August 5

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Do You Need A License to Drive a Jet Ski ?

By Steve

August 5, 2022


Jet ski licensing is not your everyday topic of discussion. However, about 40 states in America require one to have specific licenses before driving a jet ski on both non-tidal waters and forms of jet skiing.

Below is a state-by-state breakdown of the jet ski laws and permits required to drive a jet ski.

Alabama

According to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, a vessel license is required to ride a personal watercraft such as jet skis, and it applies to anyone above 14. Certificate exemptions are awarded to people with valid U.S. Coast Guard Motorboat Operator Licenses, those who submit certificates showing the completion of an ALEA Marine Police Division approved safe boating course, and people who hit 40 as of April in 1994 or are older.

Alaska

The Department of Administration of Motor Vehicles states that you do not need a license to drive powered boats like jet skis. However, all jet skis whose lengths exceed 24 feet and are used in the state should be registered.

Arizona

There are no rules concerning jet skiing licenses in the state.

Arkansas

In the state, everyone born in 1986 and after should pass the boater safety course and have a boater education card before operating a jet ski. 12 to 15-year-olds can operate jet skis under the supervision of a legal adult, and persons above 21 years can only supervise those under 12.

California

The sandy waters of California are an excellent place to drive your jet ski. According to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, a Californias Boater Card is needed for jet skis with horse powers above 15. One obtains the card after passing the safety education exam administered by the NASBLA (National Association of State Boating Law Administrators).

Jet skiers 12 to 15 years old do not need a California Boater card if they are supervised by an adult who owns a card and their jet skis are 15hp or more.

Colorado

In the state, anyone above 14 requires a boater education card, proving that you took the state’s boater safety course and attained a passing grade. Participants of the online course should be 16 years and over. Those who cannot take the online course complete a proctored exam administered in a classroom setting. One must not be a resident of Colorado to take the online course or acquire an education card.

Connecticut

As per the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, you need a Certificate of personal watercraft operation or a Safe Boating Certificate to drive a jet ski. The Department of Motor Vehicles must register any vessel deemed as a motorboat. However, it would be best if you were not certified to operate on inland bodies at ten horsepower an hour before sunrise and sunset.

Children require certificates to operate jet skis without supervision and also take a boating course to attain the certification.

Delaware

Like Colorado, Delawareans require safety certificates easily obtained offline for 14-year-olds. Online safety certificates are issued to those above 16. People who own Bay Pilot Licenses are exempted from certification. It also applies to those with U.S. Coast Guard licenses or a Delaware River Captain license. Operating a jet ski without your Boater Education Card could result in a fine.

Florida

Florida restricts children below the age of 14 from jet skiing even if they own a Florida Boating Safety Education card or are under supervision. Additionally, you must be 18 years old or older to lease a jet ski or rent one. The Florida Boating Safety Education I.D Card and photographic I.D. is obtained through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

It is illegal for a jet ski owner to knowingly permit anyone below 14 years of age to drive the watercraft. Those exempted from owning a license include:

 

  • riders operating on private lakes and ponds
  • people accompanied onboard by anyone exempted from the academic mandate or is above     
  • People operating their vessels within 90 days of purchase still have their bill of sale on board.     

Georgia

The prominent state requires no license nor photo I.D. However, anyone under 12 years should not operate a jet ski whose length is 16 feet or more. A driver’s license or any other proper identification is the only legal requirement for those above 16 years to ride on jet skis.

Hawaii

Jet skiing is a highly sought-after recreation activity in Hawaii. Jet ski operators must be above 15 years old and have completed the NASBLA-approved boater safety education course if the vessel surpasses ten horsepower. Not having your Boater Education Card could attract a fine.

Idaho

Idaho has no state-wide law concerning the driving age. However, local age restriction laws exist in counties such as Benewah, Kootenai, and Bonner. All riders should know the navigation rules. Boater education is required in the circumstances such as:

  • an operator is a regular offender of some boating laws     
  • A personal watercraft rental business allows people to use their jet skis for rental purposes.

Illinois

The state mandates that children ages 11 and 12 may operate jet skis whose hp exceeds ten only when they are under the supervision of a legal adult who owns a Boating Safety Certificate. Persons between the ages of 12 to 17 should have a Boating Safety Certificate from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources or under close supervision from a legal adult with certification.

It is worth noting that any person supervising persons born on or after 1st January 1998 should possess a legit Boating Safety Certificate.

Indiana

The state law calls for riders to have a driver’s license to operate a jet ski or motorboat. However, persons below the age of 15 cannot operate a jet ski as they are not licensed drivers. Those above 15 can drive jet skis after completing a ratified course by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and own an I.D. provided by the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

For those who have never owned a driver’s license, the Boater Education Course is mandatory.

Iowa

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources requires jet skiers ages 12 to 17 to have education certificates before skiing on jets whose horsepower exceeds 10. Ensure to have your Boater Education Card on board as a lack of these could attract a fine.

 

Kansas

Only people above 12 are allowed to operate vessels in the state, as anyone below the age has to have adult supervision. People between the ages of 12 and 20 should complete the approved boater education course before operating a jet ski or being above 21.

Kentucky

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife stipulates that one must be 12 years or over before operating a jet ski on Kentucky public waters. Skiers between 12 and 17 can legally operate boats with horsepower exceeding 10. They should have successfully passed the approved boating safety course and have their certificate when on board. A legal adult should accompany those without certificates with a boater education card.

Louisiana

Louisiana is known to take care of its youngsters during water recreation activities. According to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, people below 16 years cannot legally rent a jet ski. Also, it is illegal for personal watercraft operators to allow persons below 16 on jet skis without supervision. Companies are prohibited from allowing anyone below 16 to rent jet skis.

Maine

In Maine, you do not require a license to drive a jet ski. However, some laws protect people in the state’s waters. People below 12 years are not allowed to operate jet skis whose horsepower exceeds 10. However, they can ride the watercraft under direct onboard supervision of a person over 16 years. To freely drive a jet ski, ensure you are 18 years or older or have completed the safety education course, thus owning a badge proofing the completion.

Maine requires that you have a Type 1, Type 11, or Type 111 life jacket.

Maryland

Jet ski licenses are not a requirement in the state. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources requires all riders to be at or above 16 years. Anyone riding a watercraft whose length is above 11 feet and below 16 years should be supervised by a person with a valid boating safety certificate or who was born before 1st July 1972.

Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, older drivers must not own a license to operate. However, riders between 12 to 15 years must complete the approved boating course if they are to ski without adult supervision. Skiers between 12 to 15 years may ride jet skis if they passed the course or are accompanied by a legal adult.

Renting out jet skis to people below 16 is illegal.

Michigan

Michigan states that people born after 1st July 1996 should have their boating safety certificates onboard before riding a ski jet. However, those born earlier do not require a certificate. Persons below 14 years cannot operate a ski jet unless accompanied by their legal guardian or persons above 21 years. They can ride a distance of 100 feet or so away from their guardian or the 21-year-old supervisor.

Minnesota

The state laws of Minnesota dictate that people below the age of 13 should not use a jet ski. People above 13 should be accompanied by an adult, while those between 14 and 17 should have a permit.

Mississippi

The state is one of the few which do not demand a riding certificate. The document is termed the Certificate of Number and is issued by the State Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. It is valid for three years. Anyone below 12 years has to be supervised by an adult of 21 years or over during skiing.

Missouri

In Missouri, anyone born on or after 1st January 1984 must pass the Missouri Boater Education course as the Missouri State Highway Patrol instructed. Afterward, you earn a boater identification card which goes for about $15.

Montana

The state allows youths ages 13 to 14 to operate ski jets whose horsepower exceeds ten if they own a valid Montana motorboat operator’s safety certificate if they can show evidence of the completion of another state’s NASBLA-approved boating course, and when accompanied by people above 18 or so.

Nebraska

Licenses are not a requirement for jet skiing in the state. However, a safety course certificate is a requirement for all jet skiers born on or after 31st December 1985.

Nevada

People born on 1st January 1983 or afterward cannot ride a jet ski of 15hp unless they own a boater education card. It is obtained after pursuing an online course offered to people of all ages.

New Hampshire

A boating certificate is required in the state only if your jet ski exceeds a speed of 20 miles per hour, goes 13 feet under, and has a hp of 25 or so. Licenses from the U.S Coast Guard Auxiliary, Power Squadron, or NASBLA are acceptable too.

New Jersey

The Motor Vehicle Commission states that one should have a license before riding in non-tidal lakes and creeks. People below 13 years should have a Boater Education Certificate before operating the watercraft. A New Jersey Boat Safety Certificate is also needed.

New Mexico

A boater education card is needed for jet skiing in New Mexico for people born after 1st January 1989. Exemptions are given to people with U.S Coast Guard licenses.

New York

As of 2020, anyone born after 1st January 1993 requires a boating safety certificate.

North Carolina

Adults do not require licenses to jet ski. The boating course is taken by those born after 1988 and have skied with a 10hp.

North Dakota

Children of 15 and below require a boater education card to ski at ten hp. Adults require no licenses.

Ohio

Legal adults need no license. A safety certificate is needed for jet skis with a hp of above 10.

Oklahoma

Jet skiers of 12 to 15 years must pass the safety course before skiing. Adults need no certification.

Oregon

Anyone above 12 and who uses a ten-hp jet ski can get certified. People above 15 years old can ride without adult supervision.

Pennsylvania

All jet skiers require a Boating Safety Education Certificate. It is issued once.

Rhode Island

People born after 1st January 1989 should have certificates. It applies to foreigners too.

South Carolina

16-year-olds require a certificate to drive jet skis of 15hp and above. Adults have no restrictions.

South Dakota

Children of 12 years and below require adult supervision to ride watercraft at 6hp. A formal boating course is not required.

Tennessee

One should be at least 12 years and own a boater education certificate before riding a jet ski. Adults require certificates before supervising young riders.

Texas

Skiers born after 1st September 1993 require a boater course before driving jet skis.

Utah

A legal adult must supervise riders of ages 12 to 15 after taking the Utah States Park boating course.

Vermont

Persons born after 1st January 1974 need a boater education card before skiing.

Virginia

A boater education card is mandatory for all before riding in the state.

Washington

As of 2008, jet skiers below 20 pursue boating education to get licensed.

West Virginia

The West Virginia Boating License for jet skiers is required for persons born after 31st December 1986.

Wisconsin

Anyone born after 1st January 1989 takes the safety course before riding or supervising a rider.

Wyoming

No licenses are required in Wyoming.

Bottom Line

Jet skiing in America comes with different regulations among the states. These are placed to protect young drivers from harm, so it’s crucial to carry your license to avoid getting fined.



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