Alert: Effective January 1, 2024 - Are you 60 years of age or younger? All motorized vessel operators 60 and younger are required by law to complete a boating safety course and obtain a California Boater Card before heading out on the water. For more information about the California Boater Card, list of approved courses and exemptions, please visit

Welcome to the California Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) safety and education page!  DBW relies on partnerships with many organizations (educational institutions, aquatic centers, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and America's Boating Club/U.S. Power Squadrons) and more to provide boating safety education and positive outreach to children, youth, and adults. If you are a first-time boater or if you just want to learn the latest "rules of the road", this page will help make your boating activities safe and enjoyable.

Boating Safety

Play it Safe! Almost 800,000 pleasure craft are registered in California, and the rapidly rising numbers of unregistered paddlecraft bring the number of active boaters to over four million. That’s a lot of Californians having a lot of boating adventures on thousands of miles of beautiful waterways! 

Unfortunately, some boaters will get hurt or die while on the water. The Coast Guard reports nearly 5,000 boating accidents each year in the United States—causing approximately 700 deaths, 3,000 injuries and $36 million in damage. About 85% of all boating deaths occur on boats where the operator has not completed a boating safety education course.

The California Boater Card education program is designed to increase boating safety on California waterways. Check out these pages for boating safety and education information.


Boater Education Requirements 

The good news: Boaters can prevent most accidents by learning safe boating techniques and using common sense. California boating safety courses are designed to provide boaters with state specific boating laws and federal navigation requirements in many different environments to suit individual boater needs. There are home study, classroom, online and on-the-water courses.

The California Boater Card requirements can be found in the links below. If you are looking for a basic course to fulfill the card requirements, be sure to check that it is on the list of approved courses. If you are looking for more advanced courses, check out the many providers and aquatic centers throughout the state. Parents and teachers can give their children and students a head start on boating and water safety through the K-12 AquaSmart safety curriculum.

K-12 Education

Boating and Waterways is mandated (Section 51879.7 of the California Education Code)  to provide fundamental water safety training for all the children of the state, so California’s youth will be able to enjoy water recreation while avoiding its hazards. DBW developed the award-winning AquaSMART curriculum program available to K-12 teachers and parents. The division is also active in many youth outreach events and through traditional and online media to fulfill its responsibility of boating safety education for California children and youth.

save the ones you love


Preventing boating and water accidents begins with outreach education. Each year, DBW provides fun safety education to over 300 schools and provides a limited number of life jackets and safety information at over 60 trade in events and at over 50 marina and boating events for adults.
In addition, many boating resources are available through a variety of DBW programs including environmental, aquatic invasive species and multimedia boater awareness campaigns.


Reports, boating safety information for children, youth, adults and schools are found on the following publication page. Some can be downloaded directly and others must be ordered. Directions for ordering are included. There are no charges for any of the publications. For partner organizations, some publications may be ordered in bulk.