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Tow Sports: 10 Tips For Family Fun

Tow sports are one of the fastest growing activities in boating today. In fact, they seem to be limited only by the imagination—with new ways and variations to have fun on the water popping up on a regular basis. Just one flip through a boating magazine will soon show you that an entire industry exists promoting products that can be towed behind a boat. It’s all about family fun. What was once simply waterskiing now includes activities such as wake boarding, wake surfing, knee boarding, tubing, and others.
Specialized water sports gear and products make the sport safe and enjoyable and certain accessories can easily be added to just about any boat to transform it into a tow sports platform. You don’t need to spend your life savings to get into it if you simply go about it intelligently. In that same spirit, here are some tips to make sure you do it wisely, safely and right…

1. Safety Gear – Always wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket for any tow sports activity. Select one that fits properly and won’t ride up and creep over your head—that way you know it will provide adequate impact protection when you experience a fall.

2. Turn Engine Off – Always make sure your engine is off when a rider is entering or exiting the water. Besides the danger of a moving propeller, a boat’s exhaust contains noxious gasses and isn’t healthy to breathe in.

3. Check Equipment – Check your equipment carefully for wear and tear before EACH Use. Replace any components that show signs of excessive wear or deterioration.

4. Know Your Water – Scout and survey the area where you’ll be boating prior to towing a rider. Make sure you know where shallow water is and make sure to avoid running too close to the shoreline, docks, pilings, swimmers, and other watercraft.

5. Communicate with Your Rider — Be sure to review and agree upon hand signals with the rider before they get in the water. Remember…your rider has no control of the boat or its speed, so this is the only way he/she can communicate if they want you to turn, slow down, or stop.

6. Don’t Overload – While inflatable tubes and other accessories allow for multiple riders, there ARE limits. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations relative to weight limits and max. towing speeds.

7. Be a Safe Operator – The boat driver should always keep his/her eyes looking ahead and be mindful of other boats in the vicinity. Take care when crossing a wake or operating near other boats, docks, or the shore. You should never engage in tow sports at night.

8. Use A Spotter – This is required by law in most states. A spotter should maintain constant visual contact with the rider and be able to relay information to the boat operator, so make sure they are positioned to not only have good line of sight to the rider, but be in close proximity to the driver for ease of communication.

9. Don’t push your luck – Always board or ride within your limits. Operate or participate with control and at speeds appropriate for your ability. This activity has a lot of fun potential so advance comfortably.

10. Choose your craft wisely – As stated earlier, you can easily turn just about any boat into a tow sports platform with the right accessories. Make sure you work with your boat retailer and check your owners’ manual to know whether your boat can accept the appropriate accessories to safely enjoy this activity.

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