Some Tips for Tow Sports

Some Safety Tips for Tow Sports!


         With the weather being as amazing as it has been the water is calling our name up here in Muskoka. Tow sports are all the rage when it is this nice out and the following blog contains a few tips for safe watercraft operation as well as safe towing of family or friends behind the boat. Tow sports is an activity that is growing as fast as adrenaline junkies can think up new ways to have fun while boating. A whole industry exists that promotes family fun products that can be towed behind a boat. Today, tow sports are more than just waterskiing, it includes activities such as wakeboarding, knee boarding, tubing, and other inflated towable devices.

         If you buy a specialized tow sports boat, going skiing, wakeboarding, or surfing is a no brainer. However behind the typical family runabout or center console, you likely won’t have the benefit of a center mounted tow pylon. This being said you probably will not have the benefit of a built in ballast system for building big wakes for wake sports either. They type of boat does not change the rules for towing individuals.


         Towing a water skier, wakeboarder, knee boarder or other towable device requires the use of a spotter. A spotter is a person who observes the person being towed at all times.  The spotter notifies the driver if there is a need for a change in speed and or direction as indicated by the skiers hand signals. The spotter can also notify the driver in case of emergency. The driver should never watch the skier. The driver should always concentrate on driving the boat in a safe manner, keeping well clear of other boats, skiers, swimmers, and hazards.

Should we Surf?

         Unless you have a boat with an inboard engine, jet drive, or forward facing sterndrive, do not attempt to surf behind your boat. Surfing requires getting too close to the transom to be safe for boats with outboard or sterndrive power.

What kind of Rope or Length?

         If you are going to try different tow sports, you will need a selection of towropes. Water ski ropes are usually 75 feet in length, beginner wakeboard ropes are typically between 65 and 75 feet, and tube ropes should fall between 50 to 60 feet. The majority of wakeboarders prefer ropes with no stretch to them, while many water skiers like ropes with a little bit of stretch. Always be sure to check that a tube rope’s rating matches the weight capacity of the tube that it is towing.

         Rope position should differ between the sports as well. Skiers tend to prefer the rope attached to a pylon close to the center of the boat which helps with carving on slalom courses. Wakeboarders require a higher tow point to help with airborne acrobatics. For tubing keep the tow line tied close to the transom and off a towing eye or low pylon. Attaching a tube to a tower greatly increases the risk of flipping it or sending it aloft.

What are the general speeds of different tow sports? / Throttle control!

         When captaining the boat for tow sports throttle control is huge element of safe operation. Running and gunning does not work! When pulling up a skier or boarder, gradually bring the throttle forward so as not to jerk or yank the rope out of their hands. Once on plane, wakeboarders generally prefer a boat speed between 18 to 22 miles per hour. Slalom water skiers work with speeds between 25 and 36 miles per hour. First time boarders or skiers on two skis need slow speeds when the boat is just on plane, typically between 16 and 20 miles per hour.

         Once the rider is up, work the throttle with your thumb and index finger and your elbow on an arm rest to execute a light touch to find the sweet spot for your rider. You will need to make slight adjustments with both the throttle and the wheel to account for the pull on the transom that skiers and boarders make as the cut far out of the wake.

Rider down, what to do?


         After a rider falls, throttle back to idle before returning so you do not swamp the rider with wake. Approach the rider at idle speed from the downwind side so as not to accidentally drift or be blown on top of him/her. If the rider is reboarding the boat, always kill the engine before he gets close.

Top Tips for Tow Sports Fun!

Safety First – Always wear a properly fitted coast guard approved life jacket for any tow sport activity. Select one that won’t ride up over your head and that provides adequate impact protection if you take a spill.

Inspect your equipment – Check your equipment carefully for wear and tear before use. Replace and discard components that show signs of deterioration.

Know the Area – Check out the area where you will be participating in tows sports ahead of time. Do not operate in shallow water, near the shoreline, or near docks, pilings, swimmers and other watercraft.

Turn Off Your Engine – Always turn off your engine when a rider is entering or exiting the water. Besides the danger of a moving propeller, a boats exhaust can produce carbon monoxide, a colourless and odorless gas that can be deadly.

Listen To Your Rider – Remember that a rider has no control of the boat or its speed, so be sure to go over hand signals with the rider before he or she gets in the water. This way, a rider can communicate if they wish to turn, slow down or stop.

Observe Capacity Ratings – For inflatable tubes and similar devices that allow for multiple riders, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on weight limit and maximum towing speed.

Always Use a Spotter – Required by law, a spotter should have constant visual contact with the rider and relay information to the boat operator.

Operate With Care – The driver should always look ahead and be mindful of other waterway users. Use caution when crossing a wake or operating near other boats, docks, or the shore.

Know Your Limits – Always ski or ride within your limits. Operate or participate with control and at speeds appropriate for your ability.

Extra Seats – The towing vessel must be equipped with an extra seat for each person that is being towed in case an emergency recovery is necessary.

Can I Use a PWC? – Only personal watercraft designed to carry three or more people can be used for tow sports.

Towing At Night – Do not tow water sports enthusiasts between one hour after sunset to sunrise. It is a criminal offence, as governed by the Criminal Code of Canada, to tow a person after dark.

Take Care of Equipment – When possible, rinse your equipment with fresh water to keep it lasting longer, and coil your tow rope to prevent permanent kinks.


         We at HRC insurance hope that this was an informative blog and want to remind you to always stay safe. Always respect the waterways, other waterway users, and those who live adjacent to our waterways.


Since the 1900's...

Born under the name George Hutcheson, Hutcheson, Reynolds & Caswell Ltd. began providing insurance policies in Muskoka since the early 1900s. Bernard Reynolds joined the firm in the 1940s and purchased the firm from George Hutcheson in 1967. Finally, in 1980, David Caswell joined the company's ranks to complete Hutcheson, Reynolds and Caswell. We have grown along with our name and provide the same dedication to superior customer service and top-notch insurance coverage that George Hutcheson was famous for over 100 years ago.