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Your Complete Guide To Jet Ski Wakeboarding

Safe, Easy, Fun for the Family

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For fans of water sports, wakeboarding is a fun and exhilarating option. If you’re interested in getting into jet ski wakeboarding and don’t know where to start, we’ve compiled a guide to point you in the right direction. We’re going to give you the lowdown on wakeboard jet skis and everything that you’ll need to know about rules, regulations, and the pros and cons.

What is wakeboarding?

Wakeboarding is a water sport that was started in 1985 by Tony Finn. He was looking for alternatives to waterskiing and surfing, and he created a waterboard that could “surf” in the wake behind a boat.


Wakeboarders are fastened to a board that is similar to a surfboard and are towed behind a motorboat, or jet ski.  They ride the surface of the water – particularly the wake that a boat or jet ski leaves behind – and can even perform tricks.

jet ski wakeboarding

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Is it legal to wakeboard behind a jet ski?

Many states have their own rules and regulations regarding jet ski wakeboarding use, but in general it’s legal to wakeboard behind a jet ski. It’s important to know your state’s laws before you head out to the water to ensure your safety and avoid legal issues.


Since each state can have different rules, a quick Google search will let you know what you need to do. There are a few common regulations that you’ll find in almost every state, however, and we’ve listed them below.


To drive a personal watercraft (PWC) you’ll first need to complete a boat safety course and get a boating license. While they do not look like regular boats, jet skis are classified as boats and follow the same laws as any other boat. The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) is an organization that represents the recreational boating authorities of all 50 states and the U.S. territories. To find an approved boat safety course in your state, click here.

Life Jackets

Anyone involved in jet ski wakeboarding needs to wear a U.S. Coastguard-approved life jacket made specifically for jet skiing. That includes the person on the wakeboard as well as the driver and the spotter.

Type of Jet Ski

Most states require that wakeboarding jet skis be able to carry at least three riders: the driver, spotter, and wakeboard rider. Most states require jet skis to have rear-view mirrors.


Most states also require having a second person besides the driver on board the jet ski to act as a spotter. The spotter sits facing the person on the wakeboard to keep a close and continuous eye on them. This spotter must be at least 12 years of age and not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Is wakeboarding behind a jet ski different to a boat?

Wakeboarding behind a jet ski can be trickier than wakeboarding behind a boat. A lot depends on how well the driver can hold a speed. The speed of a jet ski towing a wakeboard can vary and make the ride bumpy for the wakeboarder.


Another issue with jet ski wakeboarding is that jet skis create very little wake for riding on. Boats, on the other hand, have more weight and can create bigger wakes, which is probably preferable for more experienced wakeboarders. They can also control their speed better, giving a smoother ride.


The size of jet skis can be a deterrent from wakeboarding. Many states require room for three passengers, and many jet skis don’t have the space for three people.

wakeboarding behind a jet ski

Tips for jet ski towing safely

  • Having a spotter is essential so the driver can concentrate on direction and speed
  • Keep the jet ski traveling in one direction when possible
  • Try to wakeboard in a place where there are very few other boats so you can avoid weaving and changing direction
  • Make sure your tow rope is set to your state’s length limit
  • Learn hand signals so the driver and rider can communicate

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Tips for Beginners learning How to wakeboard behind a jet ski

The trickiest part of learning to wakeboard can be getting up out of the water.  For beginners this is the real challenge and being able to achieve this requires technique, strength and balance.  The key is to let the jet ski do the work to ‘pop’ the wakeboarder out of the water. Here’s some tips:

  • Check that your board is set up properly and strap your feet in, then jump in the water and grab the handle of the rope
  • Lay back in the water with the wakeboard floating in front of you and with your knees bent right up and your arms on the outside of your knees holding the tow rope handle in front of you, slightly push down with your toes.
  • As you feel the pressure come on, keep your knees bent, lean slightly back and put pressure on your dominant foot (which will move to the back) and twist the board so it rotates around your body as you pop out of the water
  • The pull of the rope will ‘pop’ you up out of the water and as this happens move to a standing position with your weight mostly on the back foot

The pros and cons of wakeboarding behind a jet ski


  • It’s perfectly legal to jet ski wakeboard – just check your state regulations for specific rules as far as accessories needed.
  • It’s safe. Jet ski wakeboarding is actually safer than wakeboarding behind a boat. Most motor boats have fully exposed propellers with nothing to protect you from them. If you get too close to spinning propellers it can cause a serious accident. Jet ski propellers are safely enclosed within a pipe.
  • It’s affordable. Jet skis are much less expensive than motorboats. Jet skis average about $12,000, while motorboats will start around $100k.
  • Cheaper. Motorboats are more expensive to maintain.
  • It’s a smaller size. Jet skis are smaller and lighter than boats, which make them easier to maneuver and store. You can store your jet ski at home rather than at a marina and you can easily tow it behind your car.


  • Weight problems. Jet skis can be too small and light for proper wakeboarding. They don’t always have the speed and power that is needed for some tricks. 
  • Size. Some jet skis aren’t big enough for the required three passengers and for carrying all of your equipment.
  • Bigger boats. Bigger boats have the right of way in the water, and they often don’t pay attention to smaller vessels that are towing. If you’re on a jet ski you may have to swerve a lot, which can be hard on the wakeboarder and make them fall easily.
  • Small wakes. Since they’re smaller and less powerful than boats, jet skis don’t generate as much of a wake. This is fine if you’re a beginner, but if you’re looking to do some beginner wakeboarding tricks a bigger wake will be helpful.

Where to go jet ski wakeboarding

Probably the best places to go jet ski wakeboarding are lakes. They’re smooth and big enough for you to have plenty of space to ride and do tricks. A similar option is a dam. These options are best for beginners.


If you’re more adventurous you can try jet ski wakeboarding in a river, or even the ocean! If you’re able to travel, there are some stunning places to go wakeboarding such as Turks and Caicos, and Bora Bora. You’ll get some stunning scenes along with your exhilarating ride!

Final Thoughts on jet ski wakeboarding

Riding on a jet ski wakeboard has its challenges, but it can be incredibly fun. It’s a great way to try out a new sport that’s fairly affordable and easy and enjoyable for families. Even though a jet ski doesn’t offer as much power as a motorboat, you’ll still be able to enjoy yourself and even learn some new tricks.


Before you set out on a jet ski wakeboarding adventure, make sure to check your local guidelines and regulations to ensure you will comply with the requirements. Make sure you have all of the proper equipment and that your jet ski and wakeboard meet safety requirements. Once you’re all set with that, you’ll be able to have an exhilarating time!