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Old    Tim Green (timsown)      Join Date: May 2005       07-31-2007, 5:06 PM Reply   
Here is a copy of the question and answer I got from the CA Departement of Boating and Waterways:





A question about the required use of a life jacket:

On your website it states:

"...anyone being towed behind a vessel (such as skiing) and anyone riding a personal watercraft must wear a life jacket."

If I read this correctly and translate it literally, a person who is wake surfing behind a boat, without a tow line or any assistance from the boat other that the boats wake, would not be required by law to wear a life jacket.

Can you please confirm or clarify this.

Thank you





RE: Harbors and Navigation Code 658.3 (Requirement to wear a lifejacket when wake surfing)

Dear Mr. Green:

In order to answer your question concerning the need to wear a life jacket per the requirements specified in Harbors and Navigation Code Section 658.3, it is necessary to review the definition of water skiing, as found in Harbors and Navigation Code section 651 (bb), which states:

(bb) "Water skis, an aquaplane, or a similar device" includes all
forms of water skiing, barefoot skiing, skiing on skim boards, knee
boards, or other contrivances, parasailing, ski kiting, or any
activity where a person is towed behind or alongside a boat.

The main issue to examine in your question is where did the wake-surfer start from?

(a) Starting from the vessel you must wear a life jacket:
If the wake surfer started from the boat and then left the boat on a wake board either from releasing a tow rope, releasing ski pole alongside the vessel or by stepping off the swim step to commence the wake boarding activity, then the wake boarder would be required to wear a life jacket because their point of origination was from the vessel and they would be considered as water skiing, at some point, as defined.

(b) Starting away from the vessel you are considered a bather and do not need a life jacket
If the wake boarder was never in the boat and did not start from the boat, but was able to paddle under their own muscle power to get up to the speed of the boat to be able to surf in its wake, then they are considered bathers and would not need a life jacket.

However since the most likely and realistic scenario is that the person relied on the boat to get up to speed to be able to wake surf. Therefore, in answer to your answer the wake surfer would need to be wearing a life jacket because they would be considered as having been water skiing at some point in time, because they started from the vessel and at some point they left the confines of the vessel, they released a tow line or they released a ski pole attached to the side of the vessel or they stepped off the swim platform of the vessel to commence wake surfing, but primarily it's because they relied on the vessel for their impetus and their safety or rescue.

Please let us know if you have any further questions.

Mike Sotelo
Regulations Unit
CA Dept of Boating and Waterways
(916) 263-0787



Dear Mr. Green:

After I replied to your e-mail, I was asked to provide further clarification to my response. While the law addresses the requirement to wear a life jacket only while you are in the act of water skiing, as defined in 651 (bb) of the Harbors and Navigation Code, it does not require that the wake surfer wear a life jacket after he or she begins the act of wake surfing.

If you have any questions regarding this clarification, please let me know, I apologize for any misunderstanding my response may have caused.

Mike Sotelo
Regulations Unit
Dept of Boating and Waterways
(916) 263-0787



I think it is pretty cool that it only took 1 day to get an on point answer.
Old    Jeff Walker (surfdad)      Join Date: Sep 2004       07-31-2007, 6:14 PM Reply   
Huh?

So 651 (bb) states:

(bb) "Water skis, an aquaplane, or a similar device" includes all
forms of water skiing, barefoot skiing, skiing on skim boards, knee
boards, or other contrivances, parasailing, ski kiting, or any
activity where a person is towed behind or alongside a boat."


So what he said was...after you drop the rope you can take your PFD off? Then what? Toss it in the boat? :-) Or paddle in without a PFD like they do in Brazil.

I'm thinking that will cut into someone's wakesurfing time as they explain 651 (bb) to the water cops. :-)

Only in California! :-)
Old    goochy (goochy)      Join Date: Feb 2002       07-31-2007, 6:21 PM Reply   
you should ALWAYS wear a vest ..... you would be crazy not to.

I know I had a surf board hit me in my head ! cut me open , not bad, but it did hurt.

so always wear a vest , why ask the cops to come mess with ya ???????
Old    Jeff Walker (surfdad)      Join Date: Sep 2004       07-31-2007, 6:24 PM Reply   
LOL - I had to think this through. The guy falls and at that point he's a bather and so the boat can't get within 100 feet of him! :-) "Dude if you fall, you're swimming back!" That aside, we'll assume the bather swims over :-) Then, if you do fall, without the PFD, you have to put it back on to get started again. THAT's what should be illegal, someone will get a deep water zipper rash. :-)
Old    Tim Green (timsown)      Join Date: May 2005       07-31-2007, 9:05 PM Reply   
Here is why I asked the question is the first place. I have a 6'10" ocean board and wanted to try and paddle into the wake as the boat got under way. Not something I would do on a regular basis, just wanted to try it. My CGA life jacket is too bulky for me to lay on the board and paddle in a normal way and it just doesn't have that surf feel. I knew if I tried this without my jacket there would be the sheriff waiting to hassle me. I was just wondering what the letter of the law stated so as to be prepared if/when I tried this.
Old    Jeff Walker (surfdad)      Join Date: Sep 2004       08-01-2007, 5:56 AM Reply   
But...if you aren't being towed, you're a bather or a "something" and then the boat can't get within 100 feet of you at speed, right? It would seem to me that a different question now needs to be asked -

If I am on my surfboard without a pfd floating, on a public waterway can a boat come within 2 feet of me at 10 to 12 mph.
Old    Jeff Walker (surfdad)      Join Date: Sep 2004       08-01-2007, 6:21 AM Reply   
I think that 656.1 defines you as a "bather", as below:

651.1. As used in this chapter, unless the context clearly requires
a different meaning, "bather" or "bathing" means a person floating,
swimming, wading, or bodysurfing, with or without the use of a
flotation device, including, but not limited to, floating upon or
with the aid of a surfboard, paddle board, surfmat, innertube, life
preserver, or air mattress, except a flotation device which is
designed to be propelled by sail, mechanical means, power, oars, or
paddle.

The "loophole" depends upon you not being considered a skiier, and so then 655.2 would prevent the boat from coming within 100 feet of you at more than 5mph:

655.2. (a) Every owner, operator, or person in command of any
vessel propelled by machinery is guilty of a misdemeanor who uses it,
or permits it to be used, at a speed in excess of five miles per
hour in any portion of the following areas not otherwise regulated by
local rules and regulations:
(1) Within 100 feet of any person who is engaged in the act of
bathing. A person engaged in the sport of water skiing shall not be
considered as engaged in the act of bathing for the purposes of this
section.

I wonder if, when you have tossed the PFD you are then a bather and not a skiier, such that your pocket length has to be at least 100 feet long to avoid the misdemeanor violation in 655.2?

I do think that there are still more questions to be asked, or at least more detail provided. I can't see how you can avoid 655.2 underway without being considered a skiier and if you are a skiier you need a PFD.
Old    Andre (brasilianwakeboarder)      Join Date: Aug 2007       08-02-2007, 12:42 PM Reply   
get over yourself and just wear the jacket
Old    Tim Green (timsown)      Join Date: May 2005       08-02-2007, 3:02 PM Reply   
Mom, is that you?

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