Can You Ride a Jet Ski at Night?

No, you can not ride a jet ski at night.

I’ve seen far too many people attempt to modify their jet ski to drive at night to only be hit with a fine or get hurt. There is no winning this battle; you can not drive a jet ski at night.

When Can You Ride A Jet Ski?

You can operate your jet ski between sunrise and sunset. This means when the sun is gone, you can not drive your jet ski.

I would even give yourself some leeway of 30 minutes to be on the safe side. If sunset is at 8:30 pm, I would have the jet ski off the water by 8:00 pm.

Can You Put Navigation Lights On A Jet Ski?

I’ve seen people put nav lights on their jet skis so they can use them at night.

But every single one of them ends up getting them removed because water patrol fines them.

Simply putting navigation lights on your jet ski doesn’t make it legal. Jet skis can not be driven at night.

Why Can’t Jet Skis Be Driven At Night?

Due to the small size of jet skis, the nav lights can confuse other boats, especially at a distance. A jet ski can move fast and change directions which can further confuse other boaters at night.

Jet skis are already hard to see during the day and impossible to see at night.

There are also other cues that jet skis give off during the day that you won’t see at night. One example would be the rooster tail which would be invisible at night.

Combined with the fact that even during the day people do silly things they shouldn’t do on jet skis, we can safely assume they’ll do it during the night too. At night these silly things are much worse and can make it harder to help someone.

Jet ski life jackets don’t have any reflectors on them, so if you fall off, no one can see you in the water. And falling off jet skis is something that happens more often than on boats, which is another reason you can’t drive a jet ski at night.

What About Fog?

You should avoid driving your jet ski in fog.

If you do long trips, then fog can be an issue. While this can be rare, carrying some fog lights/flashers can be helpful.

But for the average jet ski owner, don’t drive when it’s foggy.

What About Getting Trapped In a Rainstorm?

Avoid riding your jet ski before or after a rainstorm. A rainstorm can have sticks and debris fall in the water which your jet ski could suck up; this is why you wait a few hours to drive after a storm.

But I’ve had a few times where I got stuck in some bad storms, so what should you do?

The goal is to get to a dock or land as you’re not going to win this one. After 30MPH, the raindrops feel like pin needles, and all the water hitting your face feels like you’re drowning.

You need to seek land or a dock because when there is rain, there is often thunder. You don’t want to be on a jet ski during a thunderstorm that is for sure.

Whatever you do, do not take off your life jacket. I know a few people to take off their life jacket to use as an umbrella, but that only puts you in more danger. If you fall off during a bad storm without a life jacket, it’s almost impossible to fight the waves, and you drown. Always keep your life jacket on when on a jet ski.

What If I Get Trapped At Night On My Jet Ski?

If you get trapped on your jet ski after dark, you need to seek the nearest boat launch or land.

Jet skis don’t have lights, no one can see you, so getting to land is important.

If you have a boat towing membership, give them a call and let them tow you back. They have the lights to get you back home safely. If you have kids who are bad about this, then a boat towing membership is handy.

You can also call a friend or family member with a boat to tow you back home.

The good news is that most people on jet skis have smartphones. With the smartphone, you can call someone, locate the nearest place to dock, or signal for help. Some SOS apps turn your phone’s screen into a help light. Don’t forget your whistle that should be on your jet ski.

What Jet Skis Are Allowed To Drive At Night?

There do exist a few jet skis that can operate at night, but the average customer can’t buy them.

These jet skis are used by search and rescue teams.

Sea-Doo has the SAR, and it has navigation lights for running at night. This PWC is also much larger, slower, and sturdier than your normal jet ski. It’s almost twice the cost of a typical jet ski too!

Sometimes a jet ski is needed in rescue missions, and sometimes these missions happen at night.

While the average customer can’t have a jet ski with navigation lights, it doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist for law and governments.

6 thoughts on “Can You Ride a Jet Ski at Night?”

  1. Last month we got to the boat ramp about 30 minutes before dark with a few boats ahead of us in line, no big deal we thought. Figured we would wait 10 minutes or so for our turn, nothing unusual and everyone was happily loading up their boats after a day out on the water. All of the sudden, 12 jet skis (must have been some sort of club) come flying through the no wake zone at 20 knots and cut off everyone at the boat ramp. Literally zipped up right in front of boats approaching the ramp and cut everyone off like it was their private boat ramp and they were entitled to special privileges (and not to mention the near collisions they almost caused by cutting off moving boats who had to abruptly cut throttle and the slam into reverse). They then proceeded to tie up both lanes of the boat ramp up for almost an hour while taking their time getting their trailers backed in and skis loaded up.

    This of course after seeing them earlier in the day running wide open inside a 6 knot zone in a swimming area where people were swimming.

    For those of you who like to push the time limits and head back just before dark, remember that you getting back before dark doesn’t give you special rights on the water – maritime navigational rules, rights of way, and speed limits still apply. You’re not entitled to special treatment because you’re on a jet ski and out of time due to poor planning. Also, had they been present, I don’t think DNR would have minded at all if there were jet skis patiently waiting on the water at the ramp after dark but they definitely would have issued fines (if not made arrests) for the dangerous and ignorant behavior of these jet skiers.

    80% of PWC operators are consummate professionals on the water but the other 20% are absolute degenerates who are so dangerous on the water that almost every state has had to impose restrictions on PWC usage. When you wonder why there are draconian laws applied to you operating your PWC, just take a look around next time you’re out and when you see one or two PWC operators doing something so completely asinine that you know the state is going to have to pass a law about it, that’s why.

    • What state? I’d be surprised they’d pull that in South Carolina. Some of these good ole boys with boats would have knocked a few PWC guys out cold if they pulled that stunt here.

    • The last time I checked the Sealver didn’t have nav lights. But even then I would side on no because it would ultimately be up to water patrol and I have a good feeling they would not allow it.

  2. Good information.

    Sadly, I see a lot of PWC operators break laws designed to make PWC ownership a safe, fun activity. Driving at night is one of them.

    My biggest pet peeve is adults letting their children drive a PWC alone. For some reason, some adults think their child is immune to the laws of physics. They aren’t.

    There is a reason there are rules about operating watercraft. Just like with ATVs, it’s sad some children have to pay the price for an adult’s bad, irresponsible decision.


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