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Towing Sports Must-Haves

Man wakeboarding on a lake

If you and your family are ready to try out a towing sport on Lake Hopatcong – we have some suggestions and helpful tips for you.


A variety of towing sport can be seen on Lake Hopatcong. What exactly is a “towing sport”? Generally speaking, this term refers to any activity that requires a motorized craft, a rope, and a piece of equipment to pull behind the craft. This includes tubing, wakeboarding, kneeboarding, water skiing, and wake surfing. There is a towing sport for just about every age, ability, and skill level. Whether you are going out just for the day or dedicating yourself to learning a new sport; towing sport are a great pastime/hobby.


All towing sport fall under the safety and legal regulations of water skiing. There are three regulatory tiers - federal, state, and Lake Hopatcong specific. It would be remiss of us to speak on behalf of these regulator entities – we strongly suggest that all boaters invest in becoming familiar with all laws and regulations regarding towing sport. Do not engage in any towing sports without knowledge of all rules, laws, and safety practices.

Secondly, abide by all manufacturer recommendations for equipment regarding maximum speed, inflation requirements, equipment condition, recommended rope lengths, and age/weight restrictions (if any).


You should not engage in any towing sports unless your craft and crew can adhere to these basic regulations:

  • Lake Hopatcong Specific Towing Regulations and Restrictions
    • See these at the end of this post
  • USCG-Life Vests
    • All persons being towed, regardless of age, swimming ability, and manner of being towed, MUST wear a USCG-approved life jacket. It is strongly advised that life vests are in good condition, fit the wearer, and are properly worn with all zippers and latches engaged.
  • New Jersey State-Approved Ski Flag/Pennant
    • All crafts engaging in towing sports MUST have New Jersey State-Approved waterskiing flag displayed on the towing vessel.
    • This flag MUST be displayed at least 4 feet from the HIGHEST point on the towing vessel.
    • The flag must be displayed when the following conditions apply:
      1. A skier/tuber is in the water
      2. The tow line and/or equipment are in the water
      3. When the vessel is in motion with a person being towed behind
      4. Note: The flag may only be removed when all towing is complete; all equipment, skier/tubers are no longer in the water and normal boating has been resumed
    • New Jersey State-Approved flags are permissible and distinctively different from flags used in neighboring states. N.J. flags are bright orange, triangular, 12” top and bottom sides. No other flag/pennant is legally acceptable.
    • A minimum of three people is required for all towing sports:
      1. Skier/Rider
      2. Boat Operator – with license and knowledge of all laws
      3. Observer – to monitor and communicate with the skier/rider at all times. Note that the observer must be ‘competent’ by law.
    • All boats can legally be used for towing sports.
    • Jet skis and other personal watercraft can be used for towing sports – however, they must have three seats – one for the skier, the boat operator, and the observer.
    • Communication between observers on craft and skiers/tubers is essential. Voices do not carry well while underway – subsequently, observers and skiers/tubers need to agree on a set of hand signals to communicate needs.
    • Standard hand signals to use are:
      • Thumbs Up- Faster
      • Thumbs Down- Slower
      • Pat Head- Stop
      • Cut Signal Across Throat: Cut the Motor
      • OK Sign: Ok to Keep Going
      • Stop Signal: Stop


  1. New Jersey State Approved Ski Flag/Pennant
  2. U.S.G.C. Approved Life Vest- which properly fits each rider/skier
  3. At least three persons (skier/rider, boat operator, observer)
  4. Towable Item – water skis, inflatable, kneeboard, or wakeboard
  5. Towing Rope- suited for your towing activity. Not all towing ropes are the same; ropes have different weight classifications, tensile qualities, lengths, and methods to connect the rider to craft.
  6. Towels- to dry off with
  7. SUGGESTED: Sunscreen, hats, and other sun-safe garments
  8. Water or Other Hydrating Beverages
  9. Knowledge of Lake and Specific Lake Boating Laws
  10. OPTIONAL: Wake Ball- to reduce shock on towing rope

Stop by Main Lake Market, where we carry a variety of towing sport equipment as well as anything else needed for a day on the lake!


Note from Main Lake Market: The below posting, from August 2021, serves as a general guide and should NOT be considered a final authority on boating laws and regulations that have been modified since August 2021. Check with local, state, and federal authorities on all boating laws before participating in any boating excursion.

Specific Lake Hopatcong regulations concerning towing and other activities can be found on the N.J. State Police Marine Services Bureau website under New Jersey Boating Regulations (page 47. Title 13. Chapter 82 [pdf-781kb]). All state and federal boating laws still apply. (page 35. N.J. State Police Boating Safety Manual). Lake Hopatcong, Sussex and Morris County, NJ A.D.C. 13:82-3.11

  1. From May 15 through September 15 of each calendar year, no person shall waterski on Saturdays, Sundays, or holidays between the hours of 11:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M. in the following areas:
    1. Byram Cove;
    2. Between Raccoon Island and Prospect Point;
    3. Between Prospect Point and Halsey Island;
    4. Woodport Cove;
    5. Between Halsey Island and Raccoon Island; and
    6. Henderson Cove.
  2. No vessel shall pull more than two skiers at any one time on Saturdays, Sundays, or holidays from May 15 through September 15 of any year except when participating in an exhibition or race sanctioned by the State Police or the Division of Parks and Forestry.
  3. The towing vessel shall not be loaded beyond the manufacturer’s recommended capacity. For purposes of this subsection, the skier, or skiers, shall be included when determining the number of passengers in the vessel.
  4. While towing a skier, the operator of the vessel shall maintain a distance from any shore, structure, buoy, a person in the water, vessel, or other objects not less than the length of the tow line plus 100 feet.
  5. The ski boat operator, when a skier has fallen or has otherwise become disconnected from the tow line, reduces speed and returns to the skier in a safe and reasonable manner.
  6. The dropping of skis for the purpose of barefoot or slalom skiing is prohibited unless the ski is immediately retrieved by the following vessel.
  7. No vessel shall be operated upon Lake Hopatcong between the hours of sunset and sunrise at speed over 10 miles per hour.
  8. No vessel shall be operated upon Lake Hopatcong on Saturdays, Sundays, or legal holidays between May 15 and September 15 at speed over 30 miles per hour.
  9. No vessel shall be operated at speed over five miles per hour within 100 feet of shore, any wharf, pier, bridge, dock structure, buoy, or person in the water or designated bathing area which is marked by buoys.
  10. No vessel shall be operated at such a speed that shall cause 100 percent of the hull to come out of the water. Operation of the vessel in such a manner shall constitute, without further proof, careless operation. An exception to this requirement shall be allowed for operation during authorized marine events for which a permit has been issued by the State Police pursuant to N.J.A.C. 13:82–1.20 or the Division of Parks and Forestry, or with a valid race test permit issued by the State Police in accordance with N.J.A.C. 13:82–4.6.
  11. When the water level reaches the Extreme High Water Level (Elevation 924.20 feet) or when the United States Geologic Survey gauge #01455400 in Hopatcong State Park reads 9.5, a “Slow Speed-No Wake” condition shall exist.
Two seagulls flying

Thank you for a great season,
we look forward to seeing
you in Spring 2023!

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