Can Your Jet Ski Pull That? How to Know

If you have a jet ski, you have probably considered pulling items or even people behind it. Tubing, water skiing, etc. are great ways to have fun out on the water and spend time with friends or family. However, there are some dangers and things to remember when it comes to jet skis pulling tubes or skis. 

In general, a jet ski with a minimum of 110 horsepower is strong enough to pull a tube and passenger weighing up to 200 pounds. However, the true pulling abilities for each jet ski will differ slightly. More powerful skis can pull multi-rider tubes. 

There are several dangers of using your jet ski to pull tubes or skis to both the rider and your jet ski itself. You risk damaging the jet ski, causing the engine to flood and even breaking down out on the water. Also, there are several safety precautions you need to take to ensure the safety of the rider and to ensure a smooth ride.

How Much Weight Can a Jet Ski Tow?

As mentioned, a jet ski can tow a pretty substantial amount of weight, but each jet ski will differ slightly. On average, you can assume that your jet ski can pull a basic tube or ski with a passenger. However, you usually need a larger jet ski to do this smoothly and efficiently. 

It is important that you do not push the limits of your jet ski, as this can cause irreversible damage. Just because your jet ski can pull a certain amount of weight, does not mean you should push it to this level. If you have noticed your jet ski lagging or struggling to pull the amount you are hoping, it is best to simply give it a break and not push it excessively. 

While we will go further into detail about the laws surrounding pulling skiers behind jet skis, the average three-seater jet ski is able to do this. Best case scenario, you should have a 110 horsepower or greater jet ski for doing this. You should only pull someone between 150 to 200 pounds for lower horsepower machines. 

Two person towable inner tube
A jet ski with more power can double the fun

Always Know the Laws in Your Area

One thing that you should remember when it comes to pulling tubes or skiers behind your jet ski is that you should always know the laws. These will differ between states and maybe even water sources, but this is something you must check. Some common law across most states are:

  • Jet skis must be a three-seater, one for the driver, one for a spotter, and a space for the tuber or skier when they need relief. 
  • Many states require your jet ski to have mirrors. If your jet ski does have mirrors, it can relieve the need for a spotter. 
  • Some require the jet ski to have at least 110-horsepower to ensure the ability to pull. 
  • All riders, including the driver, must be wearing a life jacket

To check out the exact laws in your area, you will want to consult the United States Coast Guard’s website for specific laws and regulations on personal watercraft use. This is the best way to guarantee that you are meeting any requirements necessary. 

How to Pull Behind a Jet Ski

If you do want to go tubing or waterskiing behind your jet ski, one of the most important things to know is how to hook up your rope correctly. 

  • Some jet skis will come with the option of attaching a ski pylon or a pole that attaches and hold the rope higher above the surface of the water. These are great for those who want to go skiing or waterboarding behind their jet ski. 
  • Most jet skis have a tow hook that will be in the back underneath the seat itself. This is a very easy place to attach the rope to this hook and is much quicker to install. 
  • Also, in many cases, this built-in hook is designed to withstand more weight. You should always follow any instructions on your tube to ensure that you are hooking it up correctly. 

Tip: Never use a regular inner tube; ensure you are using a tube that is designed for these purposes. Our favorites are in that post.

Some important things to keep in mind when attaching your tube to your jet ski are: 

  • You should use the correct rope length and type to ensure that your rope does not get pulled into the pump. It is important to prevent this to avoid damage to your ski. 
  • You want to maintain a steady speed while pulling to maintain a smoother ride. 
  • For a consistent ride, you should try to maintain a speed of under 20 mph but cater these speeds to fit your rider’s skill level. 
  • Remember that circling or turning in 180 degrees will increase the speed of the towed tube and rider quite a bit.
  • Add a booster ball like this one from Amazon if you plan to use your jet ski for tubing regularly. This will help keep the tow rope out of the water and lower the drag that is created from this. Keeping the rope off of the water can create a smoother ride, avoid spraying tube riders, and help avoid keep the rope from getting sucked into the pump. 

Removing Tow Rope from the Engine

Those who pull skiers or tubes behind their jet ski regularly will more than likely run over the tow rope at least once. If you do drift over the tow rope, you should turn off the engine immediately, and if the rope is in the pump, do not start the engine. Remove the key to avoid accidental starts. If you start the engine with the rope inside, you can strip your driveshaft splines. 

As soon as you realize the two rope is in the pump, you should have your jet ski towed back to the shore. Once you are on the shore, you will put your jet ski on a trailer and remove the tow rope from under the ski. You may even have to remove the spark plugs and rotate the engine, cut the rope, or more to remove it. 

You should remove any rope in the drive area. If there is rope left behind in the drive area, you do run the risk of causing damage to the seals. You should avoid tipping your jet ski when doing this as it can damage the exhaust system. 

Dangers of Towing with a Jet Ski 

It is extremely important that you keep safety your top concern at every point while jet skiing or pulling with your jet ski. Though this can be extremely fun, you cannot risk your life or the life of another by not following basic safety rules. As mentioned, you should absolutely always wear a life jacket while riding along with any passengers or tube riders. 

For those who are pulling a tube behind the jet ski, you want to pay close attention to any turns that you make while pulling. This is when many riders will fall off of the tube, and at times, many can land upside down on the tube. 

Also, some open tubes can be damaged from the drag, and this can even cause the hook to be ripped out of your jet ski. Keeping an eye on anyone being pulled behind you is extremely critical and not doing this can actually damage your jet ski. We have some preferred tubes listed in our best towable tubes article.

For those who are pulling a skier, you want to make sure to allow at least twice the distance of the tow rope from the shoreline. In some cases, the skier can be snapped towards the shore, which can become extremely dangerous to the rider if the rope is too long. You should always take precaution when towing a skier or tube rider, having too much rope has actually resulted in death in the past. 

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Tim Conner, M.D.

Tim Conner, M.D. started boating in 1974. He has been involved in recreational boating continuously since then. Dr. Conner has been active in boating and watersports safety education for decades. He rode his first jet ski in 1997, and rejoined the personal watercraft arena in 2012 with a Sea-Doo GTX 155, followed by 2 supercharged SeaDoos. Scuba certification came in 1988, and he and the family have traveled the world snorkeling and scuba diving for decades. The family has recently taken up paddle boarding. Click the photo for a lot more.

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