Get your card today

Personal Watercraft (PWC) Laws in Florida

January 13, 2023

Commonly known by brand names such as Jet Ski, Sea-Doo and WaveRunner, personal watercraft (PWCs) are small motorized vessels often used for water skiing and towing activities. Since their design and operation differs from regular boats in several ways, they are subject to their own specific requirements, restrictions and regulations under Florida law.

Safety measures required for PWCs in Florida

Anyone who operates, rides on, or participates in water skiing or towing activities using a PWC is required to wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD). Inflatable PFDs may not be used on personal watercraft or for PWC-related activities.

When operating a PWC equipped with an engine cutoff switch, the lanyard must be attached to the operator’s clothing or life jacket. This ensures that the engine will shut down in the event that they fall overboard.

PWC operation regulations

It is against Florida’s boating laws to operate a PWC during the hours of darkness (from half an hour after sunset to half an hour before sunrise). This restriction applies even if navigation lights are used. Note that both federal and state laws require the use of navigation lights from sunset to sunrise, meaning that PWCs must display the appropriate lights if boating during the half hour after sunset or before sunrise.

Dangerous maneuvers such as weaving a personal watercraft through boat traffic, swerving at the last minute to avoid a collision, or jumping the wake of another vessel at close proximity or in restricted visibility conditions are considered reckless boating and are punishable by law.

Florida PWC laws regarding age requirements

Individuals must be at least 14 years old in order to operate a personal watercraft in Florida. It is illegal for someone to knowingly allow a child under the age of 14 to operate a PWC. The minimum age to rent a PWC in Florida is 18.

In order to operate any vessel with over 10 horsepower, including a PWC, individuals born on or after Jan. 1, 1988 must complete a NASBLA-approved boating safety course and hold a boater education identification card.

Learn more about Florida boating laws with Drive a Boat USA

It’s important for boaters and PWC operators to be aware of their obligations and follow the law in order to keep everyone safe on the water. Drive a Boat USA offers a state-approved boater safety course that teaches aspiring vessel operators everything they need to know. Take our online course to obtain official certification!