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Age To Operate A PWC (Requirements To Ride)

Jet skiing is so much fun that jet skiers can’t get enough of it.  The adrenaline rush that comes with skiing makes the experience one-of-a-kind.

So, if you are a young person considering taking on the hobby or just a concerned parent of a future jet skier then you might be wondering, how old do you have to be to drive a jet ski?

The minimum age for a jet ski driver varies from state to state. It includes children ranging from twelve to eighteen years old. However, a majority of the states consider the ages of fourteen to sixteen to be appropriate for operating a jet ski.

In the rest of the article, I will dive a bit deeper in the age-related concerns that come with jet skiing. So, keep on reading to have your curiosities answered. 

How Old Do You Have To Be To Drive A Jet Ski?

The minimum age to lawfully operate or own jet skis or personal watercraft differs from state to state.  The minimum age requirement is twelve years old.

However, some states require an individual to be at least 18 years old to use a jet ski. Furthermore, in order to obtain a license, you must complete proper training.

Driving a jet ski is easier than a road vehicle. However, it is still dangerous enough to be entrusted to the hands of a minor.

Jet skis are very fast and powerful. You need a certain amount of mindfulness to hold onto the seat of the vehicle. 

Poorly calculated movements can cause serious injury to the rider and other nearby watercraft. Sometimes there are fatalities.

Moreover, movies show many kinds of stunts performed on jet skis. And young, immature children are most likely to try to mimic them. 

So, due to the concern for the general well-being of everyone, various state authorities strictly regulate the age of jet ski drivers and owners. 

Different Ages According To States 

The states have different definitions of what is the right age to drive a jet ski. The lowest age is 12 years.

The states that follow this are Arizona, Kentucky, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania. 

In Texas, New Jersey, Montana, Louisiana, and the District of Columbia, you need to be at least 13 years of age to be eligible to drive a jet ski.

Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Washington require you to be 14 years of age to be a jet ski driver. 

In West Virginia and Indiana, the age limit is 15. Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming consider 16 the appropriate age for a jet ski driver. In Utah and Vermont, you need to be 18 years of age to legally own and drive a PWC. 

Some states like Alaska, Idaho, and Hawaii have no age requirements for jet ski driving. However, you have to get the appropriate training and prove your eligibility first. 

The Considerations For Approval

Besides your age, the authorities consider a few other things to approve you as a jet ski driver. The type and size of the jet ski you want to drive play an important role in the decision.

Plus, authorities will judge your education on different boating matters. Like, how well do you know the safety procedures and functions of different machinery, etc?

This often comes in the form of a boating license or boating education certificate. So, if you are clear about your age, then focus on how to get the license. 

The Importance Of Jet Ski Licensing 

The main importance of licensing is to comply with the law. To mitigate jet ski-related accidents, the authorities are seriously enforcing the rules and requirements relevant to jet ski driving.

Therefore, getting a license helps you to stay out of legal trouble. Moreover, by getting a license, you are passively keeping everyone safe. 

Another important aspect of jet ski licensing is the personal benefit you are getting. As you have to go through the course beforehand, you will learn important stuff about operating a watercraft and how to keep yourself unharmed while doing it. 

How To Get A License For Driving Jet Ski?

Although the age requirements vary from state to state, all of them have one thing in common. Everyone requires a boating license for a jet ski driver. A boat license is different from a driving license. 

You can get it by applying online at Boat-ED, which is the only boating license course approved by the state. 

Boater Education Certificate 

The official term for a boating license is “Boater Education Certificate”. This is a document that attests to your participation and completion of an approved boating safety course.

The certificate is not essentially a license. Because, unlike a typical license, it doesn’t expire or need renewal. 

This certificate is given upon completion of the boat safety courses offered by Boat-ED. The course varies depending on the state from which you apply.

This course is approved by the state, the US Coast Guard, and the National Association of Boating Law Administrators. 

The Process Of Licensing

To get the license, you have to apply online at Boat-ED. First, choose your state. After that, you will be presented with different course options.

Select one, and register for free. The course is online-based. Smartphones, laptops, desktops, and tablets are compatible with the course. 

The education materials consist of text, animations, videos, and others. After you have learned them, there will be an assessment exam. Pass it and you will receive the boater education certificate by mail

Things To Expect In A Typical Jet Ski Licensing Course

All boating courses mainly focus on some common things. Such as how to safely operate a water vessel, how to handle emergencies, and the legal affairs affiliated with boating. 

Depending on these various topics, the course is broken down into units. After you learn the materials from one unit, you will take a small exam.

If you acquire a passing score, you will move on to the next unit. If you do not acquire enough scores, you have to re-study and take the exam again. 

Eventually, when you have mastered all the units and passed the last exam, you will get your certificate. In the process, you will become a competent, well-educated, and responsible boatman. 

Other Requirements For Driving A Jet Ski 

You now know how old you have to be to drive a jet ski. Plus, you have a well-rounded idea of the licensing course.

However, there are still some secondary requirements left. Some of these are legal and some are for your well-being. Let’s have a look at these. 

Safety Equipment

Even professional jet ski drivers are not supposed to hit the water without their safety equipment. This consists mainly of a US Coast Guard recognized life jacket. 

Plus, you should also have a lanyard and kill cord on your boat. 

Mental State

You cannot operate a personal watercraft if you are not sober. If you are caught doing drugs, there can be serious legal consequences. You might also be banned from operating a watercraft for a long time. 

It is also advised for mentally ill individuals to refrain from taking on the sport. So, if you have someone with any sort of mental illness wanting to try jet skiing, it might be better to restrict them for their own safety. 


When driving a jet ski, don’t get carried away by the thrill and adrenaline rush. Be mindful of where you are driving. 

Making sudden movements can result in whiplash injuries, throw you off the boat, or tendon damage. 

Proper Training

Although the licensing course will teach you what you need, it may still not be adequate to handle a machine in rough waters

So, it is best to learn all the tips and tricks from experienced riders before you get into serious jet skiing. Plus, learn to flawlessly operate the vehicle at lower speeds before you go fast. 

Turning A Corner

Most of the injuries in jet skiing occur when the driver abruptly turns a speeding vehicle. 

The sudden lack of coordination between the lower and upper parts of the body causes pulled muscles, tendons, and other injuries. So, learn how to take wide corners.


I hope now you know how old you have to be to drive a jet ski. As you can see, it really depends on the state you live in to get a jet ski license. So, check up on your state laws surrounding watercraft operation. 

If you are of the proper age to get one then you can take the proper licensing exam and you are good to go.