts on the water and efforts to ban or restrict PWC use on the waterways.

Bad Weather

You should constantly monitor weather and water conditions as both can change quickly. Keeping on eye on incoming clouds, noting increasing wind or observing changing water conditions can prevent you becoming a victim of bad weather.

If you are caught in bad weather:

  • Reduce speed.

  • Proceed with caution.

  • Stay calm and head for the nearest safe shore.

If the water becomes choppy, head into the waves at about a 45 degree angle. This is the most comfortable way of getting over steep waves and lessens the chance of a rider falling off the PWC.

If your PWC capsizes and/or you fall off the vessel

The moving parts of a PWC are internal, minimizing the potential for injury. In the event that a rider falls off the PWC, most have one of the two following safety mechanisms:

  • A cutoff switch that stops the engine when the operator falls off.

  • The engine will continue to idle and the steering mechanism will turn all the way to port or starboard causing the PWC to circle slowly nearby.

  • If the PWC capsizes, right the craft in the direction the manufacturer recommends. There is usually a sticker diagram on the stern of the PWC showing the proper direction to right the craft. Failure to right your PWC properly may result in water entering the motor.

  • In either case, the operator and passengers should carefully reboard the PWC. Be careful to avoid the steering nozzle, water intakes and any other part of the PWC that may cause injury.

  • Be sure to remember to reconnect the lanyard in order to restart the engine.

If your PWC has stalled and will not restart

  • Wait a few minutes before trying to restart again. The engine may be "flooded" or the fuel line may be clogged.

  • Check the lanyard, it may be improperly attached or not attached at all.

  • Do not attempt to do repairs on the engine while on the water.

  • If the watercraft will not restart, stay with the PWC until help comes.

  • Wave your arms, use a whistle, mirror or other signaling device stored on board to attract attention.

If there is a fire aboard a PWC and you can safely reach a fire extinguisher

  • Pull the fire extinguisher pin.

  • Aim the nozzle of the fire extinguisher at the base of the flames.

  • Squeeze the trigger.

  • Use a sweeping motion from side to side with short bursts.

If you cannot reach the fire extinguisher

  • Swim to a safe distance away from the PWC to prevent burns in case of an explosion.

  • Signal others to keep away from the PWC.


PWC are boats that hold an incredible amount of fun and enjoyment for the user if used properly and safely. Good judgment, courtesy, knowledge of boating rules and regulations, and knowledge of your individual craft are all critical elements for safe use.


The information in this course is a good first step towards many years of safe and enjoyable boating!