Water skiing

These guidelines apply to water skiing and any activities where students are in a craft designed to be towed by a power boat (for example, knee boarding and wakeboarding), except in rescue situations.


Transport Safety Victoria - Maritime Safety provides the following definitions of waterways in Victoria to provide guidance for minimum safety equipment and preparation:

  • Inland waters - rivers inside the seaward entrance, creeks, canals, lakes, reservoirs and any similar waters either naturally formed or man-made and which are either publicly or privately owned but does not include any navigable rivers, creeks or streams within declared port waters.
  • Enclosed waters - any declared port waters inside the seaward entrance. See Victorian Recreational Boating Safety Handbook for all listed port waters.
  • Coastal Inshore waters - all waters other than inland waters or enclosed waters.
  • Coastal offshore - all waters greater than two nautical miles from the coast.


Water environments

Water environments are subject to a wide range of environmental conditions. Water skiing activities may be affected by conditions such as size and turbidity of the body of water, the strength of tides and currents, the presence and power of waves, and the temperature of the water.


Due to the unique nature of each location, a specific assessment of suitability should be made prior to the trip.

Your choice of location should be based upon the recent and first hand knowledge of at least one member of the planning and supervising staff. Where this is impractical, planning and supervising staff should be thoroughly familiar with the general characteristics and conditions found in similar locations, and have consulted with people who can supply recent and first-hand knowledge of the locations being considered.

When assessing the suitability of a location, consider:

  • the potential to support your educational objectives
  • the level of access to the resources, services and facilities that you need or would like to use. These might include campsites, water, walking trails, toilets, shelter from extreme weather, or interpretive information
  • the level of access to communications and external assistance, in the event of an emergency, or extreme weather conditions. The more effectively remote your location is, then the more self-contained and self–reliant your group must be
  • the potential exposure to environmental hazards and difficulties
  • the activity ability and fitness of students.

Contact authorities and relevant local organisations to access the most up-to-date information on the location, and to determine access and permit requirements. These may include:

Groups need to be aware that extreme weather conditions may develop prior to or during the proposed trip. Staff should be prepared to cancel, modify or relocate the activity at any time.


Your communication strategy should enable you to receive weather forecasts and warnings, communicate with the school, and engage support in the case of an incident or emergency.

  • Choose communication equipment based on current communication technology.
  • Develop a communication strategy for the group during the program and to enable communication with outside parties including the school and emergency services.
  • Be aware of the limitations of your communication strategy.

A system for communicating during the activity must also be established prior to the activity and explained to students.


Check the weather forecast for the location in the days leading up to the program and on the day the program commences. If the program extends overnight, monitor and assess the weather throughout and based on that information access daily weather forecasts and warnings.

Weather conditions can change rapidly. Monitor and assess the weather throughout the activity and be prepared to cancel, modify or relocate at anytime.

Weather warning telephone services:

  • Coastal, Land Weather and Flood Warnings: 1300 659 217
  • Full State Telephone Weather Service: 1900 955 363 (call charge applies)
  • Coastal Waters Telephone Service: 1900 969 930 (call charge applies)
  • Victorian Bushfire Information Line: 1800 240 667

These telephone numbers may be useful to have available on your program.

Web links:


The transportation of groups to and from activity locations must be carefully considered.

Vehicles used to transport students must comply with VicRoads registration requirements.

  • Drivers must comply with all licensing requirements.
  • Equipment carried inside vehicles must be securely stowed.
  • Students must be supervised by a minimum of one adult, in addition to the bus driver, during travel.

Drivers of vehicles with up to and including 12 seats (including the driver) require a current drivers license.

Drivers of vehicles with 13 or more seats (including the driver) require a current license appropriate for the vehicle and must:

In circumstances where a teacher or staff member is to drive a vehicle transporting students, the program should allow for them to have adequate rest prior to driving consistent with the national driving hours regulations.


Student skills

Water skiing should begin with an assessment of students’ current knowledge, skills and experience and an activity briefing given by the instructional staff.


Equipment must be in a safe condition and suitable for the activity.

First aid kits

First aid kits appropriate to the location and level of training must be carried.


Boats must conform to the standards required by Transport Safety Victoria as described in the current Recreational Boating Safety Handbook. Where a training bar is used for beginners it should be attached to the operator’s side of the boat.

If more than one boat is to be used, each boat must be allocated a specific area in which to operate and boats must maintain suitable communication at all times.

Life jackets

In all waters, skiers must wear a securely fitted Australian Standard Type 2.

Occupants in the tow boat or other craft must wear an Australian Standard Type 1 or Type 2. For more information, see Life jacket laws.


Skis must be well maintained. A range of sizes of skis should be available in order to find an appropriate, safe match to skiers of different sizes.

Tow ropes and handles

Tow ropes and handles should be brightly coloured for visibility and should be checked regularly to ensure safety. Ropes and handles must float.


Clothing is the individual’s primary protection against extreme and variable weather conditions. Clothing lists need to be appropriate for the activity, the environment and the season.

A complete change of clothing should be available at the location.

Glasses should be secured in some way and no loose jewellery worn. Wearing rings is not advised unless they are taped.

To protect against sunburn use broad-spectrum, water-resistant SPF 30+ sunscreen on all exposed parts of the body, applied according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.Further information can be found at SunSmart.

Sun Protection is required when the UV Index is above 3. For further information see Sun and UV Protection.


Staff and students must be easily identifiable.

Staff must determine the most suitable system/s of identification, based on the assessment of the environment, students’ skills, the type of activities to be undertaken and the age and number of students.



Staff members are those adults who provide the supervisory, instructional and educational elements of the program. All staff members must be endorsed by the principal.

All staff members must comply with current Departmental police check requirements or the Working with Children Check

A teacher registered with the Victorian Institute of Teaching and either employed by the Department or the school council must be present and have overall responsibility for the activity.

Where not directly responsible for the instruction of the activity or assisting the instructor, the teacher present must understand the activity and the environment in which it will be conducted. This teacher must confer with the designated instructor about the supervisory role and establish areas of responsibility. If the teacher is not the designated instructor he/she is to act on the advice of the designated instructor on technical safety issues.

Any staff member with a known medical condition that might compromise the group’s risk management plan should make accompanying staff aware of this condition. Issues of confidentiality and privacy will apply to any such disclosure. 

Experience and qualifications

Staff involved in the planning and conduct of the activity should have sufficient knowledge and experience of the activity and the activity environment to operate in all foreseeable conditions.

The designated water skiing instructor/s must have one of the following:

  • Level 1 Australian Water ski and Wakeboard Federation Water Skiing coaching qualification
  • equivalent documented training and experience from another training provider or education institution
  • equivalent documented experience in lieu of certification/accreditation.

At least one staff member must hold a current version of one of the following:

The driver of the boat must be an adult experienced in towing skiers and have as a minimum a Marine licence. For more information see: Transport Safety Victoria - Marine Licence.

The designated observer must:

  • have experience in the activity at the level being offered to students
  • be able to assume a supervisory role during the activity
  • have the ability to participate competently in emergency response procedures
  • have conferred with the instructor on the safety requirements of this role.

Documentation of Staff Qualifications and Experience (doc - 151kb) can be used to document staff qualifications/experience in lieu of qualifications.

Where an external contractor is chosen to run all or part of this activity, see: Roles and responsibilities, External Providers.


Supervision is a critical factor in managing risk in the outdoors.

A minimum of two staff members must be present for each activity, one with responsibility for activity instruction and the other able to assist the instructor.

The following table shows the minimum staff-to-student ratio that must be used for water skiing.

(Note: students not directly involved in water skiing, must be supervised separately with a minimum staff-to-student ratio of 1 to 10.)

Activity**Staff numbersStudent numbers

Waterskiing (beginner)

Waterskiing (experienced)




*Up to 2

* Only one student is to be in tow at a time unless students are highly experienced skiers, in which case a maximum of two may be towed at the same time.

** Staff required must include an observer and driver. The boat driver and observer cannot be the same person.

It may be necessary to increase the number of staff allocated based on:

  • age, maturity and gender of students
  • ability and experience of students
  • individual needs
  • group dynamics of the student group
  • experience, qualifications and skills of staff
  • location conditions.

Reasons for increasing staff allocations must be documented.

The teacher in charge is responsible for the supervision strategy, which must be endorsed by the principal as part of the excursion approval process. Staff members will supervise students according to that strategy.

Informed consent

The school must receive informed consent from parents or guardians that their child may participate in adventure activities.

Informed consent should be based on an understanding of:

  • the educational purpose of the activity
  • the nature and details of the activity
  • the supervision strategy
  • other information deemed relevant by the school or by parents/guardians.

Informed consent must be given in writing, including signatures, by parents or guardians.

First aid

At least one member of staff responsible for each group of students must hold, as a minimum, a current (within 3 years) level two first aid qualification, a current (within 12 months) Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) qualification and have a first aid kit applicable to the level of training.

Staff members must consider carefully the nature and location of the excursion as well as the medical history of the students to determine the level of first aid training required by staff.  For example, if any student in the group has a history of anaphylaxis and may require the use of an epi-pen, appropriately trained staff must be present.  See: Excursion Support – First Aid.

Common risks

This list identifies risks likely to be inherent in any water skiing activity. A program-specific risk management plan must be completed that takes account of the specific conditions and unique participants of the excursion/program.

Sample RisksSample Controls

Shallow waters

Recent water skiing experience at the location and/or information from others with recent water skiing experience at the location.

Knowledge of tides times and heights at the location if relevant.

Collision with other skiers or boats

Set water skiing boundaries.

Communicate with other users of the location about boundaries and water skiing course.

Have a separate observer.

Have a licensed boat operator.

Submerged objects and sandbars

Recent water skiing experience at the location and/or information from others with recent water skiing experience at the location.

Monitor for hazards prior to student activity. (The surrounding environment will provide some indication of the likelihood of objects being encountered as will recent weather patterns.)

Understanding of recent local water and wind conditions.

Access points in the activity location/s

Identify the points at which the shoreline can be accessed throughout the activity.

Readily available rescue craft.


Water skiing resources
General resources